Squirrel Café To Predict The Weather From Customer Data

Physicist and squirrel gastronomer [Carsten Dannat] is trying to correlate two critical social economical factors: how many summer days do we have left, and when will we run out of nuts. His research project, the Squirrel Café, invites squirrels to grab some free nuts and collects interesting bits of customer data in return.

Animals are said to have a predictive sense for natural events, and [Carsten’s] experiment is about verifying this. The hypothesis [Carsten] is trying to prove with this setup is the following:

The amount of nuts taken by red squirrels from a squirrel feeder correlates with upcoming winter weather conditions significantly.

To prove this, [Carsten] regularly fills a wooden squirrel feeder with a known amount of nuts. A mercury switch on the feeder’s lid triggers the execution of a Python script on a Raspberry Pi. The script then polls a Dallas DS18B20 temperature sensor and takes a photograph through a Raspberry Pi camera module. All gathered data is automatically compiled into a tweet and also sent to ThingSpeak for further processing.

The setup works well, providing squirrels with peanuts and [Carsten] with precious data. The video below suggests that the little fellows tend to take one nut at a time, so the mercury switch effectively counts individual nuts. When refilling, [Carsten] checks how many nuts have actually been taken from the station, which allows him to track the nut consumption more accurately.

Yet, for some mysterious reason, the local squirrel population recently decided to boycott the café entirely. For two weeks now, not a single guest has shown up. The outside temperature was around 35° C (95° F) for these days, so regarding the hypothesis, the appetite loss could already be an indicator for a certain weather dependency of the squirrels’ nut consumption. There are certainly some more factors to consider, like the overall food supply, instinctive behavior, and software bugs, but we’re already curious if we will see more squirrels when the temperature drops again. What do our readers think, can squirrels really predict the weather?

Enjoy the video below, which shows the café’s furry guests before they took summer vacation:

13 thoughts on “Squirrel Café To Predict The Weather From Customer Data

  1. Well …

    > What do our readers think, can squirrels really predict the weather?

    … since our weather “scientists” (muahaha) definitely CAN NOT, I’d say the race is on. I am willing to bet more on a squirrel being right about weather forecast than any TV-weather-freak.

    On topic: I love extensive research on what seems like a nuts thesis (pun intended). Carsten might want to add the normalized influence that pink unicorns have when facing flying whales, since their manure will then show a semitoxic component that makes squirrel exclusively eat cherry falvored pralines.

  2. Clever and a reasonable hypothesis based on the behavior that I have seen here in New Hampshire. The squirrels, both red and grey become frenetic in their collection behavior as fall approaches. The one thing to be concerned with would be the discovery of the nuts by chipmunks. They will fill their cheeks and keep coming back until the box is empty.

  3. I was under the impression that squirrels stored native nuts for winter, I think with peanuts they’ed just eat them for day to day sustenance, so if you want to see if they can predict the severity of the winter you should switch to acorns.

    1. This is what i was thinking too, the article mentions peanuts, but in the vid you dont really see any peanut shells, im guessing theres bare peanuts in there, and the squirrel just drops by when its hungry, not when it wants to collect more peanuts for winter, since i assume it would want to collect peanuts including their shell.

      That said i know nothing about squirrels and never seen one irl.

      Also if we take it one (slightly grim) step further, if there are salted peanuts in that box (which i hope not) then the squirrels dont drop by anymore because they’re dead.. (while i dont know a whole lot about squirrels i do know that salt (in the quantity’s we consume it in) is bad for animals)

  4. THIS is what IOT was meant for. Aggregate the data from several of these and you may even get scientifically valid results. Maybe put something in it that your local squirrels actually find in the wild though.

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