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What Are Squirrels Good For? 5 Surprising Benefits

Squirrels help trees grow and regenerate forests. They are a food source for other animals and are inspiring scientists to work on meaningful medical advancements and improve robotics. 

Squirrels are a delight to watch, but what are they good for? 

In this article, we answer this question and find out how they regenerate forests and inspire medical and robotic advancements. 

5 Benefits of Squirrels

Squirrels play an important role in maintaining a balance in the ecosystems they live in. They support tree health, help regenerate forests, are food sources for other animals, and they are inspiring medical and robotic advancements. 

Watching squirrels in a park can be entertaining. It’s said that watching wildlife, even in an urban park, can help people relax and reconnect with nature. 

While squirrels have captured peoples’ imagination for hundreds of years, delighting us are not the only benefits for these cute creatures. 

Here are five benefits of squirrels:

  1. Squirrels Plant Forests 
  2. Squirrels Help Trees Grow 
  3. Squirrels Are Food For Predators 
  4. Squirrels Inspire Medical Advancement 
  5. Squirrels Inspire The Future of Robotics 

Read on to find out more about the benefits of squirrels… 

In this article, we answer this question and find out how they regenerate forests and inspire medical and robotic advancements. 

1. Squirrels Plant Forests 

Squirrels Plant Forests

Squirrels are master gardeners and plant trees throughout forests when they bury nuts and seeds. 

Tree squirrels and flying squirrels hoard nuts and seeds for winter by burying them. Many are eaten, but the ones that are forgotten can germinate and grow into trees. 

This way, squirrels help regenerate forests and even enlarge a forested area.[1]

Numerous studies confirm squirrels’ positive effect on seed dispersal and forest regeneration. One study found that squirrels’ gardening efforts also have a positive effect on the increase of habitat quality for wild birds.[2] 

As trees purify our air, remove carbon dioxide, and mitigate harmful effects of climate change, squirrels are helping save our planet. 

2. Squirrels Help Trees Grow 

Squirrels Help Trees Grow

Squirrels not only plant trees. They help trees thrive by eating fungi that help trees and dispersing the spores in their scat. 

We often notice the benefit of something when it is gone. Or almost gone. 

For example, U.S. conservationists are concerned about the declining number of northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus). The loss of these squirrels can have devastating effects on the ecosystems of the conifer forest inhabitant.  

At certain times of the year, a truffle-like fungus grows on hemlock and spruce trees and is a primary food source for northern flying squirrels. The fungi help the trees absorb nutrients and water. 

When the squirrels eat it, they help spread spores of the fungi in their scat so that more fungi grow. 

Noted as endangered in the US Federal List,[3] the decline of northern flying squirrels could jeopardize the health of hemlock and spruce trees in their habitats. 

In return, a loss of trees that cool mountain streams can lead to rising water temperature. This can negatively affect trout, a valuable food source for several animals.[4]

Not only that, but other species may die out.

Related: Flying Squirrels in Pennsylvania: Why Are They Endangered?

3. Squirrels Are A Food Source 

Squirrels Are A Food Source

Badgers, bobcats, foxes, birds of prey, snakes, and weasels are just a few of the predators that rely on squirrels as a source of food. 

Squirrels are a source of food for many carnivores and omnivores. And it’s not only animals that eat squirrels, some people also hunt and eat squirrels.

Some animals prey on squirrels as a food source that is also endangered species, like North America’s spotted owl. The spotted owl’s diet includes northern flying squirrels. 

Northern flying squirrels are in decline, which then again puts more pressure on the dwindling population of spotted owls.[5] 

4. Squirrels Inspire Medical Advancement 

Squirrels Inspire Medical Advancement
Image Source

Not all squirrels hibernate, but those that do are inspiring new ways to treat traumatic injuries, prevent muscle loss in cancer patients and the elderly, and reduce brain damage caused by strokes. 

When Arctic ground squirrels (Urocitellus parryii) hibernate for more than half a year, they recycle nutrients in their bodies, including nitrogen. 

What makes this amazing is that the process helps them retain muscle mass and prevents cellular damage.[6] 

Scientists are trying to translate what they have learned about the biochemistry of the Arctic squirrel’s hibernation into medical treatments to prevent the loss of muscle mass in the elderly and cancer patients. 

It’s also hoped that these squirrel-inspired medical treatments could help people recover from traumatic injuries – like strokes.  

During hibernation, the ground squirrels’ blood flow reduces dramatically. This is similar to what happens when people have a stroke. However, unlike people who experience brain damage, squirrels wake from hibernation without any damage.[7] 

5. Squirrels Inspire The Future of Robotics 

Squirrels Inspire The Future of Robotics

Robotic engineers would like to make robots that can think as quickly and move with as much agility as squirrels do. 

If you’re curious about the future of robots, you’ll be interested to know that robotic engineers are studying squirrels’ quick decision-making skills and agility. 

Researchers from the University of California created an obstacle course and lured wild squirrels with nuts to leap from different types of perches.[8] 

They found that squirrels quickly learned to adjust to the springiness of various perches. The squirrels’ ability to learn and implement new ways to reach a reward is something robots don’t have yet. 

There aren’t robots that can make split-second decisions about dynamic tasks in complex environments like squirrels do. If robots can function like squirrels, there is no telling what they can do. 

Depending on your point of view, it’s either an exciting prospect or the start of a real-life sci-fi horror story. Regardless, humble squirrels are the inspiration. 


Squirrels are a valuable part of the ecosystem of their native habitats. They help regenerate and expand forests. They are also a food source for other animals, an inspiration for robotic engineers, and potentially life-saving medical treatments.  


What Do Squirrels Do for the Environment? 

Squirrels inadvertently plant trees when their forgotten hoarded nuts and seeds germinate and start growing. In this way, squirrels help maintain, regenerate and even enlarge forests. In this way, squirrels improve the habitat for other animals and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

When Are Squirrels Bad for the Environment? 

When non-native squirrels outcompete native squirrels or animals for food, they upset the indigenous ecosystem of a habitat. This is occurring in Great Britain where there is a problem with American eastern gray squirrel displacing the native red squirrels. 

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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