Playing dead is an efficient skill that can help save countless animals and birds and allow them to tackle constant threats. Squirrels have developed defense mechanisms to thrive in wild conditions.
Do Squirrels Play Dead? Squirrels do not play dead as they have different biological mechanisms for defense and show freezing behavior when they detect any threat. In addition, they blend with the background to choose a landscape matching their fur color for hiding. Furthermore, they bring changes in heart and respiration rate and become unresponsive to touch and sounds.
The squirrels pretend to hide their nuts to confuse those keeping an eye on their food resources and are full of clever intricacies.
Furthermore, staying still or motionless squirrel is not always dead as it can be in freezing mode, deceiving the predators by pretending to be dead.
Why do squirrels not play dead?
Squirrels react differently from other animals in scary situations as their bodies have developed different defense strategies to tackle a threat.
Lack of specific biological mechanism
The animals who play dead have particular biological mechanisms that are activated when they feel themselves under threat.
In possums, a hormone is released in their bodies that help them behave like dead bodies when a predator is standing close to them.
However, squirrels do not release such hormones and bring changes in their positions to act as dead bodies like they lie flat on the ground, but it occurs occasionally.
Squirrels are adapted to background blending, which is their defensive behavior to tackle a situation when a predator is searching for prey in their territory.
Moreover, these furry animals will stand quiet for a long time in an area that provides a background color similar to their body color.
They prefer to stand by the buildings and trees, providing a landscape similar to their fur color. This way, they become a part of the scenery and are challenged to be recognized as animals.
So, background blending helps them hide from the sight of predators and camouflage themselves for some time until the predators disappear.
They can change their breathing rate, which slows down to normal, making them feel dead to predators. But, most commonly, they reduce breathing rate during hibernation when all the processes slow down.
The breathing rate reduces to almost 2 to 4 breaths in a minute in winter when the temperature decreases.
Not only respiration but the heart rate is also changed during hibernation or freezing and shows an arrhythmic pattern. It drops down to almost 8 to 9 beats in a minute.
Furthermore, they can alter respiration and heart rate when they feel scared and preferably drops down. They are afraid of owls, and they do this when they see their predators.
Unresponsive to touch
Squirrels become motionless instead of playing dead, which can help indicate fake death to the attackers. In addition, this type of behavior shows that they are not living and cannot breathe and move.
They become unresponsive to touch, and it does not matter that other animals touch their bodies. The freezing behavior relates to restriction of their body movement and remaining still.
Moreover, you can see them in a single position that is standing or lying on the ground without moving their limbs or heads in any direction.
Why do squirrels freeze themselves?
Squirrels freeze themselves due to fear of attack because they cannot play dead like other animals. This behavior is commonly seen in these furry animals when they are scared.
It can be the fear of losing a life when predators are roaming or heading towards them to eat. They can avoid the chasing behavior of ferocious animals like dogs by showing themselves as dead.
Furthermore, they can freeze bodies when shocked to see a situation like a tree falling to the ground. Similarly, they can also get shocked after falling from large trees on the ground. This helps them to heal quickly.
However, they can occasionally play dead when they feel fearful or want to protect themselves from weasels and coyotes.
What animals play dead?
Many animals, including possums, snakes, and even bunnies, can pretend to be dead by keeping themselves in a single position.
In addition, lemon sharks and ducks do not show any movement in their bodies and lie down on the ground or stand still when they detect a threat.
It is essential to adopt such defensive behavior to ensure their survival when moving away from the threatened location is difficult.
They all have different capabilities to attain a position when they look like dead bodies depending on their circumstances and reasons.
Furthermore, they use all of their senses to detect the threat and find the best escape route to ensure their safety or lie down on the ground pretending to be dead.
Do squirrels have fight-or-flight instincts?
The primary instinct of squirrels is to run away or take a flight from the location where they have a threat in their surroundings. Moreover, they have flight or freeze instincts, unlike other animals.
In addition, they prefer to leave the threatened location, move to a safe area like trees, and quickly climb over the trunk.
However, some predators like falcons and hawks can catch them even on trees, so they have to devise other defense strategies like freezing behavior.
Furthermore, these furry animals cannot fight with the larger animals and birds as they risk survival, so they follow flight instincts.
Is squirrel freezing behavior the same as playing dead?
You can see freezing behavior in the squirrels as they prefer restricting body movements instead of playing dead when lying down on the floor.
This behavior is similar to playing dead in other animals as they control breathing and heart rate, become motionless, and appear dead.
Moreover, you can see them standing close to the tree, so it is not easy to recognize them as separate entities as they blend with trunk color.
Furthermore, the brown color of the tree trunk matches the brown fur color of these animals and makes it difficult to recognize them by predators.