Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Do Squirrels Squint?


I think I have made a breakthrough! Almost a month ago I showed you how I observed a strange habit of a squirrel I was observing. The squirrel would squint his eyes right as he began to tense his body to start moving. That one was the now famous squirrel, Flynn. You can see those posts where I show you this here and here.

Now I have found another squirrel from a different location that does the exact same thing! This squirrel climbed to the side of a tree as it saw me approaching, which is a defensive move I've seen several times. Sometimes the squirrel will run up the tree if things are very dangerous, but they will run behind the tree if the threat is not so great.

This squirrel decided I wasn't much of a threat to him, so he turned to his right and ran behind the tree. All the while I was quickly taking pictures in rapid speed one by one. I usually don't get to see the closeup details until I get home, but can you guess what the photos revealed to me?


That's right! This squirrel squinted his eyes right before he made his move to run behind the tree! I never really thought I would get another picture of a squirrel doing this, but as you can see I got a very good one. This good sized fox squirrel squinted his eyes to show that there was no doubt about it.

Now we all can be reasonably sure that if it is an eyesight problem, more than one squirrel has it. It seems like too much of a coincidence though that I could catch two different squirrels in a month showing this same habit. It must be more widespread than just poor eyesight. I think the squint is something more like when we close our eyes when we sneeze. There is most likely a natural reason why squirrels do this.


This picture was taken in order right after the one above it. The squirrel went behind the tree, and thought it was hidden from my view. I got more pictures by stepping to the left just a little bit, but that wasn't as important as the way he was squinting, so I'll just keep those to myself for now.

That's it for today. I think I showed that it's reasonable to assume that squinting might just be a common thing for squirrels. It's probably not poor eyesight, but something completely different. Now I wonder if I will be able to catch another squirrel doing this very same thing. I'll be trying.

See ya!

19 comments:

  1. What a great discovery !

    I suspect the squint has to do with the squirrel's brain processing information and taking quick decisions... It's like watching a psychic going into trance... :)

    Btw I've added your awesome blog in my Link Page, please check it out:

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    I really appreciate if you would add my blog in your blogroll too... Please tell me your opinion :)

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  2. I love your days and you post, and time to work, time to relax, time to observe, time to reflect, time to simply "be" and always so in sync with all that surrounds you of nature and its endless offerings. I felt so relaxed spending the day with you through this wonderful piece of writing that captured the glory of the day - the essence of your natured spirit- and the gentle way you live that cares for and about every living creature within your view.

    Regards,

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  3. You might be right about it being some kind of reflex before they dart away, Ratty and they still might have some kind of eyesight problem too! Lets get them a pair of glasses like the one in the Chipmunk movie, strap them on one of them and see if they still squint? Go ahead. I'll wait....

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  4. I have not seen a squirrel squints before! This is good to know so I can try to observe when I see one!

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  5. If it is too hard to get any answer, why not go asking the squirrel?

    It is as simple as ABC, as what Alice has done.

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  6. I've never seen my gray ones squinting like that and I've watched them for the past 13 years up close and personal..Ha! Interesting fact Ratty.

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  7. Maybe they just try to clear their big eyes before make some action.

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  8. Well, I wonder if it might be eyesight? I've read that we squint because it does actually change the shape of the lens and little and lets us compensate a bit for aging eyes. Squirrels are mammals, after all. Maybe it is the same thing. I'm just guessing here.

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  9. hmmm, now that is a good observation. I've never noticed that so I'll have to take a closer look while at the gardens.

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  10. Cats squint their eyes as a form of communication. Perhaps the squirrels also use this method of communication, too. It would appear to be the first step in communicating that you are within their territory.

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  11. You know... I would never have noticed this!!!! I sure will be looking for it from here on, though...

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  12. Ratty, maybe they are just WINKING at you!!!

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  13. well if it is poor eyesight there might be a market in making those little straps to hold the glasses on while they are running up trees.

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  14. Hi Ratty....Haven't had time to come on for a while with all the christmas stuff but great to be able to go back and read through everything...I'm hoping to have more time now to write something on my own blog and keep up with everyone else's....

    been great catching up with your exploits...but I still don't know why squirrels squint!!!!

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  15. I have a bad eyesight... I squint a lot too!

    Wanna wish you a wonderful Christmas, just in case I'm unable to get online after this. Will surely miss your posts and pictures!

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  16. Hi Ratty!! I think the squinting is to minimize the size of the eye. It's a defense to being seen. Maybe other mammals who hunt use the eye as a target or to identify the head. If the prey closes it's eye it becomes more camouflaged. Thus when feeling threatened they want to hide by moving but their first reaction is to hide the eye.

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  17. How very odd. I know when they display this type of behavior with me while I'm outside, it means you better back off. The squirrels here are quite friendly, and I've seen many of them nip at people. They are pretty brave when they want to be.

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  18. An interesting observation Ratty. Julia's comment seems like a good theory. I have been photographing and interacting with many types of squirrels up close for a number of years and I've never seen them squint like that. Very strange.

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  19. @Juandy
    This squinting is very interesting. Your theory is a good one.

    I've added you to my link page too. I will add you to my main page blogroll as you become a regular commenter. It has to be done that way to conserve space.
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    @Shenandoah
    Thank you for your kind words. Nature is a wonderful thing.
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    @The Retired One
    It would be funny seeing a forest full of squirrels with glasses.
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    @Icy BC
    I hope you see one. Then I will know that it's not only my squirrels that do it.
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    @Rainfield
    I asked the squirrel why he squinted his eyes that way, but he only looked at me as if I was crazy. He denied doing it at all.
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    @Ginnymo
    I think it's a very quick thing when they squint. They do it as they are about to move. I think i've been lucky to capture it on camera.
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    @VanillaSeven
    That could be why they do it. Another good theory.
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    @Sharkbytes
    I think it's very possible it has something to do with eyesight, but I wonder how much it has to do with poor eyesight or something more normal.
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    @Poetic Shutterbug
    I really hope you see a squinting squirrel. I need somebody else to corroborate my observation.
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    @Mom
    It could very well be a form of communication. They only do it the instant before they run to another spot.
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    @Wendyytb
    I hope you see it. It's very hard to catch with anything but a camera.
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    @RNSane
    That could be. I have to say I only see one eye when they do it. :)
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    @Ann
    I'll have to get to work on those straps. Catching the squirrels to put them on will be a problem though.
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    @Allotments4you
    I know what you mean about being busy. I've taken care of a lot of my Christmas stuff, but I'm still behind with everything right now.
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    @Nessa
    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas too. I hope you still are able to get online, even if you won't have time to leave comments.
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    @Julia
    That's a very well thought out theory. It makes a lot of sense so it could be the right one. I'll keep watching them. Maybe I'll find out if this theory is the one.
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    @The Ancient Digger
    Squirrels are some of the bravest and orneriest little creatures I've seen. I always try to give them space so they don't try to nip at me. I know I've tempted them a few times before.
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    @SquirrelQueen
    I agree about Julia's theory. It's possible that it's only the squirrels in this forest that do this. Maybe it's a odd family trait.

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