Patriots, we've published a number of "Chew On This" reports describing what skwerls eat (essentially, anything). However, some of you then asked if the knowledge gained from our studies could somehow help defeat squirrel world domination.
Well, super-smart scientists recently provided us with the answer to that question...
Big Food Makes Squirrels More Vigilant
Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News - July 13, 2007
Giving a squirrel a big, sweet cookie can be a kind gesture, and now scientists have found it also encourages the critter to watch for predators (click skwerl for comment).
The conclusion, in a newly published study, has implications for other species, including the survival of those facing human-caused changes to their habitats.
Most animals have two daily concerns: Getting food and not becoming food. Unfortunately, concentrating on one of those activities is almost always at the cost of the other.
"These two things make you survive," said animal behavior researcher Joanna Makowska at the University of British Columbia and lead author of a paper on an experiment that revealed how squirrels juggle those needs in the July issue of Animal Behaviour.
"Most animals can't be very vigilant while eating," Makowska told Discovery News.
To get a clearer picture of just how and when squirrels choose to focus on food or predators, she and her undergraduate professor at McGill University, Donald Kramer, created an experiment that put the squirrels to the test. They placed sunflower seeds inside a two-and-a-half-foot high frame that blocked their peripheral views of the urban park in which they lived.
The idea was to force the squirrels to choose between eating and hopping out of the frame to watch for dogs, foxes and other predators.
"The squirrels never left," said Makowska. "They just ate them all. We thought this was strange."
So Makowska suggested they try giving the squirrels something that took more than a few seconds to eat, like soda crackers with peanut butter, which takes about three minutes for a squirrel to finish off.
"Lo and behold: When they ate the peanut butter crackers they moved out of the frame," said Makowska. "That confirmed to us that they valued being vigilant" even when they were eating, when the food makes it possible.
Source: The Discovery Channel
There you have it. Convincing, objective, scientific proof that giving a skwerl a big chunk of something edible helps them avoid predators, and giving them small, bite size morsels leaves them open to attack if they're in a view-blocking enclosure.
So how does this help us in our righteous struggle against the bushytail horde? We could simply recommend that if one must feed skwerls, that you only provide them with bite size fare. In that way, our predator pals in the animal world will have a better chance of catching and devouring the slavering nutzys.
However, and we're sure that some of you are way ahead of us on this, why not construct millions of the "feeding frames" decribed above and distribute them around the globe. Small food items such as sunflower seeds can be placed in the enclosure and, just as in the experiment, the skwerls will leap into to get their reward... but in this case, a false bottom in the enclosure will open and the hapless skwerl will fall into the waiting maw of a (insert your favorite predator name here)... need we say more?
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