California ground squirrels and rock squirrels chew on discarded rattlesnake skin, then smear it on their fur. The result is that they smell like rattlesnake instead of squirrels, which may protect them from snake attack. The journal Animal Behavior published a new study from a team led by Barbara Clucas.
Clucas, a graduate student in animal behavior at the University of California, Davis, said she first noted this behavior in 2002.
She saw rock squirrels at Caballo Lake State Park in New Mexico licking themselves to apply chewed snake skin to their flanks, tails, and rear ends, which gave them the pungent, musky scent of a rattlesnake.
In 2003 she saw California ground squirrels at Lake Solano County Park in California doing the same thing.