How do Squirrels Find their Nuts?

Sciurus carolinensis, commonly known as the¬†grey squirrels, have been labelled as “household pests” in the United States(1) because of their infamous accomplishments for finding food in people’s homes. They are known to find food accurately and quickly hide them then return for more and they never seem to forget their hiding places. A video from BBC Worldwide(2) shows an experiment on how grey squirrels manage to find their nuts so quickly and accurately.

How do Squirrels find food? – Clever Critters – BBC Pets & Animals

It is interesting to note that squirrels search for nuts using not only using their sense of smell, but also visual cues. In other words, they seem to have great memory power to remember the exact positions of their nuts. So, using both their sense of smell and their sense of sight, they are able to find their nuts very accurately and never ‘forget’ where they hide their nuts.

In addition, squirrels are able to find their food better in places where they are more familiar to. In a journal article(3) written by Jacobs and Liman, it is mentioned that “the squirrels retrieved significantly more nuts from their own sites than from sites used by other squirrels”. It seems like squirrels stick to the familiar sites and thus causes many problems in the neighborhood where they roam. However, it does not justify the killing of the grey squirrels. The people should also play their parts by keep their food in tight containers to stop tempting squirrels to visit their homes.

In conclusion, squirrels find their food easily in a place where they are familiar with, and they are also able to remember their hiding place for food accurately, these enable them to hunt fast and stock up food very quickly and sustain their survival.


(1) “Grey Squirrel Fact File,” by Pete Carpenter. New Forest National Park: (accessed on 27 Mar 2010).
(2) “How do Squirrels find food? – Clever Critters – BBC Pets & Animals,” by BBC Worldwide YouTube Channel, 24 November 2008. URL: (accessed on 27 Mar 2010).
(3) Lucia F. Jacobs & Emily R. Liman, 1991. Grey squirrels remember the locations of buried nuts. Animal Behaviour, 41(1): 103-110.

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