Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Squirrel on the Roof

Squirrel on the Roof

It was a busy morning, in my head, anyway. I was wondering what to do first – go food shopping or work on the article I was writing or go to the library to return and replenish books or get a jump on house cleaning or bring stuff to the cleaners or…well, that was the kind of day it started out as. Food shopping won and I was on my way to the car when I saw a squirrel on the roof of the house. He/she was looking down at something. Then he looked up. Then turned toward me but didn’t scoot down as I expected he would. It seemed that he was just staring into space.

I sat in my car watching him for a while before I went on my errand. Was that squirrel going through a similar conundrum about what to do today or did he have something particular in mind? I know squirrels are smart. I have seen them figure out ways to get onto the bird feeders regardless of the obstacles we put in their way. A study of gray squirrels from the University of Exeter shows that they learn from observation, particularly if it relates to finding food. Was this one planning its next meal? Well, so was I.

I drove off to the market but I didn’t forget about that squirrel. We are learning so much about how animals think. Humans may be verbal but we are not exclusive to intelligence. Each species has its own way of interpreting information, especially about feeding, mating, and survival. It makes me look at other creatures with a less jaundiced eye. We all have to contend with the circumstances of life and we all need smarts to do it. Perhaps focus is the key. When I returned home the squirrel was gone. I had no doubt that he made a wise decision from the perspective on the roof.

University of Exeter study:

A fascinating study on animal intelligence by Virginia Morrell:

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