Squirrels : Eating, Habitat, Lifespan & Other Facts

You have often seen a small and cute squirrel roaming your yard. I know, you will definitely be curious to know about them. In my garden, they keep roaming around a lot and I like to see their activity. I have seen people blooming peanuts and other foods many times, which I also do. This article will help you to understand much about squirrels. 

What Is A Squirrel

Squirrels are bushy-tailed and agile rodents that look like mice. Squirrels belong to the Sciuridae family which includes medium and small size rodents. The tree squirrels, ground squirrels, flying squirrels, prairie dogs, marmots, chipmunks, and groundhogs are embodied in this family. They are found in every corner of this earth.

 According to the reports of the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), there are more than two hundred species of squirrels. These species are classified into three categories: ground squirrels, tree squirrels, and flying squirrels. And these three categories are further divided into other groups like Mountain tree, American red, Franklin, Douglas, Fox, Arizona grey squirrels, etc. Squirrels

What Do Squirrels Eat

Squirrels are not considered picky eaters. They can eat a lot of things. Although they cannot digest cellulose. Therefore, most of their diet consists of carbohydrate, fat and protein-rich products. Squirrels love to board different native fruits, veggies (vegetables), flowers, fungies, nuts, conifer cones, seeds, peanuts, plants, trees, and insects (inhabitants in their habitats) in their meal. 

Squirrels are originally herbivorous, but some species also eat small insects when needed. They are well known for eating young snakes, small birds or rodents, birds’ eggs, and moths. You will be surprised to know that some tropical species have completely shifted their food towards insects.

In temperate regions, the ending of the winters or early spring is the worst and hardest time for them, because their buried and stored nuts (foods) are ready to sprout. This means that they will no longer be available to eat for long. Many squirrel-watchers also feed cereals, cheese, and bird seeds to squirrels in their backyard.

What do squirrels eat in the wild?

In the wild, squirrels assimilated a large variety of fruits, nuts, vegetables, plant products, and seeds. Peanuts are a very good meal for them. They prefer protein and carbohydrate-rich foods in their diet. 

Their diet also includes vegetables like mushrooms, broccoli, squash and corn and fruits like apricots, apples, avocados and oranges. To keep their teeth maintained, they also eat tree bark, twigs and other parts, with great fervor.

What Do Squirrels Eat?

Squirrel Diet

Squirrels normally consume only vegetarian food, although on some occasions they are found eating some small birds, their eggs and small insects. They usually eat fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds (especially sunflower seeds), nuts, fungi, bark and roots. Some different food products like cereal, also consist of a pet squirrel’s diet. 

Do squirrels eat bugs?

Well, Squirrels are omnivores means that they feed plants as well as animal matter. Since bugs are very rich in protein, that is a requirement of squirrels. They will definitely think about eating them. Normally insects are eaten only when there is a shortage of fruits or other foods. They feed on many types of insects, including butterflies, grasshoppers, ants, flies, bees, crackers, beetles, caterpillars and larvae.

Do squirrels eat meat?

Squirrels have been categorized in both categories as herbivores as well as carnivores. That means they are good feeders of plant-based and animal-based matter. They eat meat but not big animals. They eat small insects like caterpillars, larvae, bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, ants and beetles. On many occasions, they are also seen eating small birds and bird’s eggs. Squirrels consume meat only when they have a shortage of vegetarian products such as fruits. All the animals or insects that they make their prey are rich in protein and calcium so that all their food requirements are met.

Where Do Squirrels Live?

Where do squirrels live depends only on which species we are talking about? A ground squirrel has different homes than a flying or tree squirrel. But if we consider a common squirrel then I can say they mostly live in the trees. Along with this, they also live on bills or burrows, in urban areas, and perhaps in your home. 

By the way, To increase your knowledge, let me tell you; squirrels are found in almost all places in the world. However, there may be differences between species found in different places and their habitats.

Do Squirrels Live In Nests?

Yes, flying and tree squirrels will indite nests in abdicated woodpecker’s nesting sites or hollowed trees and bushes. If these residences are not in availability then they can construct their nests on a tree or inside a nesting buckle or in a pipe. In many cases, it has also been found that females needing nesting can make their nest inside the chimney, attic, or walls of the house. Their children grow up in these nests.

Contrariwise, other ground squirrels like chipmunks originate burrows to raise their young. These holes help them to maintain their environment and protect them from predators. Also, these holes are a good shelter for them in the winter months.

Do Squirrels Live In Trees?

You must have seen squirrels roaming the trees in your yard or any other place. And seeing this, a thought must have come to your mind that do they live on trees? Then the answer is yes, squirrels prefer to live in trees. It is more common in species of flying squirrels and tree squirrels including red squirrels, Douglas squirrels, Eastern fox squirrels, Eastern and Western gray squirrels (both) and some other species. 

