You may be skeptical about this, but what if we told you that most oaks, hickory, and other tree species we commonly find in our woods are there because of squirrels? Well, get ready to learn why. Indeed, these trees result from these cute little animals’ efforts to protect themselves against harsh winters.
Squirrels bury nuts and seeds to feed when the temperatures are too low to go and look for food. Unlike most animals that go to hibernation, squirrels remain active during the winter. However, they tend to sleep longer. To save energy, they prefer digging up their previously buried treasurers.
In their apparent madness, squirrels can bury far more they can eat. The seeds left behind might generate healthy trees. So, do squirrels plant trees? And if yes, how? Keep reading to learn more about these cute animals’ hidden (but precious) abilities.
Do Squirrel Plant Trees?
In short, yes, squirrels contribute to the sprouting of many trees every year. Do you want to learn how? Keep reading!
During the warmer months of the year, these animals spend most of their time and effort burying goodies for their safety. To prevent their precious food from being attacked by predators, squirrels will bury it in holes. To minimize any possible damage from theft, squirrels choose multiple hiding places. Sometimes, they will go so far into digging their holes and hiding them from their enemies that they won’t even remember where they placed their seeds.
Of all the seeds, squirrels might not find some. These seeds will remain in the dirt and eventually germinate. In this optic, squirrels contribute to adding more trees to an area. Think about how many squirrels are out there. Now consider how many lost dinners might have caused the birth of a stunning tree. There must be reasons why some people go as far as calling squirrels “reforestation agents.”
While most seeds and fruits generally fall under the three from which they came, squirrels will carry them to new areas with more space and light, giving them better chances to grow. In terms of forest ecology, squirrels are crucial actors in ensuring the continuation of a tree’s offspring.
What Does The Science Say About This?
Researchers have investigated the role of squirrels in reforestation. The results show that, even after days, most squirrels can locate about 2/3 of the nuts and seeds they buried. Some lucky ones even discover hidden food that wasn’t theirs.
Memory seems the primary means of locating cached nuts and trees. These little animals don’t have such bad memories as we would expect: on average, they succeed in finding at least 90% of the precious food they hide. The remaining 10% is left on the ground, representing just as many potential trees!
Do Squirrels Plant Trees?: The Bottom Line
If you didn’t know that already, this might be an interesting fact to bring up at a dinner with friends or your family. While squirrels may destroy some of the plants in your garden and make your efforts seem vain, they are crucial reforesting agents that contribute to the birth of more trees than you think. Next time you see some buried seeds and nuts, think about the tree that might germinate from that accumulation of dirt and soil.
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