Squirrels are small mammals that typically live in forests and feed on nuts, seeds, tree bark, and other food sources found in their environment. The lifespan of a squirrel varies by species, but most squirrels live an average of 3 to 5 years in the wild and up to 10 years in captivity. Here’s how long squirrels live and how they age.
What are squirrels?
Squirrels are small or medium-sized rodents in their family Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa. In Eurasia, they are mostly grey or brown; in North America, they are usually black and white.
Where Do Squirrels Live?
Most of these animals are tree-dwelling rodents, meaning they spend most of their time in tall trees and rely on that environment for safety. They live in groups and colonies depending on species, called a drey or drey society for martens and a hurry for flying squirrels. This social structure is designed to protect against predation and allow enough food to feed everyone.
The Lifespan of a Squirrel – Wild vs. Captivity:
Squirrel lifespan can vary depending on their location and living situation. In captivity, these rodents are known to survive up to 23 years, but they don’t typically reach that age in their natural habitat.
Captive squirrels have better access to food and healthcare than those in the wild—so it’s not surprising that many of them die at a younger age. Learn about how squirrel lifespan differs between wild and captive animals by reading on!
How Long Do Squirrels Live?
We all love squirrels, from their cute and chubby faces to their round, fluffy tails. But how much do we know about these furry critters? For example, how long does a squirrel live? The answer might surprise you! Scientists have found that baby squirrels can begin to reproduce as soon as they turn one year old. Generally speaking, though, female squirrels only begin producing after reaching two years of age, and males reach sexual maturity around 2.5 years of age.
Life Expectancy of Squirrels Across Species:
Squirrels aren’t just adorable and fun to watch; they’re also like us. A squirrel’s life expectancy is about four years. While not very long in human terms, four years of an active life is no small thing for a rodent; it’s two or three times what mice have to look forward to. But that varies by species: The red squirrel has a lifespan of just three years, while other types of squirrels can live upwards of 10.
Red squirrels have a life expectancy of about ten years in their natural habitat, but they are vulnerable to predators (such as badgers, foxes, and birds of prey). They can contract various diseases that affect their lifespan. Red squirrels have an average life expectancy of about 11 years in captivity.
Eastern fox squirrels:
Although most don’t make it past age six, Eastern fox squirrels can live as long as ten years in captivity. Their natural habitat has an average lifespan of 3.5 years; young fox squirrels typically die due to predation by larger animals like hawks and coyotes. Older fox squirrels tend to die from either starvation or fights with other squirrels; males are particularly aggressive and often fight with each other.
Southern flying squirrels:
Southern flying squirrels have a life expectancy of four to six years. However, they have been known to live more than 15 years in captivity. If you’re interested in keeping flying squirrels as pets, be sure to research your state’s regulations regarding ownership—in some states, it is illegal. You must obtain a permit before keeping flying squirrels or any wild animal as a pet in other areas.
In some areas, there are black squirrels that can be confused with grey squirrels. However, there are subtle differences between them. While they both have bushy tails and large ears, black squirrels have striped faces while grey ones don’t. Also, black fur covers their entire body, while grey ones have white bellies. Black squirrels were first seen in America in 1910. Since then, these squirrels have spread across Canada to reach Ontario and Quebec.
Eastern grey squirrels:
Eastern grey squirrels age quickly and tend not to live longer than five years. This is likely because, even in captivity, they don’t stop trying to escape. Also, in a lab setting, when fed high-calorie diets, they are more prone to obesity and type 2 diabetes (the kind humans get), which probably leads to shorter lifespans. In addition, their diet—typically nuts and seeds—has been associated with cardiovascular problems down the line.
Ground squirrels, also known as gophers, are a large group of small or medium-sized rodents in the family Sciuridae. The name ground squirrel is not taxonomically specific and therefore can refer to any member of the family, genus Spermophilus.
How Do Squirrels Live So Long?
Squirrels are tiny animals that most people don’t think of as living particularly long lives, but they can be pretty old—more than 20 years old. Squirrels have a lifespan similar to dogs; it isn’t uncommon for them to die of natural causes, according to a 2012 study published in Vertebrate Pest Management. The 2013 annual life table states that common squirrels can live as many as 19 years in captivity.
Factors that Impact a Squirrel’s, Life Span:
Squirrels usually live for a maximum of 10 years in their natural habitat. Still, when raised in captivity or urban areas with minimal predators, they can live twice as long. Life expectancy is also impacted by gender; male squirrels tend to have a shorter lifespan than females. Squirrels’ life spans are affected by both environmental and genetic factors.
Common Diseases and Parasites:
Squirrels can be infected with many diseases and parasites that can afflict humans. For example, squirrel tapeworm is a parasitic flatworm (cestode) that grows up to 5 centimeters in length inside your pet’s intestines and results in malnourishment and weight loss.
Squirrel malaria is a blood-borne parasitic disease transmitted by mosquito bites, and the disease manifests as chills, fever, and lack of appetite. Squirrels are also susceptible to rabies, spread through saliva or nasal secretions.
If you find yourself face-to-face with an aggressive squirrel exhibiting strange behavior, such as foaming at the mouth or aggression towards people or other animals, it may have rabies. Squirrel hepatitis is another common ailment; symptoms include lethargy and yellowing eyes and skin.
