Squirrels have personality traits similar to humans, new study shows

You may think your cat or dog shares a lot of your personality, but there may be another fluffy animal near your home that acts more like you — the squirrel, according to new research.

A team of researchers at the University of California, Davis announced squirrels have personality traits similar to humans, and those traits are key to their survival and life expectancy. The researchers published their findings in the journal Animal Behaviour on Friday.

The study, which the group says is the first to ever document personality in golden-mantled ground squirrels commonly found in western U.S. and Canada, showed the animals had four different traits: boldness, aggressiveness, sociability and activity level.

Researchers say the findings show how personality influences an animal's use of space in the wild.

“This adds to the small but growing number of studies showing that individuals matter,” lead author and wildlife ecologist at UC Davis Jaclyn Aliperti said in a statement. “Accounting for personality in wildlife management may be especially important when predicting wildlife responses to new conditions, such as changes or destruction of habitat due to human activity.”

A golden-mantled ground squirrel, the species observed in the study done by a team at UC Davis.
A golden-mantled ground squirrel, the species observed in the study done by a team at UC Davis.

To find out about squirrel's personalities, researchers observed them for over three years in situations like being placed in an enclosed box with lines and holes, how they reacted to mirror images of themselves and how quickly they would run away when approached.

Each of the traits showed how drastic the life of a squirrel is. Squirrels that were bold and aggressive were able to move faster, find food and protect their territory, yet it made them more likely to become prey, as they are commonly hunted by coyotes, foxes and hawks, among other animals.

The activity level trait proved to be useful in squirrels finding access to perches such as rocks, as being on one helped them identify any nearby predators.

Mice with bigger ears?: Climate change is causing animals to 'shapeshift,' new study shows

'Mind-boggling': Fossils of giant, swimming head creature unearthed in Canada

Ducks can swear: One named Ripper was recorded calling someone a 'bloody fool'

However, the trait that appeared to be the biggest factor of survival was sociability. Golden-mantled ground squirrels are commonly asocial, meaning they often try to avoid social interaction.

Yet some of the squirrels formed bonds with others, as the study noted "individuals that tend to be relatively more social seem to have an advantage." Advantages included having access to greater resources and the ability to reproduce.

Aliperti added that her research has given her a different perspective on squirrels, and hopes their similarity toward humans will one day be a factor in preserving wildlife.

"I view them as, 'Who are you? Where are you going? What are you up to?' versus on a species level," she said. "Animal personality is a hard science, but if it makes you relate to animals more, maybe people will be more interested in conserving them."

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Squirrels have personalities like humans, new UC Davis study shows