In the world of small woodland creatures, there is no friendlier animal than a squirrel.
The sun shining on his crown, he dashes from tree to tree gathering food and shaking its tail.
But as he works, it almost seems as if another squirrel scurries by him at a tremendous speed.
The first squirrel leaps into the air and chases this second squirrel for no reason at all.
Sometimes the first squirrel catches up to the creature he is chasing, sometimes not.
He may even return to gathering food before taking off again in the wild pursuit of the other squirrel.
What could cause such behavior?
Why Squirrels Chase Each Other
The answer has baffled scientists for decades.
Scientists who study animal behavior today have developed several theories in an attempt to understand why squirrels chase each other.
One idea is that the chasing somehow benefits the young squirrels, teaching them how to avoid predators later in life.
Another theory is that chasing staves off boredom during winter months, giving the animals something to do.
The only problem with both of these explanations is that no one has ever observed a squirrel chasing another squirrel while a human was around to record the behavior.
When it comes down to it, neither explanation seems very likely.
The truth about why animals chase each other probably has less to do with avoiding predators or staying occupied and more to do with something much simpler.
One explanation that does make sense is called kleptoparasitism.
Kleptoparasitism is a type of behavior in which an animal (usually a predator) searches for prey and takes it from another animal (usually a smaller predator).
The only problem with this explanation is that squirrels do not appear to be predators.
This leaves scientists with one last possible explanation, the reproductive theory.
Many animals engage in chasing during the mating season because both animals are attempting to mate with the other and they may be chasing each other out of a desire to mate.
The reproductive theory is the most likely explanation for squirrel chasing because it fits with everything scientists already know about mating behavior in animals, and does not raise any special problems, unlike other theories that have been put forth.
So next time you see a squirrel chase another one from tree to tree, you should know that he may not be being really aggressive.
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