When we see a squirrel, the first thing we notice is its bushy tail. Something that catches our attention quickly is the twitching of the bushy tails. Have you ever wondered why these bushy tails keep twitching and why are squirrels so twitchy? Squirrels, compared to other animals, do not have a high reproduction rate. The average young per year for squirrels is only half a dozen. On the other hand, animals like rabbits reproduce an average of 1300 per year.
Squirrels, as we all know, love to climb trees. They have their bushy tails to keep themselves warm. These tails also serve a different purpose, like maintaining their balance and keeping them steady when they have to take leaps across the treetops. A squirrel twitches its tail mainly because it is a part of its behavior and also for protection.
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Why are squirrels so jerky and have movements like that?
If you have noticed a squirrel, it is clear that you have seen them have abrupt movements. They abruptly start moving and also stop like that. For a viewer, this might be a strange sight. Squirrel is not a predator but rather a prey. When they hear or sense any suspicious movements, they abruptly stop to avoid being caught by any predator. Later, they suddenly start running again carefully, preventing the predators from getting a hold of them. They have a good hearing ability and keen eyesight. They have a tremendous peripheral vision allowing them to see and sense what’s beside or above them without necessarily turning their heads.
Squirrels are at the bottom of the food chain. They need more protection than any other living being on earth. Human beings being strong enough. We still face anxiety and experience fear. So, we can imagine the state of these tiny creatures. They get jerky and twitchy as they are very keen on the surroundings to keep themselves safe. Squirrels move back and forth when they face a predator and approach with caution. Usually, they are hyper and move at a pretty high speed. The speed and the twitchy movements combined help them stay safe from predators like snakes and hawks. Squirrels use this technique of jerky and twitchy activities to survive and keep themselves from falling prey.
The speed of squirrels and their abrupt stops
Squirrels can run/sprint at a pretty fast rate. The average sprint rate of a human is 24kmph. Squirrels can sprint faster than that at a speed of 32kmph. Since they are tiny and have a small body structure, it helps them move very quickly. They can climb trees at the rate of 12 miles per hour. Their double-jointed hind legs allow them to climb the trees rapidly. They are not only fast but can also change directions at a breakneck pace in an instant. They can do this with the help of their peripheral vision and their claws that helps them shift weight instantly, finding the center of gravity.
Squirrels also tend to stop their movements abruptly and give brief pauses in the middle of their hyper activities. They have their good reasons to stop seconds after running. They stop running because they can’t hear the danger precisely with the rustling of the leaves as they are running. They stop to look out for any threat or predators around. This reduces their chances of being attacked.
Squirrels can camouflage and use their protective coloration to blend with their background when they stop. Predators can spot them as they start moving again. The defense mechanism of the squirrels is to freeze and stay still so that they don’t get spotted by the hawks or eagles so easily. Giving pauses in between running also helps them increase their overall speed of running and cover more distance.
Why are squirrels so twitchy
The twitching nature of the squirrels is not just for protection. It is also a form of communication. They let other squirrels know that the danger is close by twitching their bushy tails. The predators also see that they have detected risk by watching their tails twitch. When they encounter ground predators like dogs or cats, you can notice their tails twitch and communicating, with their fellow squirrels signaling danger.
Squirrels also twitch their seats to gain attention from the opposite sex. They do that, especially during the mating season. The male squirrels do this to the female squirrels to get them close and interested in them. They stop their dancing and twitching once the female squirrels get close enough.
Squirrels, as we know, are creatures that jump across the trees and live on them. Their tails give them the balance between moving across the trees. It allows them to keep the center of gravity. Some people shake their arms or stamp their feet to express their anger or frustration. Squirrels do the same thing but with their tails to exhibit their frustration. So, twitching is also a form of taking out the frustration for them.
Protection is one of the primary reasons behind the tail twitching of the squirrels. It can sense and tell what kind of predators are lurking around. They let other squirrels know about the danger around them, and also, the predators don’t try to harm them anymore as they understand that the squirrels have sensed it.
Sometimes the rival squirrels from different territories try to barge in and steal their food. The squirrels who belong to the region start twitching to alarm the other squirrels of an intruder squirrel. It is called territorial tail flicking.
Squirrels are such fascinating little creatures who are at the bottom of the food chain. They always need to stay alert and cautious from being eaten. They try their best to survive and stay alive on this planet.
The life of a squirrel is busy. They are always running around to find food and store them. They are fast and try to run and hide from their predators in their search for food. They have an abrupt start-stop movement for the same reason of survival. Giving breaks or pausing while running helps them stay alert and keenly notice any danger around. This way, they can camouflage and remain still so that they don’t catch the sight of the predator.
The squirrels twitch for various other reasons like communicating with other squirrels and signaling danger, to share and dance with the female squirrels for mating, letting the other squirrels know about an intruder squirrel in their territory to protect their food and environment, and letting the predators know that they are aware of their presence around. Since the squirrels are small animals and lack the natural ability to defend themselves against such dangers, they must always stay cautious, and hence they are twitchy.