How Do Squirrels Hibernate?
If you’ve ever wondered how squirrels hibernate, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most commonly asked questions about these creatures. While Ground squirrels, Flying squirrels, and Fox squirrels don’t hibernate during the winter, they do nest in tree cavities and feed heavily during the fall. So how do they manage to stay so healthy throughout the coldest months of the year?
Ground squirrels hibernate from September to March
While it is difficult to predict when ground squirrels will begin hibernating, they do generally remain underground during this time. Richardson’s ground squirrels typically hibernate for four to six months, and males and females can hibernate for up to eight months. During this time, ground squirrels are in a state of torpor and are unable to respond to nesting conditions or threats.
While adults may hibernate as early as July, young ground squirrels do not hibernate until September. Male ground squirrels will emerge from hibernation in March, establishing territories before females emerge. While abandoned burrows can be valuable to other ground squirrel species and even burrowing owls, female Richardson’s ground squirrels nest alone, and young ground squirrels are born in April or May. Once they have emerged from their burrow, young ground squirrels are weighed between 50 and 100 grams.
Fox squirrels do not hibernate in winter
The question of whether fox squirrels do not hibernate in the winter may be puzzling. They are not true hibernators, but rather homeotherms who spend little time outside of their dens during the winter months. In fact, they may spend most of the day foraging for food, and during the daytime, they sleep on tree branches. However, in freezing temperatures, they stay inside their dens.
This is not an issue for fox squirrels, as they breed year-round, with most mating taking place in December/January and in early June. Female fox squirrels have one litter every two years, with an average of three pups. Occasionally, young squirrels may breed in their first year. After about eight to twelve weeks, fox squirrels become fully independent. A female fox squirrel usually stays with her young until six weeks of age, during which she covers the nest with nesting material. Female fox squirrels tend to raise their young in their nests, while males disperse much further and may die more frequently.
Flying squirrels nest in tree cavities
Northern and southern flying squirrels nest in natural tree cavities (called dreys), abandoned woodpecker nests, and bird-made holes. The flying squirrels are active all year long, although they tend to become torpid in colder weather. These squirrels will often share a single nest, with as many as 50 individuals living together. Nests are largely unnoticeable, but they will damage your tree if they are left dirty.
Unlike most rodents, flying squirrels do not hibernate. They spend the winter in tree cavities and do not use a burrow for shelter. This allows them to stay warm and avoid predators. While flying squirrels don’t hibernate, they will often huddle in small groups to keep warm, thereby preventing predators from snatching them.
Squirrels eat a lot of food in the fall
If you’re worried about your backyard squirrels eating too much, don’t worry! The most common fall food that squirrels will eat is vegetables. Specifically, they will eat green leaves, as well as the leaves of root vegetables. But they’ll also eat anything they can get their hands on, including broccoli, cauliflower, and butternut squash. In addition, they’ll even eat the raw skin of tomatoes. While most squirrels will eat the entire vegetable, they tend to prefer the younger growth. The moisture content in these foods also helps them drink water.
The nuts that squirrels eat are great sources of protein and healthy fats, which they need for body building. They need healthy fats to keep their muscles strong, and nibbling on nuts can wear down their front teeth. Squirrels are omnivorous and love all types of nuts, including acorns. Their body is designed for climbing trees, and to collect nuts in their cheek pouches.
Squirrels have internal system that tells them when to hibernate
The body temperature of squirrels decreases when they enter hibernation and rises when they emerge from it. Scientists have determined that squirrels usually rouse themselves from hibernation once a month and resume active activity for a day or two. The reason for these periods of activity is not clear, but it is likely that the animals will be more active during the day than at night.
When squirrels hibernate, most of their body functions cease. They do not pee, poop, drink, or eat. Their brains begin to shrink, retraction of connecting parts begins, and their blood flow drops 90 percent. Humans with a similar drop in blood flow would die in a matter of minutes, but squirrels can endure the low-oxygen state and hibernate year after year.
What is the scientific name for the squirrel family?
What are the two main types of squirrels?
Tree squirrels and ground squirrels
What is the smallest type of squirrel?
The least chipmunk
What is the largest type of squirrel?
The western blacktailed deer
How many different species of squirrels are there?
There are over 200 different species of squirrels.
Where do squirrels live?
Squirrels can be found on every continent except for Antarctica.
What do squirrels eat?
Squirrels primarily eat nuts and seeds but they will also eat buds fruits fungi and bark.
How do squirrels collect food?
Squirrels will often bury nuts and seeds to collect them later.
They have been known to bury up to 2000 nuts in a single season.
What is the life span of a squirrel?
The life span of a squirrel in the wild is typically 5-10 years.
How do squirrels mate?
Male squirrels will chase females and perform acrobatic feats to impress them.
If the female is uninterested she will intimidate the male by growling and making herself look larger.
How many babies do squirrels have?
A mother squirrel will typically have 2-4 babies at a time.
How does a baby squirrel look?
Baby squirrels are born bald and blind.
They will typically open their eyes after 3-4 weeks.
What is a squirrel’s natural predator?
Squirrels are preyed upon by a variety of animals including birds of prey snakes and other mammals.
How do squirrels defend themselves?
Squirrels will often shake their tails to intimidate predators and make themselves look larger.
They will also use their sharp claws and teeth to fight off attackers.
Do squirrels hibernate?
Ground squirrels typically hibernate during the winter while tree squirrels do not.
Jessica Watson is a PHD holder from the University of Washington. She studied behavior and interaction between squirrels and has presented her research in several wildlife conferences including TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg.