Denuded Pine Cones

Central stem of a white pine cone missing all its seed scales, bracts & seeds, Moraine State Park, 24 March 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

27 March 2022

On a walk last week in Moraine State Park we found a pile of pine cones in various stages of undress. Some were uneaten, some were half eaten and many were stripped bare like the stem above.

White pine cones at the red squirrel’s midden: uneaten to completely gone

The large debris pile called a midden included woody seed scales, pine straw, bract scales, and central stems but few seeds.

Close up of the midden shows many discarded seed scales, Moraine State24 March 2022

It was created while eating the seeds inside the cones.

Anatomy of a woody pine cone (image from Wikimedia Commons)

The midden was made by an individual red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), working alone.

We can know this because of the focus on pine cones, how the cones were denuded, and the sizeable midden. Conifer seeds make up the majority of the red squirrel’s diet and he defends his midden territory year-round against every other red squirrel.

Red squirrels are highly territorial and asocial with very few non-reproductive physical interactions. The majority of physical interactions are in male-female matings and between females and their offspring before the offspring disperse to their own territories. The non-reproductive physical interactions recorded (0.6% of all recorded behaviors in one 19-year study) were all instances of chasing an intruder from a territory.

Wikipedia Account: American Red Squirrel

The red squirrel is small and cute, but always eats alone.

Red squirrel on a tree branch (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

(photos by Kate St. John and from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

2 thoughts on “Denuded Pine Cones

  1. Again, new information for my brain! That was really interesting, Kate. Happy Sunday. Enjoy the week ahead.

  2. Very interesting. The red squirrel is my favorite. I never had the chance to see one until I moved back to my childhood home. The white pines are huge now. What used to be a big yard full of grass now has various trees all along the perimeter. I noticed the red squirrels use that to their advantage to move around the property without touching the ground.

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