Why squirrels are just like humans

Grey squirrels are ‘destructive’ says Douglas-Home in 2020

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A new study could now help conservation efforts to save endangered species and other animals from extinction. Dr Jaclyn Aliperti, an ecologist at the University of California Davis, said: “This adds to the small but growing number of studies showing individuals matter.” She saw the squirrels on the campus as individuals. “I say ‘Who are you? Where are you going? What are you up to?’ rather than looking at them on a species level.

“Accounting for personality in wildlife management may be especially important when predicting wildlife responses to new conditions, such as changes or destruction of habitat due to human activity.

“Individuals that tend to be more social seem to have an advantage. Animal ­personality is a hard science, but if it makes you relate to animals more, maybe people will be more interested in conserving them.”

The study found squirrels have several traits that psychologists identify as being part of a human personality.

They have boldness, aggressiveness and sociability, it was said.

As part of the study, golden-mantled ground squirrels underwent different challenges at the Rocky Mountain Biological Labor­atory in Gothic, Colorado.

Their responses to each test were observed and recorded over the course of three summers.

The researchers found personality differences influence a squirrel’s ability to survive and reproduce.

Bold and aggressive types may find more food or defend a larger territory.

But their risky behaviour may also make them prone to predators or accidents.

Understanding how an animal’s character influences use of space is important for wildlife conservation, the researchers said.

Noticing unique behaviour patterns also brings a more personal angle regarding wildlife.

Previous research has suggested endangered red squirrels have a range of personalities – from explorative and aggressive to careful and passive.

The findings are published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

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