Thursday January 31, 2013 AT 8:00 PM on CBC-TV
Saturday February 2 at 7 pm on CBC News Network
Not much more than a century ago, in towns and cities across North America, we still hunted squirrels - for dinner! That made them rare, but now that’s all changed. Squirrels are a wonderful example of nature adapting to the fast-paced urban life that dominates much of their former territory. And, yet, we pay little attention to these furry creatures that share our city parks and streets.
We see them every day, scurrying around our parks looking for nuts, tearing through our backyards and fearlessly leaping through the air from tree to tree, but most of us know very little about our furry fellow urbanites. What makes them so squirrelly and do they really remember where they bury their nuts? In Nuts about Squirrels, meet the scientists who are foraging for answers.
Getting inside their heads to figure out what makes them tick is no easy task, but Joel Brown from the University of Illinois at Chicago, has designed some creative experiments to do just that. He takes advantage of their passion for nuts and seeds to reveal their inner ‘landscape of fear’ and gives us a tour of a typical backyard from a squirrel’s perspective. Perhaps Joel Brown gets some of his squirrel insider information from watching Rowdy - his ‘pet’ squirrel - “a rehabilitation failure.” Whatever it is he’s inspired hundreds to become citizen squirrel scientists who are building a detailed picture of North America's squirrels.
Our North American grey squirrel hasn’t only been successful here. Victorian visitors were so enamoured with their playful antics that they took them home to Britain. In a very short time our greys have run amok and caused the demise of the UK’s native red squirrel. Will the scientists dedicated to stopping the advancing army of greys succeed?
So much of a squirrel life seems to be about food, not just finding it and eating it, but also caching it for the coming winter. Who hasn’t wondered if they really do remember where they bury all those nuts? To discover just how successful they are Michael Steele and his intrepid team use some high tech GPS trackers and some good old fashioned field observation. What is their success rate…join us and find out!