Wild Animals/Squirrel Behavior


My daughter and I were driving when we noticed that in the road was a squirrel carrying another squirrel from the road; the one he was carrying had been run over by a car. We stopped and watched it slowly and seemingly methodically, drag the squirrel along. Well, another car came around us and sped past; the squirrel ran from danger but returned once the car passed. He continued to drag the other squirrel to the curb, then we left.

We have been wondering about this behavior. So I googled squirrel behavior to find that someone stated that they sometimes carry one another to eat the other. This, I admit, had never crossed my mind. It made both me and my daughter think that maybe the squirrel was exhibiting "compassion or sympathy." Anyway, it was sweet to watch. It made us wonder whether it was mourning the loss; this thought tugged at both our hearts.

Dear Belinda

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

I had a similar question in 2009 (http://en.allexperts.com/q/Wild-Animals-705/2009/10/Squirrels-7.htm) and some of that information is probably still relevant.

http://www.poetv.com/video.php?vid=78188 shows a squirrel seeming to protect a dead squirrel against crows, although PETA (http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2010/04/27/the-mourning-news-animals-) says this video is viral. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Do_squirrels_mourn_mates says that distressed squirrels use high frequency sounds to communicate trouble, fear, emotional concern, worry or sense of helplessness or sadness. There are several cases of animals using sound or smell to communicate with others, so the live squirrel may have been responding to the call of the squirrel before it died, although I cannot say how the squirrel died (possibly by a car) or if the squirrel had enough time to communicate its distress before it died. That is one of the big problems with this type of question. The dead squirrel could have been known to the other squirrel and there are people who claim that squirrels mourn their dead (see http://zigspics.com/lonely-mourning-squirrel/ and onehuman's post in http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread840173/pg1).
There are cases of animals showing sympathy to companions. I remember seeing a film about a langur monkey taking her dead baby around with her for three days before accepting it was dead.

Alternatively, the live squirrel could have dragged the squirrel to the kerb, where it would have been able to feed more safely. Dana Krempels (http://en.allexperts.com/q/Wild-Animals-705/2009/9/squirrel-cannibalism.htm)has answered a similar question and suggests that squirrels carry dead squirrels to eat them. http://www.birdchick.com/wp/2007/04/its-squirrel-eat-squirrel-world/ contains similar information.

http://www.esf.edu/aec/adks/mammals/gray_squirrel.htm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_gray_squirrel#Behavior, http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Sciurus_carolinensis/ and http://www.discoverwildlife.com/british-wildlife/understand-grey-squirrels give information about the social behaviour of grey squirrels. While it says that squirrels communicate with other squirrels, they are territorial and it doesn't seem that they form social friendships, while the female looks after the young by herself.

Unfortunately, I can't tell why the squirrel dragged the dead squirrel to the kerb. It may have known the dead squirrel or could have eaten it after you left. I suspect the latter, but I cannot prove this, but I would like to think that squirrels show the same kind of sympathy seen in various other animal species.

I hope this helps.

All the best


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Jonathan Wright


I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.


I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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