A (Extremely) Non-Scientific Study: Who is Smarter, the Groundhog or the Squirrel?

If there are scientists out there are considering a study to determine which rodent – the squirrel or the groundhog – possesses superior intelligence, I can save them the trouble. While not scientific, I think this experiment is conclusive.

Recently a groundhog dug its way under our front porch and took up residence beneath it. The soil in our neighbourhood is sandy, making it easy work for the rodent to dig in and make itself at home. Ben has done battle with them before and this time was no exception.

He borrowed a “trap and release” cage from a neighbour, filled it with a trail of apples and carrots and placed it near the groundhog’s “front door”, (i.e. the hole he dug beneath our porch). By following the trail, the groundhog would trigger a release to cause the cage door to shut and trap him inside.

DAY 1:
The next day all the treats were gone and the cage empty. Since the lever to shut the cage door had not been triggered, I was sure a squirrel had helped itself to the treats and left without even a thank you.  A groundhog is heavier, I thought, and would surely have triggered the mechanism. Based on this assumption, I awarded one point to the squirrel.

Squirrel-1; Groundhog-0 :  The squirrel managed to get the treats without being trapped.

NOTE: The results of this phase of the study are based on pure speculation since we did not see the squirrel enjoy the carrots and apples and make its escape.

DAYS 2 & 3:
With adjustments made to the trigger-lever and the cage refilled with treats, we entered the next phase of the experiment. For the next two nights, neither rodent made its way into the cage. The wily groundhog, however, dug a new entrance to his home beneath our porch in a spot far from the cage
indicating he knows a trap when he sees one.

Squirrel-1; Groundhog-1

DAY 4:
Success!  From the window of our living room, we saw movement inside the cage and hoped it was our squatter. Our elation quickly dissipated and my earlier assumption was disproved when we saw that a squirrel was in the cage. (So how did a critter manage to get in the cage, eat the treats and get out without being trapped on Day 1?) Ben lifted the cage door and the squirrel quickly left with a full tummy. Preliminary findings seem to indicate that the groundhog has superior intelligence.

Squirrel-1; Groundhog-2

DAY 5:
The results of Day 4 were confirmed when, once again, a squirrel took the bait and found itself trapped in our cage. Still no sign of the groundhog though the holes we fill are dug anew each night, indicating he is still living under our porch.

Squirrel-1; Groundhog-3

This experiment proves that a groundhog’s intelligence is superior to that of a squirrel. Unfortunately, though it may require further study, the results may also indicate that the groundhog’s intelligence is superior to humans.

The Tale of a Resilient Squirrel

I nosed my car into a parking spot facing a chain link fence. Massive trees with trunks so thick I couldn’t wrap my arms around them stood on the other side of the fence. As I turned off the ignition, I spotted movement on the side of one of the tree trunks. Soon a squirrel came into view, clinging effortlessly to the bark.

Now this rodent knew how to prepare for winter! His body was as round as a little barrel, but he was still making provisions for the long winter months ahead. Clamped firmly in his mouth was a slice of toasted bread, cut on the diagonal. Who knew squirrels liked toast? I laughed as I pictured a good gust of wind turning the bread into a sail and sending him airborne.

But this was no laughing matter for the squirrel. This was the serious business of stocking food. I leaned closer to the windshield and watched him scamper up the sturdy trunk until he reached an outstretched branch. My lunch-time errand forgotten, I settled back into the driver’s seat for a first-row seat at the show.

Like a skilled high-wire acrobat, he stepped daintily onto the branch. It quivered beneath him and he stopped to steady himself. But his trophy put him off balance and after a few steps, he dropped the bread. Not to be deterred, he turned and began to make his way back down to the ground. That’s when I noticed two other squirrels already on the frozen ground. I held my breath as I waited to see if they would mount a charge to steal the coveted treasure. That just wouldn’t be fair!

I found myself rooting for my little friend, silently urging him to hurry. I don’t know how things work in the squirrel world, but the other two squirrels didn’t try to snatch the prize. Is there an unwritten code that finders are keepers in the squirrel universe? Or was “my” squirrel’s dominance established and therefore he was not to be challenged?

Whatever the reason, with the slice of toast once again firmly in his mouth, he began the climb anew. I cheered as he made it back to the branch. He seemed to gain confidence and, with the agility of a circus performer, he leapt onto the branch of a neighboring tree. His treasure still intact, he soon disappeared from sight to hide his well-earned treat.

Well, that was entertaining, I thought. But as I left the car and started walking to my destination, I realized it was more than that. It was a lesson in persistence.  Seeing a tiny creature act on the words “Don’t give up” or “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” was humbling. I guess it’s time I get back to those writing goals.

Written for the December 16th “Word of the Day Challenge”:  Charge