Snakey smells help squirrels stay safe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It's scary being a little, tasty squirrel, but some species of the rodents have come up with an intimidating camouflage -- snake smells.
California ground squirrels and rock squirrels chew up rattlesnake skin and smear it on their fur to mask their scent, a team at the University of California Davis reported.
"They're turning the tables on the snake," Donald Owings, a professor of psychology who helped lead the research, said in a statement.
Barbara Clucas, a graduate student in animal behavior, watched ground squirrels and rock squirrels chewing up pieces of skin shed by snakes and then licking their fur.
The scent probably helps to mask the squirrel's own scent, especially when the animals are asleep in their burrows, they wrote in the journal Animal Behavior.
(Reporting by Maggie Fox: Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and David Wiessler)