Squirrels are small rodents that have a lot of predators, which means they have to stay aware and alert of their surroundings at all times. But what about staring? Why do wild squirrels stare at you? Understanding this behavior will help you know what they are trying to communicate.
Why Do Squirrels Stare At You?
Squirrels can stare at humans for several reasons, however, most of the time it is out of fear, curiosity, source of food, or as an attempt to communicate with you. Unless they are in a zen state and napping, there is always a reason behind this behavior. Yes, squirrels sleep with their eyes open which can make it seem like they are staring at you!
All animals have an instinct to stare, whether or not they live in captivity or in the wild.
It can be scary to have a backyard squirrel stare at you, but it usually means they are unsure of their surroundings and trying to keep themselves safe.
There are several other reasons a squirrel will stare at a human and we’ll discuss these in more detail.
To better understand this squirrel behavior, you should have a better understanding of their body language. This will tell you how they are feeling.
Squirrels And Staring
Squirrels are small rodents that use their tail to communicate danger to other squirrels.
These small mammals often hang out with other squirrel friends, and sometimes they’ll chatter and make weird noises to communicate with each other.
While most squirrels will run away if they see you coming outside, however, sometimes a brave squirrel will not run away and instead turn and stare at you while they continue eating.
Reasons A Squirrel May Stare
There are several reasons a squirrel will stare, let’s look at some of the most common ones:
If a squirrel is new to your backyard, they may not be familiar with your normal routines. Squirrels that come to the feeder on a regular basis may know that you hang out on your back deck and your regular routine.
They may sit and stare at you to determine whether you’re a threat.
Squirrels are naturally curious animals and if they hear you making similiar sounds to them, they may stare or approach you to investigate.
You may have seen many videos on humans feeding wild squirrels, they likely built trust with a squirrel over time.
These rodents are near the bottom of the food chain and are preyed upon by birds, coyotes, raccoons, weasels, and etc. There are a lot of animals that will eat squirrels in fact some humans will hunt them for food and sport.
Which means they need to keep an eye on their surroundings to help keep them safe.
They Sense You
A large part of a squirrel’s brain is dedicated to visual functions, which helps them keep safe in their natural surroundings. If they are staring at you, they likely sense you and may stare to see if you come too close.
Once they feel unsafe or threatened they usually run away.
A squirrel can be trained to know where they can find food, especially, if you set out a feeder for them. If all of a sudden they don’t have food after being fed, they may sit there are stare at you without moving or blinking.
This stare is likely a begging stare similar to how a dog will stare when they are hungry and looking for you to feed them.
Understanding Staring In Squirrels
To better understand staring in squirrels, you need to observe the body language that accompanies the stare. Here are some of the different signs to look for to help you determine what the wild squirrel is communicating.
- If a squirrel is squirrel senses danger, they will stand perfectly still as if they are invisible. Once they determine the danger is real, they will run in erratic paths to disorientate predators.
- They may scream or make weird noises to let other squirrels know that danger is near.
- If a squirrel stands up on their hind legs, it could be a warning to others or as a way to get a better view of their environment.
- Motionless without blinking can mean that they are napping or in a zen state and not really staring at you. They could be using their amazing peripheral vision to see what’s above and beside them without moving their head.
Is The Squirrel Really Staring or Napping?
One thing to consider is the possibility that the squirrel is not actually staring but could be sleeping.
Squirrels are one of the mammals that sleep with their eyes open. While sleeping, their brain can still recognize the danger. This can alert them to awaken if necessary and they need to flee.
This ability is vital to their survival, especially, since they tend to sleep a lot throughout the day.
In fact, they can go for several minutes without blinking their eyelids, especially when they sense danger.
If you’ve noticed a squirrel sitting on your balcony staring for ten minutes without blinking, it could be they are sleeping.
What To Do If Staring Becomes Excessive
If a squirrel sits and stares at you and you know for a fact they are not sleeping, you should know they may be trying to communicate with you.
Most wild animals will not approach humans, squirrels are different. Some will stare and even approach a human, especially, if they feel comfortable.
Squirrels make a broad range of sounds that have different meanings from chirping, and moaning, it could sound like they are scolding you. Many people think the squirrel is communicating with them, but are actually communicating with each other.
Here are some of the sounds to watch for and what they actually mean.
- According to the scientist Robert Lishak when a squirrel makes a “kuk kunk kuk” or “quaa quaa” and “muk muk” they are indicating to other squirrels that a predator has been spotted.
If a squirrel makes one of these sounds while staring at you, they most likely see you as a predator and are watching your movements before they dash off to the nearest tree.
When you’re in their environment you’re in their space. Maybe you’re too close to their nest or are standing on a nut they buried?
If you’re feeling uncomfortable then consider moving away from their environment, and the squirrel will likely stop staring when you leave.
Can You Build Trust With A Squirrel?
We’ve all seen those YouTube videos where people have built up trust with a squirrel and hand-feed them. Some have even found a baby squirrel and raised it to where they become a pet squirrel.
While most wild squirrels are not trusting enough to approach humans, they are generally friendly creatures. They are accustomed to living near humans and this makes it possible to build trust with them, however, they are wild animals and should be left alone.
It’s perfectly okay to feed wild animals such as birds, squirrels and etc. Just don’t make the mistake that you can build trust with them and keep them as a pet.
If a squirrel feels comfortable enough to approach you, that’s fine. Just don’t force it, and always be gentle and nice to them.
It is hardwired into a squirrels DNA to stare as it helps keep them safe in the wild for thousands of years. Not all staring is the same and understanding their body language and behavior will help you understand what it really means.
It could be they are taking a quick catnap or are in a zen state and not even staring at all!
Both wild and captive squirrels have weird behaviors that take time to learn. Read this article why does my squirrel nibble on me to find out what it means.
References and Further Reading
Skedaddle – Bill Carmichael – Do Houston’s Squirrels Have Super Senses