Squirrels will lose their teeth throughout their lifetime, although, unlike humans, they never lose all of them. This means squirrels that have lost most of their teeth have been around for a long time and are also likely wiser.
Squirrels only require ten teeth to survive—4 incisors, two canines, four premolars, and four molars—so it’s not uncommon for an older squirrel to appear toothless; in reality, they may just be missing some teeth on one side of their mouth.
Loss of Vision:
Squirrels can develop cataracts as they age, which block their vision and cause them to become increasingly dependent on their sense of smell and hearing. Eventually, squirrels lose sight altogether, which does not decrease their ability to forage for food or find a mate. Squirrels reach sexual maturity around eight months old and remain sexually active until about three years old.
Squirrels are prey to several different predators. Birds of prey, such as eagles and hawks, take squirrels off trees or out of nests. Predators that attack squirrels on the ground include foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and domestic dogs. Squirrels’ natural defenses: Squirrels have many natural defenses against their predators. They can climb up to 30 feet high in a tree to escape danger. Squirrels also have sharp teeth, which they use to bite when threatened by another animal.
Squirrels in Urban Areas:
Not all squirrels age at a predictable rate. Unlike most animals, who die off quickly when their populations grow too large, urban squirrels thrive with no predators in their territory. This abundance of squirrels makes it difficult to gauge their life expectancy accurately. Squirrels in urban areas may live for five years or more, but that could be because many don’t make it past a few months.
How Long Do Squirrels Rear Their Offspring?
Squirrels may have lots of babies, but they take good care of them. A squirrel will rear its offspring until they reach full maturity. Adult squirrels can continue to age and be productive into their late teens or early 20s. In some cases, they can live even longer than that. As far as non-human mammals go, squirrels are pretty impressive in lifespan and aging gracefully.
Where Would You Find a Squirrel Nest?
Most people know squirrels don’t build their nests out of sticks, leaves, and twigs. They make them out of tree bark. How would you go about finding a squirrel nest? You can look for a squirrel’s tiny circular poop droppings – often found on tree branches or in between them. A squirrel will look for a component at least five feet from another one to ensure it has privacy and a safe nesting location. Squirrel eggs are incredibly soft, small, and round.
Where Do Squirrels Nest in Winter?
If you have squirrels in your yard during winter, there’s a good chance they’re in their nest. Squirrels use hollow trees, stumps, and logs as a winter home. With an abundance of food nearby and no competition for their favorite spots, squirrels are pretty content to stay in these nests until it’s warm enough to return outside.
Do Squirrels Hibernate?
Some squirrels hibernate, but most don’t. In regions where winter temperatures routinely drop below freezing and snow covers everything for several months, squirrels will often retreat to a cozy place underground or in a hollow tree—some even dig themselves burrows. They sleep away their troubles until spring returns and food is once again abundant.
What Do Squirrels Drink?
Squirrels drink only water. Though their diet is primarily made up of plant matter, squirrels are true carnivores, and they need to maintain a healthy balance of nutrients that can sometimes be tough to get from plants alone. Squirrels’ teeth also indicate an omnivorous diet—for example, an herbivore’s teeth are flat like a ruminant’s because they chew their food without grinding it down with extra-sharp molars.
Do Squirrels Eat Bananas?
No, Squirrels don’t eat bananas. But they may be interested in what you have to say about bananas. Research conducted by a team of international scientists has revealed that squirrels age slower than their human counterparts, who often develop heart disease and high blood pressure at an early age. So when people ask if squirrels are immortal (which is not an uncommon question), we know how to respond: What can we tell you?
Can Squirrels Eat Bread?
Bread is not a part of squirrels’ natural diet, so, likely, you won’t be able to get your squirrel to eat bread. Some squirrel owners have reported success in training their pets to eat treats such as bread and nuts. However, if you choose to feed your pet squirrel treats, make sure that it does not have any allergy triggers like peanuts or tree nuts before offering these items.
How Can I Attract Squirrels into My Garden?
There are a few simple ways to attract squirrels into your garden. You need to provide them with food and shelter. Squirrels have a higher chance of entering your yard if they’re not afraid of you. If you begin feeding them, they will associate you with food and are less likely to run away when they see you, making it easier for them to become comfortable in your garden.
Can You Buy Squirrel Resistant Bird Feeders?
Yes! Squirrel-resistant bird feeders are widely available and sold in most hardware stores. However, to effectively keep squirrels out of your bird feeder, you have to buy one squirrel-proof. There are a few features squirrel-proof bird feeders have, including weight-sensitive perches and spikes made of metal or plastic. Check with your local wildlife refuge for tips on how to attract birds to your yard and which feeders they recommend.
Squirrels are remarkably resilient little animals, living much longer than many similarly-sized rodents. They have few natural predators and are quite adaptable; they’ve even been known to survive for several days without water! Because squirrels age slower than we do, a human who lives to be 100 would have aged as much as 15 squirrel years. That’s pretty impressive for an animal about half our size!
So how long do squirrels live? If you take care of them well, your pet might enjoy upwards of 12 years—which is not bad for such a small package. Just remember that if you want your friend to make it that far, he needs his annual checkups.
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