Why Do Squirrels Lick The Road

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Many odd behaviors are demonstrated by animals that amaze us human beings. Squirrels also depict some normal behavior in their day-to-day life. This includes the flicking of tails, but why do squirrels lick the road?

The squirrels lick the road to obtain minerals like salt from the material road is made up of, like cement or asphalt. If they are busy doing this, they will wait for the last moment to escape an approaching car. 

This habit of theirs can cost them their life. In this article, we will read more about why squirrels lick the road and how this benefits them. You will gain insight into some of the odd behaviors of squirrels. So, Read On!

Eastern Grey Squirrels And Roads

The eastern gray squirrel’s nests are in the holes of trees where they build their nests out of the twigs and dry leaves.

Squirrels prefer a distance from the ground for building their nests. The squirrels do not hibernate in winter but, instead, wander around. 

The main reason eastern grey squirrels leave their comfortable homes is in search of food like nuts, seeds, and berries. Other than this, if the squirrel feels it is running low on minerals, it will come down from the tree tops to fill up its deficiency. 

The squirrels are little explorers, and the roads attract them. Despite the ample supply of acorns, a squirrel gets from a particular place; it will still go out to lick on the pavements and roads. This is more of their habitual behavior. 

What Do Squirrels Eat In The Road?

The squirrels are great collectors of walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts, pine cones, acorns, cashews, pistachios, and pecans. They love nuts as they are the primary source of proteins and fats for the squirrels.

But why come out on the road? The trees line the streets, and most of the nuts and fruits they produce drop down on the road below. Much of the yield gets squished due to cars and road passengers passing. 

The squirrels like licking such roads to collect the remnants of these squished fruits, nuts, and seeds. Even a tiny amount is sufficient for the squirrels to thrive and fulfill their nutritional requirements. 

Pregnant Squirrels Licking Roads 

Researchers and common people have observed that pregnant squirrels lick more roads than non-pregnant ones. This may signify that the pregnant squirrels need more nutrients than the normal ones. 

Pregnant squirrels crave the road minerals, and they come down, especially for obtaining those. If you see that a squirrel is licking more than often, it may lead to suspecting that particular squirrel may be expecting. 

But, what is in those roads that the squirrels crave so much? The answer is simple. It is salt. Common Salt. A squirrel loves to lick on that from the roads to satisfy its taste buds. 

Road Tar- Hazard For Health?

As excess of everything is terrible, so is excessive licking for the squirrels. Licking too much tar is not good for a squirrel’s health as they may take in too much salt from the road. 

Moreover, it is not only sodium chloride that the squirrel takes in by licking but also some other salts like potassium. Taking in too much can disrupt the average balance of the salt concentrations in the squirrel’s body. 

As a result, a squirrel can develop some gastrointestinal issues. It is usually the springtime that the squirrels crave salt. The squirrels cut their nuts diet and start relying on the roads for their salts. 

Why Do Squirrels Lick Pebbles?

The squirrels do lick the roads and the tiny pebbles that line the road due to the constant erosion. Many squirrels have been seen to rotate small stones between their little paws and then lick them simultaneously. 

The squirrel does it for two purposes. Each reason has been stated as such:

  • Baby squirrels do this to have a firmer grip
  • Adult squirrels do this to fulfill their cravings for licking salt 

It gives the impression of squirrels relying on the pebbles and roads to take in the salt they do not get from their typical day-to-day diets. That is why every specie of squirrel can be seen depicting the same behaviors, especially the mother squirrels. 

Do Squirrels Use Salt Licks?

Mother nature provides every animal with salt licks. The animals visit them frequently to lick and taste the ground’s salts. This is important for their diet habits. 

Squirrels, like many other animals, rely on mother nature’s salt licks and man-made salt licks. Many other animals visit these salt licks, like foxes, gray squirrels, rabbits, and groundhogs. 

The birds and chipmunks visit such areas, and they lick them enthusiastically to fulfill their craving for licking a salty substance.

Do Squirrels Chew On Concrete?

Yes, many roads are made up of concrete, and it has been seen that squirrels can lick on them too. Some observations have also suggested that squirrels chew on concrete. They do this for several reasons:

  • The concrete’s composition includes some salts, which the squirrels like licking 
  • The squirrels lick and chew on concrete enough that they can create small openings or holes for themselves. 

The squirrels get the nutrients they need to live, and ultimately, they do so. The small holes are created to allow squirrels to enter a specific place. The squirrel’s teeth are sharp enough to bite through hard materials like concrete. 

Stone Caching By Squirrels 

Another behavior that is commonly seen in squirrels is the stealing of pebbles. The squirrels are in the habit of stealing them after they have licked them all over, front, back, right, and left. 

It has also been seen that regardless of the food in the garden, the squirrels prefer to make their way straight toward the pebbles and carry them somewhere where they can lick them quickly. 

The squirrels often collect these small pebbles from the roads, and they do not always leave them from where they have picked them. The larger these pebbles are, the more fascinated the squirrels are in licking them and getting flavors of various salts. 

Can Squirrels Eat Through Brick?

Yes, the squirrels can eat through bricks as well. As if the roads are not enough, the squirrels eat through brick as well by licking them so much that they start deteriorating ultimately.

The process is slow and takes time but the squirrels take their time to lick it well. Some squirrels even succeed in making tiny holes for themselves to pass through. The squirrels are also capable of chewing through soft areas of the bricks.

The bricks are usually made up of mortar material. Some roads are also made of this material and the squirrels like licking them for making their tongues salty.

Wrapping It Up 

The squirrels are smart little creatures that often behave in an odd manner. It may seem to us that their behavior is out of the ordinary but to them, it is quite normal.

A squirrel loves to lick on the roads and pebbles. They do this to obtain their salts and nutrients as their own diets are rich in proteins and fats.

However, the pregnant squirrels lick on pebbles and roads more frequently than the non-pregnant ones. You can suspect a squirrel’s pregnancy by their eating habits.

References

Society for Biotic and Environmental Research

Matsubayashi, Hisashi & Lagan, Peter & Majalap, Noreen & Tangah, Joseph & Sukor, Jum & Kitayama, Kanehiro. (2006). Importance of natural licks for the mammals in Bornean inland tropical rain forests. Ecological Research. 22. 742-748

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