If there is one thing that pretty much every human on earth is familiar with it’s animals chasing each other. Be it dogs, cats, monkeys, rabbits, or dolphins – we’ve seen it all. And we usually shrug it off as animal play.
But why do squirrels chase each other around trees? Is it also normal play like other animals? Or is there some more sinister reason behind it? Let us find out.
1. Territorial dispute
One major reason why squirrels chase each other is to stand out amongst the others as the boss. Several squirrel species are territorial – meaning they try with all their might to protect their territory from intrusion by other squirrels.
Territorial behavior in animals has two major goals:
- To allow a male to mate its herd of females without disturbance – this involves males chasing males. Males have been shown to have a territorial range of about 75 yards.
- To raise offspring without undue competition – this involves females chasing females, especially when the potential nesting sites are limited
So when an intruding squirrel tries to feed in an area dominated by another squirrel, a vivacious chase ensues. The dominant squirrel additionally nips at the other squirrels.
Note that such territorial behavior is not seen in all species of squirrels. The northern flying squirrels and American red squirrels are known to be territorial while the fox squirrel and grey squirrels are not territorial.
If you are a keen observer, you must have noticed that other chases are more romantic as opposed to aggressive. That leads us to the second reason for squirrels chasing each other.
2. Looking for a mate
Do squirrels fight with each other during the mating season? Experts tell us that mating started some 1.1 billion years ago when mother nature saw the need to increase genetic variation through the fusion of sex cells. An economic problem immediately arose. You see, female species have a limited number of eggs while males have an unlimited sperm count.
To produce an offspring, you need only sperm to fertilize one egg. Therefore, supply and demand forces greatly increased the cost of female eggs. And once the male mates with the female, the female remains “locked” for some period as the fertilization process ensues. This leaves the male with no other option but to chase around some more females.
Philosophy aside, the chase has been there and will always be. The mating chase in squirrels is a bit slow-paced compared to the territorial chase. Male squirrels chase the females in a unique technique that allows them to evaluate the reproductive state of the females.
The majority of squirrels attain sexual maturity around the age of 1 year. As a female squirrel approaches oestrus, it emits attractive scents that catch the attention of several males, including those from other territories.
Once the males meet on the mating arena, they chase and fight to claim dominance. The winning male wins the hearts of the female squirrels. Even so, the potential bachelor is not allowed to mate that easily.
The female squirrel intentionally runs off to see if the potential suitor is really determined. That is why you will usually spot two squirrels in a somewhat endless chase around trees and across the fields. Copulation occurs once the female is convinced with the persistence of the male.
3. Child’s play
They said “as playful as kittens” – but we do understand that the playful nature of young animals extends to several other species – you must have spotted young squirrels playing.
It is not uncommon to spot two or more young squirrels fighting playfully and chasing each other. This helps them to develop mobility skills and strength.
To sum it up
Chasing among squirrels depends on the species, age, and sex of squirrels, and the season. Use this knowledge to know how to best position yourself as you hunt the squirrels. Airgun Maniac presents a detailed review of the top ten air rifles for squirrel hunting. Make sure to check it out as. It doesn’t matter the randomness of the chase. There are air rifles out there with great accuracy and muzzle velocity to stop the squirrels right in their track.