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The coexistence of humans with other animals in urban and suburban areas has given rise to a spectrum of agonistic and beneficial interactions. Animals thriving in urban settings are known to exhibit superior foraging and food extraction abilities compared to their wild conspecifics. This has raised the question regarding if non-human animals can form and maintain a similar “theory of mind” to humans based on the actions they observe in their environments (Schloegl et al., 2007). For this experiment, human-made click and gaze cues were used while placing food for eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) located on the University of Louisville’s Belknap Campus. Control trials were also employed, during which the food container was placed without any other cue directed at the squirrels. The age (adult or juvenile) and gender categories were recorded for each squirrel. The results of this experiment illustrated that squirrels on the campus usually had very quick response times to the placement of food if their attention was directed to the container via cues. Adult male squirrels took the most time to respond to click cues compared to all other categories, while adult females responded better to human gaze direction than the other cues. Most of the time, the use of click or gaze cues increased the foraging success rate. This research suggests that there is some awareness of human-produced cues present in squirrels searching for food, but this is not required for food acquisition.

Publication Date

Spring 4-14-2020


Squirrel, cues, foraging, clicks, gaze


Behavior and Ethology | Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Do Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) use Human-provided Cues to Increase Foraging Success in Urban Landscapes?