If you are walking by the river Wandle, you’re bound to see plenty of squirrels around. These bushy-tailed rodents are frequently seen in urban areas gathering food and building nests, but what does it mean when a squirrel stares at you?
This post tells you everything you need to know about why squirrels sometimes stop and stare!
What Does it Mean When a Squirrel Stares at You?
There are several reasons why a squirrel might stare at you. It could be that the squirrel is trying to determine if you are a threat, if you have food, or out of curiosity.
A staring squirrel is also seen in some cultures as a sign that good fortune is on its way, as squirrels are symbols of preparation and gathering for the future.
Reasons a Squirrel Might Stare at You
A study from 2014, published in the Journal of Zoology, looked at the behaviour of eastern grey squirrels in New York City.
It found that squirrels paid little attention to humans if they behaved in predictable ways, and remained on the footpaths. It was only when the humans moved off the footpaths that the squirrels reacted and began to stare at the humans or move away.
In general, there are four common reasons why a squirrel might suddenly stop and stare at you:
- They are trying to establish if you are a threat
- They are curious about what you are doing
- They are trying to determine if you have food
Let’s look at each of these reasons in a bit more detail.
1. They are Trying to Establish if you are a Threat
Squirrels are near the bottom of the food chain, and are extremely cautious of predators. For this reason, they often go into “alert mode” when they see a human approaching, and may stare at you to assess the situation.
If they feel threatened, they may also start making loud noises or flicking their tails as a warning signal. This is most likely to happen if a squirrel is trying to protect its young.
2. They are Curious About What You Are Doing
Squirrels, although timid, are social and curious creatures. Many who live in big cities like London, are not afraid to approach humans, since they have learnt that they are not a threat.
Often when you see a squirrel staring at you in a big city it is out of curiosity, rather than fear. They are watching to see what you are going to do next.
3. They are Trying to Determine if you Have Food
Some squirrels, particularly in cities, have learnt that humans can provide food. These squirrels may stare at you in hopes of getting a treat. This is most likely to be the case if you have fed squirrels in the past, since squirrels have extremely good memories.
In 2017, scientists at the University of Exeter put the memories of gray squirrels to the test. The squirrels were given a puzzle to solve to get a hazelnut, and then given the same puzzle again 22 months later. The squirrels still remembered the solution to the puzzle almost two years later, and solved it in a record time.
Squirrel Body Language and Staring
To fully understand why a squirrel is staring at you, it’s important to look closely at its body language. If the squirrel is moving, standing in a certain position, or making noises, this can help you to determine what it’s thinking.
There are six common things that the squirrel could be doing while staring at you, and they all mean different things.
1. The Squirrel is Staring and Standing Perfectly Still
If a squirrel stares at you and remains perfectly still, it may be trying to assess if you are a threat or not. It may also be trying to blend in with its surroundings and hide from potential predators.
2. The Squirrel is Staring and Moving Back and Forth
If a squirrel is staring at you whilst moving back and forth, this may indicate that it is curious about you and trying to figure out what you are doing.
3. The Squirrel is Staring and Chattering Its Teeth
This behaviour, known as “chucking,” often indicates aggression in squirrels. If a squirrel is chucking at you while staring, it may feel threatened or territorial and could potentially attack if provoked.
4. The Squirrel is Staring Whilst on its Hind Legs
This behaviour can be associated with begging for food. If a squirrel is staring at you while standing on its hind legs, it may be trying to communicate that it wants something to eat from you. If it’s at a distance from you, it may just be curious and trying to get a better look at you.
5. The Squirrel is Staring and Wagging its Tail
This behaviour often indicates that a squirrel is feeling alarmed and is a signal to other squirrels to be on their guard. It can also indicate that the squirrel is reserving its territory or trying to protect a food source.
6. The Squirrel is Staring and Making Weird Noises
If a squirrel is making strange noises, such as screeches or barks, while staring at you, it could indicate that the squirrel is frightened of you. The noises are to warn other squirrels.
