Eau de Snake

California ground squirrels avoid snakes by trying to smell like them

  • Hannah Schardt
  • Apr 01, 2008
IF YOU CAN'T beat 'em, smell like 'em. That seems to be the strategy used by California ground squirrels and rock squirrels to ward off snake attacks. Scientists at the University of California–Davis observed the rodents chewing up bits of discarded snake skin and then licking themselves, passing the snake scent to their own fur. Researchers surmise that the squirrels use the scent to cover up their own odor, particularly at night while they are asleep and vulnerable in their burrows. "It's a nice example of the opportunism of animals," says study coauthor Donald Owings.

Get Involved

Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

Learn More
Regional Centers and Affiliates