Curious about the secret life of squirrels? From their tiny newborns to their energetic juveniles and wise elders, the life cycle of these fascinating creatures is full of surprises. Join us on a journey into the world of squirrels, and discover the wonder of their life cycle.
Reproduction data for different Species of Squirrels
|Squirrel Species||Average Number of Offspring per Litter||Number of Litters per Year|
Squirrel’s Birth and Young Life
4-5 squirrels are born at a time to one female squirrel. They are called kittens or litters. They are usually born in early May and mid-November.
They are born into strong natal dreys.
When born they are naked, without fur, blind, toothless, and practically helpless. They feed on the female squirrel’s milk to satiate their hunger. This milk is very important for their normal growth and development.
They grow flesh and hair after 2 weeks of their birth. Within the next 2 weeks, they have full fur covering, and their eyes and ears open up. At the end of a month, they start growing teeth.
They chew on twigs in their nest to cut their teeth and sharpen them.
At about 7-8 weeks old they start venturing out. By this time they have a full-grown set of milk teeth. They can intake concrete food by this point. The female squirrels leave the young to look after themselves.
At about 4 months old, the squirrel grows into its adult coat. Their milk teeth fall off and are replaced by permanent teeth.
The size of an adult squirrel can range from a few grams to almost 2kg. Gray squirrels found in North America on average weigh about 70 grams.
They are mostly crepuscular creatures that are seen working at dawn and dusk. Otherwise, they spend most of their days sleeping and resting in nests.
At night all squirrels except for flying squirrels stay in their nest. Flying squirrels are nocturnal.
Squirrels run around in the day looking for food. Their favorites include nuts, seeds, and other vegetarian diets. Sometimes scarcity of food can force them to eat mice.
Adult squirrels are known to find shelter in trees, houses, in-ground holes, and burrows.
They stay in and sleep off bad weather including storms and rains. In extreme heat, for instance in deserts in summer, they engage in aestivation. And in winter they go into hibernation.
Before going for periodical periods of sleep, they intake a large amount of food to store energy while sleeping. That way hunger cannot wake them up.
Mating and Reproduction
Squirrels take at least a year to attain sexual maturity. They are polyandrous and polygamous which means, males and females both have multiple partners.
When a female squirrel is ready to mate, its skin produces a scent that signals to the males. The male squirrels compete with each other to impress the female. They approach the female in a tail-flicking mating dance and then proceed to chase them down.
The chasing proves to the female that the male is strong enough to father her baby. The winner takes the girl.
The mating season is usually in late winter.
Their gestation period varies between 30-40 days.
The small size of squirrels makes them vulnerable to almost all creatures around. The average lifespan of a squirrel in the wild is 5-6 years.
More than natural causes, threats to squirrels include predator species like hawks, eagles, cats, snakes, and humans to some extent.
Unavailability of food and lack of shelter lead to weakening and eventual death.
Squirrel’s average Lifespan with their types
|Squirrel Type||Wild Lifespan||Captivity Lifespan|
|Eurasian Red Squirrels||3 to 7 years||Up to 10 years|
|American Red Squirrels||1 to 3 years||Up to 8 years|
|Fox Squirrels||8 to 15 years||Up to 18 years|
|Southern Flying Squirrels||3 to 5 years||Up to 10 years|
|Eastern Grey Squirrels||12 years||Up to 20 years|
|Western Grey Squirrels||7 to 8 years||Up to 15 years|
|Ground Squirrels||2 to 4 years||N/A|
How to Control Squirrels Population around You
Squirrels give birth in multiple numbers. So once they settle in your garden or near your house, it becomes difficult to get rid of them.
If you see that the number of these rodents has increased in your place you can try out these methods to control their activities:
- Do not feed them: They will be forced to leave your area in search of places with easy access to food.
- Sprinkle some red peppers or garlic cloves around: Squirrels have sensitive noses. They cannot take such pungent scents so will keep away.
- Spill peppermint oil in your yard: This prevents the squirrels from digging burrows for nesting.
- Try and fill out all gaps or holes in your attics and terraces: This too works in eliminating potential nesting places for the critters, especially with pregnant squirrels around.
The Population of Squirrels in different regions around the world
|North America||Grey Squirrel||200 million|
|North America||Fox Squirrel||22 million|
|North America||Red Squirrel||3 million|
|Europe||Red Squirrel||3.5 million|
|Asia||Siberian Flying Squirrel||2 million|
|Asia||Japanese Flying Squirrel||100,000|
|Africa||Smith’s Bush Squirrel||5,000|
The lifecycle of squirrels is short and simple. Miraculous long lives in their species are uncommon. This is because, since most of their activities are dependent on their agility and athleticism, old bones are unable to keep up.
Most of the squirrels around you, especially the most annoying ones, are all young adults or young. Humans can hardly keep up with their level of energy, elusiveness, and intelligence.
Hope this article could shed some light on your curiosity about a squirrel’s life!