From The Globe and Mail, Friday Feb 15th
Social Studies by Michael Kesterton
"Squirrels seem to realize that the trees have eyes." the New Scientist reports. "To protect their food from would-be thieves, the rodents put on a great show of 'hiding' non-existent nuts. When squirrels have spare morsels they bury them, digging a separate hole for each tasty tidbit. But up to 20 per cent of the time they are merely faking it, says Michael Stelle of Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The squirrels act as if they are thrusting something into the pit, and the deception even extends to covering the fake cache with soil and leaves. ... Squirrels show fake-caching behavior when they are being watched, even by humans, so Steele recruited a group of undergraduates who did their best to see where the squirrels actually deposited their food. Fake burials increased after the squirrels saw team members raiding their caches, suggesting, Steels says, an understanding of the intention to steal."