The table below contains a summary of what different squirrel body language could mean when one is starring at you.
|Squirrel Body Language||What it Means|
|Staring and Standing Perfectly Still||The squirrel is trying to determine if you are a threat|
|Staring and Moving Back and Forth||The squirrel is curious about what you are|
|Staring and Chattering Its Teeth||The squirrel feels threatened by you|
|Staring Whilst on its Hind Legs||The squirrel is curious and may be begging for food|
|Staring and Wagging its Tail||The squirrel is alarmed by you|
|Staring and Making Weird Noises||The squirrel is frightened of you|
Symbolism of a Starring Squirrel in Different Cultures
In some cultures, seeing a squirrel staring at you is auspicious, and a sign from the spirit world. In many traditions, squirrels come to us as messengers to remind us to prepare and gather for the future.
Squirrels in Native American Tradition
In Native American tradition, the squirrel spirit animal represents gathering, preparation, and thriftiness. To see a squirrel starring at you could mean that you need to start preparing for upcoming events or challenges in your life.
The Iroquois tribe believed that the spirit of the squirrel could teach people how to store and prepare for the future. The squirrel totem animal symbolises the need to be prepared for what lies ahead and to trust in one’s own abilities and resourcefulness.
FAQs About Squirrels Staring at Humans
How do you know if a squirrel likes you?
There have been documented cases of squirrels becoming attached to humans. If the same squirrel returns to see you repeatedly, this is a sign that they like you. They have good memories, and are able to recognise people.
Why do squirrels come close to humans?
Squirrels usually come close to humans out of curiosity. This often happens in urban areas where squirrels have learnt that humans are not a threat. They come close to humans to observe what they are doing, and in some cases beg for food.
Do squirrels recognize human faces?
Yes. Squirrels are very intelligent animals and can recognise human faces. There have been documented cases of squirrels recognising people who have fed them amongst a crowd of people.
What does it mean when a squirrel is friendly?
If a squirrel is approaching you and being friendly, it is likely to be begging for food. They are highly intelligent and sociable animals, and in big cities have learned that humans can sometimes provide food.
How do you talk to a squirrel?
Squirrels communicate to each other with squarks, barks and chatters. If you want to communicate with a squirrel it is best to do this with your actions and body language rather than by making sounds. You should remain still and quiet, so you don’t alarm the squirrel and wait for it to approach you.
Overall, the reasons for a squirrel staring at you can vary. But whether it’s out of curiosity, fear, or wanting food, it’s important to respect the squirrel’s space and not approach or disturb them.
If you like squirrels check out the following posts:
What Does it Mean When a Squirrel Stares at You?
Thank you for reading my post about what is means when a squirrel stares at you. If you know any other reasons then please leave me a comment below.
Wednesday 15th of February 2023
@tara, a squirrel got into my house, I believe through the fireplace as I heard her in there a couple days before discovering her on the lower level of my 2 story home.
It was quite a traumatic process to get her to go out. My rodent pest control company, as I learned, wasn't sure either as they deal mostly with rats and mice. They used a broomstick to draw her out from under the couch and dishwasher towards the door. She was having none of it scared and angry out of her mind. I believe she was here for food and possibly nesting...going into that season.
They did set up a one-way trap door to outside with cracker peanut butter bait. Left her alone all night and she made her way outside.
I think we were all traumatized by the experience. And I feel terrible as this was my first encounter and I didn't know what to do but call those with more knowledge--then informed that wildlife was not their specialty. (Originally we thought it was a rat when they arrived.) But she could not stay in my house.
Now she is hanging out 2 ft in near in a bush at my front door and chattering angrily at me. (She was never physically harmed) I hear her when I go outside and she has claimed my fenced backyard as her territory and eats on my blueberries and strawberries.
Will she attack me?
Monday 31st of October 2022
I enjoyed reading this blog! We have a squirrel in our garden, tremendously busy savaging the nut tree and digging holes around the garden. This read would help me understand a little extended family member much better!