It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane — It’s Super Squirrel!

(With special thanks to Larry Schatz)

Leaping squirrel

Leaping squirrel/

If you’ve ever had a yard with a bird feeder, you know how smart and determined squirrels can be when it comes to getting at the goods.

Squirrel stretching sideways to reach bird feeder

Squirrel stretching to reach bird feeder/

Squirrel hangs from branch to reach peanuts

Squirrel hangs from branch to reach peanuts/

Squirrel balances on bird feeder

Squirrel balances on bird feeder/

But you can’t really appreciate how brave, smart and determined these critters are until you watch this video of a simple little squirrel running the most amazing obstacle course to get at some prized nuts.

Really. You have to see it. Just click the image below.

Squirrel at start of obstacle course

Squirrel at start of obstacle course/Mike Thomley,

This isn’t a brand new video. It’s been around for a while. But Mike Thomley gets credit for giving it a tight edit and adding just the right music to make it more fun to watch. Thanks, Mike! And thanks to Larry Schatz for bringing it to our attention.

Squirrel eats nuts after finishingobstacle course

Squirrel eats nuts after finishing obstacle course/Mike Thomley,

There’s also a slightly longer version that begins with an observer telling us how long it took the squirrels to master the obstacle course and what happened once they did.

Squirrel watcher at window

Squirrel watcher at window/mikecupcake,

This longer version also features some fun footage of another squirrel raiding a parking-lot vending machine.  To see it, click the image above or below.

Squirrel raids candy vending machine

Squirrel raids candy vending machine/mikecupcake,

If you enjoyed watching our first squirrel run that first obstacle course, you’ll probably also enjoy this BBC video of a red squirrel tackling another one. Click the image to watch it. And check out those ears!

Red squirrel eyes obstacle course

Red squirrel eyes obstacle course/BBCWorldwide,

Red squirrel obstacle course

Red squirrel obstacle course/BBCWorldwide,

In this episode, Red Squirrel No. 1 finally works up the courage to make a scary leap forward only after Red Squirrel No. 2 comes along and threatens  to get to the food first.

Red squirrel rivals confront each other

Red squirrel rivals confront each other

Squirrels, it turns out, are very attuned and quick to react to rivals and other threats. Studies show, for example, that they learn about where to find food and how to steal it by watching each other.

Squirrel watches something, possibly another squirrel

Squirrel watches something, possibly another squirrel/iStockphoto, James Figlar,

They also use all sorts of tricks to protect their own food stores — like pretending to bury nuts in empty holes to throw off raiders.

Squirrel buries nuts

Squirrel buries nuts/

And dig this! (No pun intended!) Wherever squirrels and rattlesnakes share territory, which is lots of places, rattlesnakes hunt squirrels and squirrels have to figure out ways to avoid becoming a snake dinner.

Snake swallows a squirrel

Snake swallows a squirrel/

So what do some squirrels do — in California, at least? Females especially, it seems? Yucky but true: They chew on molted rattlesnake skins, then rub themselves and their babies — called kittens — with snake-scented saliva to disguise their own scent so real snakes won’t track them.

If you’d like to see a squirrel doing some chewing and rubbing, click this image.

Squirrel chewing on molted rattlesnake skin

Squirrel chewing on molted rattlesnake skin

Just think how vigilant squirrels have to be, never knowing where rattlers may be lurking. You wouldn’t think they’d ever escape alive once within striking range. But guess what? Sometimes they do!  Want to see it?  Click  the image below, then click the second video on the list, “Timber Rattlesnake VS Squirrel.”

Squirrel escapes rattlesnake strike

Squirrel escapes rattlesnake strike/"Timber Rattlesnake vs Squirrel," USeeWildlife,

The video slows down the strike-and-jump sequence the second time through, and slows it down even more the third time — and still it happens too fast to really see it!

Thanks to photographer Andrew Bigwood for capturing the beauty of another squirrel in mid-jump so we can see what we’re missing.  (To view more of Bigwood’s work, click the image.)

Jumping Grey Squirrel

Jumping Grey Squirrel/Andrew Bigwood Photography,

Isn’t Nature amazing?

Squirrel greeting card

Squirrel greeting card/Red Gingham Gifts,

Learn more!

• You can read an abstract of the study on how squirrels learn to find and steal food by watching each other here. You can download the entire study here. (Scroll down to the 2010 listings and click on “Hopewell, L., Leaver, L.A.,” et al.)

• You can read an abstract of the study on how squirrels pretend to bury nuts here and buy a book about squirrels by the same researcher here.

• You can read the abstract of the study or download the entire study about squirrels chewing on snake skins here.

• You can read a great piece about how amazing and fascinating squirrels are by New York Times science writer Natalie Angier  here.

• You can see more of photographer Andrew Bigwood’s images here.


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2 Responses to It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane — It’s Super Squirrel!

  1. Gay E. says:

    LOL! Looks like me before I learned to eat like a human. Hey, everybody’s gotta eat. Love these moments. Keep ’em coming!


  2. Mary says:

    nice site, Gini! And the squirrel obstacle course is a nice laugh on a cold morning. Would be interesting to know the obstacle course maker’s thinking. That initial leap: jeez!


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