From: Reuters
Published December 20, 2007 11:02 AM

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.

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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)

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