Hiding Food

Many animals hide food in caches before consumption. Sometimes caching is quite simple; mountain lions cover deer carcasses with branches and leaves. They return periodically to eat the carcass over a period of days. Coyotes behave similarly. Pika, a small relative of the rabbit which lives in high temperate mountain regions, cache piles of "hay"--cut grasses--to consume during the winter when the vegetation is covered by snow. Many squirrels and birds cache seeds in scattered spots in their feeding ranges, hoping to find them in the future. Scatter caching protects the food from other animals, but creates problems for the caching animal in re-locating the food. How do caching birds and squirrels find the food again at a later date? Some birds, such as the acorn woodpecker, use storage trees to insure ease of protecting and finding the food. And, many social insects, such as honey bees and harvestor ants, cache food to insure a year-round food supply.

A golden mantled ground squirrel, Spermophilus lateralis, starting to hoard seeds by storing them in its cheek pouch. Having found more food than it can consume, this squirrel caches the food to move it to a more secure location. There, the food can be stored for later consumption or consumed by family members. By hoarding food the ground squirrel protects itself from starvation during times of food shortage.

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copyright ©2002 Michael D. Breed, all rights reserved