A Moment of Science

Squirrels and Snakeskin

Have you ever heard that some squirrels eat snakeskin? Maybe you haven't, but it's true. Learn more on this Moment of Science.

Squirrel killing a snake

Photo: Sarah_Anne_08 (flickr)

Some squirrels like this ground squirrel eat snakes and use the chewed snakeskin to mask their scent

Have you ever heard that some squirrels eat snakeskin?

Maybe you haven’t, but it’s true.

As researchers at the University of California Davis have observed, some ground squirrels and rock squirrels do indeed eat, or at least chew, snakeskin.

As for why, it has a lot to do with the fact that rattle snakes eat squirrels. To protect themselves from becoming lunch, squirrels chew discarded snakeskin and then smear it on their fur to mask their squirrelly scent. Snakes that come upon a squirrel covered with chewed snakeskin may think they’ve encountered another snake.

Actually, squirrels have an entire arsenal of snake-fighting weapons. Since snakes use infrared rays to stalk prey, some squirrels can heat up their tails to make them seem larger than they really are.

California ground squirrels can also assess how dangerous a rattlesnake is by the sound of its rattle. Also some squirrels have evolved resistance to snake venom.

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