During the autumn season, you'll see acorns and other nuts falling from trees as the trees get ready to go dormant --- basically, sleep --- during the winter.
Many animals take advantage of this time and gather those nuts to eat during the winter, and you've most likely seen plenty of squirrels running around with acorns in their mouths or holding black walnuts in their paws. They are eating nuts, fruit, berries, corn, insects and other items to fatten up for the winter, putting on layers of fat as its gets colder like humans put on layers of clothing.
You might have even witnessed a squirrel not eating a nut but pushing a whole nut into the ground.
That's because tree squirrels, such as the fox squirrel that is common in Iowa, don't store nuts in their dens for the winter. Instead, they will form caches of nuts that they can eat when food gets scarce --- or hard to find --- during the winter.
One squirrel can hide up to 10,000 nuts per year.
They will crack a nut --- to make sure it doesn't begin to grow before winter --- and then will bury it just below the surface, hiding it from predators. Studies have even found that squirrels precisely place nuts in certain places, forming a cache of acorns all together and another cache of just walnuts. They then use their sense of smell to find their nuts when they are hungry during the winter.
In the spring, any forgotten or uneaten nuts may end up sprouting where they are buried. That means squirrels are very important in shaping forests!
Clubs, businesses, special events — many things in Iowa have been named after the mythic black squirrel. I grew up in eastern Iowa where black squirrels were a common sight and didn’t really think anything about it until moving to northwest Iowa where black squirrels are much less common. Then, my sister-in-law texted me a Read More »Read More
The weather is chilly, but that doesn’t mean that kids hibernate. Your kids are still as active as ever, and they want something to occupy their time. You want something to occupy their time too. Why not print off our fall scavenger hunt? There are indoor and outdoor items to find, and you can add Read More »Read More
You see a little critter scurrying around the garden, its back striped dark brown and white. A chipmunk? A ground squirrel? The species often get confused, because they are about the same size — 8-11 inches and 5-9 ounces — and they both burrow. However, there are some key ways to tell these creatures apart. Read More »Read More
‘Tis the season of acorns. Come to Kenue Park and you will see many, many of the tasty morsels that animals like squirrels love to munch on during the winter. That makes an acorn craft the perfect fall activity, one that we did during our Colors of the Wind-themed Nature Tots program in September. The Read More »Read More