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Red squirrels, socially distant by nature, teach us the value of good neighbours

By Erin Siracusa, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Behavioural Ecology, University of Exeter
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In the far reaches of Canada’s North, there’s a different type of social distancing happening this year. Amid the lingering snowdrifts and bowed branches of spruce trees, a small mammal yells a ferocious “stay away!” call that can be heard more than 100 metres away.

These “rattle” calls are made by a species abundant in the boreal forest — the North American red squirrel — and send a clear message to other neighbouring squirrels: “This is my territory. Stay off.”

Despite being small in stature, red squirrels are known for their ferocity. Both males and females occupy individual…

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