Snake-directed Behavior by Snake Naive and Experienced California Ground Squirrels in a Simulated Burrow


Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, California, 95616 (USA).


Snake naive and experienced California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) were video taped while interacting with either a gopher snake or rattlesnake in a simulated burrow dimly illuminated with red light. Using nonvisually guided behavior, naive and experienced squirrels reacted to snakes in qualitatively similar ways, and behaved more defensively toward snakes than toward a control stimulus (white rat). The squirrels alternately interacted with the snake and attempted to escape from the burrow, which had a sealed entrance. Interaction with the snake included cautious approach in elongate postures, prolonged investigation of adjacent alleys before entering them, kicking sand at the snake, frequent tooth chattering, occasional calling, and building burrow plugs out of sand. These they packed by butting with their heads. When permitted to escape from the burrow, they turned just outside the entrance to tail flag, kick sand, scent mark, and finally plug the burrow. Since visual cues were not available, olfactory and auditory stimuli from the snake appeared to mediate snake-directed behavior in the burrow.