How to Raise a Squirrel
If you’re curious about how to raise a squirrel, you’ve come to the right place. Female squirrels mate just twice a year, giving birth to their babies in late winter or early spring. The young are named squirrellings, and they have all the typical traits of a squirrel. Often, they will live near their mother for several months, before becoming independent. Listed below are some of the most common questions you’ll hear about raising a squirrel.
Females mate only twice a year
Female squirrels mate with more than one male. Mating lasts for about a minute. During the mating ritual, the male squirrel sticks his penis in the female’s vagina and leaves waxy secretions, preventing other males from fertilizing the eggs. Females tend to stay in their nests only a short time when pregnant. Males do not mate with more than one female per year.
In the spring, female squirrels begin to mate with a male and a female begins the mating chase. Male squirrels race after the female and fight for the female’s attention. Mating only lasts a few minutes, but female squirrels are able to recognize their kin by scent and decide which male to mate with. They will not mate with the same male twice in a year, and the first breeding season starts in early summer.
Females give birth to their young in late winter or early spring
Most species of squirrels give birth to two litters a year and have two separate mating seasons. These seasons differ in duration, but most squirrel species give birth in the winter and spring. The gestation period of female squirrels is about forty-eight days, but some species can have litters as large as eight. The babies are born blind, deaf, and hairless, and depend on their mothers for survival. Upon reaching six weeks of age, the babies may begin to leave the nest, and can wean themselves from their mothers’ milk.
The female squirrels of eastern gray give birth to their young in the late winter or early spring. Their young are born hairless and helpless and live with their mother until they are about five months old. After birth, female squirrels tend to nurse their young for two months, after which they will not have another litter until the following year. While female gray squirrels give birth to one litter every year, flying squirrels bear several litters per year. Their young are born in the spring and spend about four months in the nest.
Ground squirrels have 7 or 8 babies
Most squirrels have only three or four babies at a time, but ground squirrels can have seven or eight babies every year! Despite the large number of babies, mothers don’t have to depend on males to take care of them. Female ground squirrels typically have one litter a year and another litter every two months. These babies are blind and deaf. The first few months of life are critical for the survival of their young.
The lifespan of ground squirrels varies widely, as do their litter sizes and rates of mortality. Females typically stay with the birth colony, while males leave. These animals spend seven or eight months per year in hibernation, often starting as early as July. The Columbian ground squirrel has a burrow system that is a special den in which they store food and store bulbs to survive the winter.
Females build nests in leaf nesting boxes
Grey squirrels use leaf nests as their primary residence. They use these structures for up to 30 feet in the air, tucked into the fork between a tree limb and trunk. The entrance is usually concealed by summer foliage and faces the trunk of the tree. During cold months, two Eastern gray squirrels may share the same leaf nest. Leaf nests serve as a temporary shelter and most adult squirrels have several.
While tree cavities offer warmth and protection, the risk of woodpeckers tearing the nest away is high. This means that the babies are at risk of falling out of the nest, getting eaten or being orphaned. A leaf nest has many disadvantages as well. First, it is susceptible to weather and crows tearing it apart. Second, the baby squirrels are likely to be left on the ground before momma squirrel can get back to the nest.
Females eat dead babies
Baby squirrels are usually left in their mother’s nests several feet above the ground. Sometimes they fall out during storms or high winds, so you might see a baby squirrel wandering around. The mother will sometimes take the baby with her if it is sick or injured. If you see a baby squirrel and suspect it may be injured, it is best to remain calm and wait for the mother to come back and take care of the infant.
Male and female squirrels can be distinguished by a colored wire on their ears. When a female squirrel is in heat, it can see multiple males in the area. It can’t tell which babies belong to which father, so it kills all the pups that want to father alone. This kills the female’s lactation process. The male guards the female until she gives birth and sires her babies. This way, she has two more litters, but the dead babies are all his.
Females leave nests when they get hungry
If you’ve ever wondered why female squirrels leave their nests, you should know that they only do it if they get hungry. While this may seem strange, this behavior is completely normal for a mother squirrel. After a few weeks of incubation, baby squirrels start exploring the world. By eight weeks of age, they are often ready to leave their mother and start their own lives. Although they rarely abandon their young, the stress of being disturbed by humans can drive them away. You should provide some form of heat source to keep your baby squirrels warm while they are in the nest. Alternatively, you can contact a wildlife rehabilitator to help you care for them.
You may need to set up an extra nest in your attic if the nursery nest is full. The extra nest is a backup in case the nursery becomes too crowded or infested with parasites. Then, you can move the nest to a quieter location outside. In case the mother squirrel decides to leave only one of the young, place a cover on the nest. Keep it warm and quiet for the baby.
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.