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By Ed Bigelow

I, as I presume have many others, have watched the burying, hiding, and sometimes just simply dropping of nuts by the gray squirrels.  I venture not to solve the mystery but to offer a suggestion.

Not always are the squirrels able to crack the nuts they find.  If food is plentiful they open those which crack readily, spending little time and effort on the hard ones.  You know that hickory nuts from the same tree are not all cracked with the same effort.  I have noticed that the harder ones are usually the ones which are dropped or hidden when found on the ground.

For this there seems to be one sensible reason.  If tucked away, the weather will soften the shell.  If left long enough the shell will crack and split open with a sprout.  As the time varies for this process of softening, and as no place seems with certainty to have a real advantage over another, the squirrel just pokes them away anywhere, trusting that in some future time he may run across these nuts in a softened condition.

John Burroughs tells us that in the fall the resident woodpeckers excavate a limb or a trunk of a tree in which to pass the winter, but that this winter home is not always used for the spring nesting.  He says: 

"So far as I have observed, these cavities are drilled out by the males only.  Where the females take up their quarters I am not so well informed, though I expect that they use the abandoned houses of the males of the previous years. . . . Such a cavity makes a snug, warm home, and when the entrance is on the underside of the limb, as is usual, the wind and snow cannot reach the occupant."

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.