How Squirrel Survive in Winter
We can learn a lot about how squirrel survive in winter by examining the different ways they stay warm. Ground squirrels hibernate while Flying squirrels rely on shivering to maintain core body temperature. Tree squirrels build burrows and use a combination of these methods to stay warm. Despite their solitary nature, they must find a way to avoid the harsh cold conditions. If you’re wondering how squirrels survive in winter, read on!
Ground squirrels hibernate
You may have wondered why ground squirrels hibernate in winter. The reason may surprise you. Most squirrel species don’t hibernate in winter. But ground squirrels do, and they reach a body temperature of -2.9 degrees centigrade while hibernating. If you find a dead ground squirrel in your yard, you should consider squirrel hibernation before attempting to rescue it.
Ground squirrels hibernate in their nests in the winter and emerge in early spring. They eat seeds and fruit as well as vegetation in winter and berries and acorns in late spring and early summer. Female ground squirrels give birth to one litter of eight young in spring, and the young emerge from the burrow at six weeks of age. Because they are so young, they may not hibernate during their first winter. Ground squirrels are considered major pests throughout California, and their destructive behavior is particularly prevalent in areas adjacent to uncultivated areas.
While squirrels don’t completely hibernate, they can become inactive during the colder months. They use the food they collected during the warmer months to store for the winter. This helps them to build up their energy level in the colder months. They also store food in a nest or in a safe location. While American red squirrels collect their food all in one place, others collect their food in various locations.
Flying squirrels rely on shivering to maintain core body temperature
Squirrels use their body heat to maintain a comfortable core body temperature in winter. They sleep in communal groups and share nests, which are heated by each other’s body heat. Shivering is the physiological reaction to the cold, and the ability to generate heat through touch helps them remain warm during the winter. Squirrels are endotherms, which means that their body temperature is regulated by the hypothalamus, located in the brain.
Red and Eastern grey squirrels do not hibernate, but instead enter a dormant state. They are essentially inactive during the winter, but they still store food in nests. Once they emerge, they go out to retrieve food they had hidden away earlier in the year. They then bring in dried materials and build proper nests for the winter. These two species share nests, which can accommodate a variety of squirrel species.
Thermoregulation involves maintaining body temperature and metabolic rate. Both the southern and northern flying squirrels rely on shivering to maintain core body temperature in the winter. These two species mate once a year. Flying squirrels can live for up to 10 years in captivity, but only half that long in the wild. Although they are commonly found in the United States, few people get the chance to see one. Sadly, the two subspecies of the northern flying squirrel are federally endangered because of habitat loss.
Tree squirrels dig burrows
The ability to dig a hole to a safe winter den is important to many species, including tree squirrels. Burrows are tunnels made by animals for several purposes, from temporary refuges to larders. Burrows provide protection from predators, extreme cold, and other natural elements. Animals have been engaged in this behavior for years. In fact, a 110 million year-old dinosaur burrow was recently discovered on the southeast coast of Australia. This burrow was nearly identical to the first one discovered in Montana.
Although ground squirrels live as solitary creatures, they also live in large colonies. Their colonies grow rapidly if left unchecked. During cool, sunny days, they are active. They are most active in early mornings and late afternoons. When the weather is stormy, they retreat to their burrows. This allows them to survive the harsh winter months. During winter, they can be found in nests in trees and other structures.
A ground squirrel’s burrow can be up to 15 feet long. The entrances to its burrow are usually small holes two inches deep. There is no mound of soil at the entrance of a burrow, but they often scatter the excavated soil around their holes. A burrow entrance is rarely blocked by a mound of soil, which indicates an active hole. A burrow entrance may be lined with soil, but there will be little visible sign of a burrow.
How do squirrels stay warm in winter?
By hibernating or by growing a thicker coat of fur.
How do squirrels find food in winter?
By storing food in their nests or by foraging for food that is still available.
How do squirrels avoid predators in winter?
By staying in their nests by being less active or by camouflage.
How do squirrels get water in winter?
By melting snow or by finding water that is not frozen.
How do squirrels suffer in winter?
By being more likely to be killed by predators by being more likely to starve or by being more likely to get frostbite.
What do baby squirrels do in winter?
They stay with their mothers.
How long do squirrels live?
Around 10 years.
What do squirrels eat in winter?
Nuts seeds fruits buds bark and fungi.
What is the biggest threat to squirrels in winter?
How do squirrels prepare for winter?
By storing food and by growing a thicker coat of fur.
What is the best way to help a squirrel in winter?
By providing them with food and water.
What should you do if you find a baby squirrel in winter?
Take it to a wildlife rehabilitation center.
What should you not do if you find a baby squirrel in winter?
Keep it as a pet.
How can you tell if a squirrel is sick or injured?
If it is lethargic has an injured limb or is bleeding.
What are the most common diseases that affect squirrels?
Parvovirus distemper and rabies.
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.