Squirrels Have Very Different Personality Traits – Just Like Humans

Squirrels Have Very Different Personality Traits – Just Like Humans

Squirrels have human-like personality traits, says a new study from UC Davis in California.

Social & Lifestyle

A study from the University of California, Davis is the first to document personality in golden-mantled ground squirrels, which are common across the western U.S. and parts of Canada.

The study found the squirrels show personality for four main traits: boldness, aggressiveness, activity level, and sociability.

The findings suggest that understanding how an animal’s personality influences use of space is important for wildlife conservation.

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‘Individuals matter’

To see them chitter and skitter, stop and then scurry, the fact that ground squirrels have personalities may not seem surprising.

But the scientific field of animal personality is relatively young, as is the recognition that there are ecological consequences of animal personality.

For instance, bolder, more aggressive squirrels may find more food or defend a larger territory, but their risky behavior may also make them vulnerable to predation or accidents.

“This adds to the small but growing number of studies showing that individuals matter,” said lead author Jaclyn Aliperti, who conducted the study while earning her Ph.D. in ecology at UC Davis.

“Accounting for personality in wildlife management may be especially important when predicting wildlife responses to new conditions, such as changes or destruction of habitat due to human activity.”

Personality tests

Scientists have been studying golden-mantled ground squirrels at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado for decades. It was established as a long-term study site more than 30 years ago by Aliperti’s advisor, Dirk Van Vuren.