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Why ground squirrels go ninja over nothing

Rodents recently spooked by snakes wave their tails as wariness signal

7:00am, January 5, 2015
California ground squirrel

SECRET NINJA  A California ground squirrel is much more capable than it looks when it comes to battling rattlesnakes that lurk to feast on baby-squirrel nuggets.

Whole scientific careers have gone into understanding why a harmless handful of fluff like a California ground squirrel taunts rattlesnakes. Now Rulon Clark and his team at San Diego State University are exploring the puzzle of why the squirrels also seem to taunt rocks, sticks and the occasional shrub.

On spotting a snake, a California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) stares and sniffs, or if the snake is uncoiled, may even kick sand at it. And in bursts, the squirrel flags its tail left and right “like a windshield wiper,” Clark says.

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