Nature on our doorsteps - Signs of feasting in woodlands

By Rosaleen Dwyer

When squirrels and wood mice are cold, they burn up their fat reserves to stay warm.

If they can’t replace this energy by taking in more food, they will soon die of cold and starvation.

Squirels leave untidy cone remains behind intact cone is on the right compressor

Squirrels leave untidy cone remains behind (intact cone is on the right)

Nuts are rich in nutritious fats and protein, so they are perfect for building up fat before winter.

Evergreen trees like Spruce produce their seeds in the form of small nuts.

These are found hidden underneath the overlapping woody scales that grow on the tree’s cones.

By looking carefully on the ground beneath Spruce trees, it can be seen whether a squirrel or a wood mouse has been feeding in the area.

Wood mice take the cone to a safe spot under a tree root or large stone.

Starting at one end, it methodically nibbles off the scales to get to the nuts below, leaving behind a smooth bare cone stalk beside a pile of disintegrated scales.

Wood mice leave finely nibbled cone stalks behind intact cone is on the left compressor

Wood mice leave finely nibbled cone stalks behind (intact cone is on the left).

Squirrels, however, get to the nuts by ripping off the woody scales with their strong teeth, scattering the scales from its perch on a tree branch.

The stripped cone stalk is then discarded, looking scruffy and untidy.

Although Spruce nuts are small, a single cone contains a lot of nutritious nuts, making these cones the ideal ‘take-away’ to fatten up squirrels and wood mice.

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