Where Do Squirrels Live?

Squirrels Habitat

Squirrels live in a diverse variety of habitats. From underground burrows to trees, they are found in a Comprehensive array of homes including savanna, arid grasslands, tropical rainforests, deep forests, deserts, urban or suburban areas, arctic tundras, and big cities. They avoid living in very drought deserts and high polar areas.

However, squirrels are also found at very high altitudes above sea level. E.g. Himalayan marmots (or Marmota Himalaya) can live at an elevation of 5,000 meters. 

How Much Does A Squirrel Weigh

The weight of an adult, healthy and average squirrel is nearly 1 pound or 0.45 kg with a length of about 45 centimeters or 18 inches. Many factors are responsible for the weight of anything. Similarly, squirrel weights can also vary. The smallest squirrel in the world is the African pygmy squirrel whose weight is only half an ounce or 15 grams. 

Different species of squirrels vary greatly in weight, depending on which habitat they prefer. If we take one example, the Black Giant Squirrel is very large in size and weighs about 3 pounds, which is more than a hundred times the measurement of the African pygmy. Now you can imagine the disputation.

Similarly, If we look at each species separately, flying squirrels are lighter and shorter, while tree squirrels are leaner and ground squirrels are shrill and small. And there are more than 280 species in the world.

Types of Squirrels

According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System or ITIS 260 species of squirrels are registered. And some species have become extinct. They categorize them into three groups; Flying squirrels, tree squirrels, and ground squirrels. These groups are further distinguished into many other subspecies. 

Generally, the one we know as Squirrel is the Tree Squirrel. You will see them strolling around the trees around your courtyard and houses. Apart from Antarctica and Oceania, more than one hundred arboreal species are inhabiting all other continents. They do not bind in a single monophyletic, natural, or group. Although, they are closely related to other members of the squirrel family including flying squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks and marmots. 

Tree squirrels give more importance to live in trees rather than living in rocks or burrows in the land. Flying squirrels are an exception with these, who make their home above the trees, but there are many other physiological differences between them like glider wings called Patagia.

Sciurus is the best known and most common caste of tree squirrels. Which includes the North American fox squirrel, Eurasian red squirrel, the eastern gray squirrel from North America, and other species.

Ground squirrels usually live in or on the ground. They are omnivores just like their other cousins. They are very famous for their unique art of standing on their hind legs, especially when they feel danger in the surroundings, Or they have to look over the grass. In this case, the ground squirrels will flatten their front paws on their chests and give a hoarse call to alert the rest of the members after getting signs of any predators.

These squirrels are medium-sized which are neither large nor are small squirrels with less bushy tails. There are about 62 subspecies under their six species including marmots, American groundhogs, susliks, prairie dogs, and chipmunks. 

Flying squirrels are a tribe with 50 genera of squirrels (family Sciuridae). As their name suggests, they are capable of flying but not as much as a bird or a bat can. They are capable of gliding from one tree to another one. To do this, they have a cute and parachute-like membrane called Patagium, that extends from the waist of his front legs to the ankle of the one behind.

They also have a long tail to get stability during their flight. Anatomically, they look very similar to other species of squirrels, but they have some extra advantage of some adaptation, that suits their lifestyle and distinguishes them from others. Such as, longer limb bones, smaller distal vertebrae, their hand and foot bones, all help them to fly properly.

Squirrels Habitat

Life Of Squirrels

It is not easy to be a squirrel. About 30 percent of squirrels do not even cross the first year of their lives. Their mortality is very high within two years from birth due to predators, road accidents and various types of diseases. If someone is successful in passing the two-year figure, then their average age can be from five to six or more years.

At a time, a female squirrel gives birth to two to three children on average; although it can also be nine, but never more than this. They have a gestation period of 46 days, and babies are born in a leafy den or hollow holes inside a tree. Female members of this species can have children twice a year.

At birth, these pups are born hairless and blind, like other rodents. On average, it takes about 30 to 35 days to open the eyes for the first time. Their mother supervises them for 60 to 70 days while in 45-50 days they are ready to come out of their nests.

The average lifespan of squirrels in the wild is about 6 to 12 years. If lucky! While they can reach up to 20 years in zoos or captivity. Their life expectancy is badly impacted by diseases, tooth loss, or various predators like owls, hawks, kit foxes, badgers, foxes, blacksnakes, rattlesnakes, skunks, and weasels.

How Big Are Squirrels

As I just told you that there is a lot of diversity in the species of squirrels, there is also a discordance in their size. Their length varies from 5-36 inches and weighs between 0.5 ounces to 4 pounds. African pygmy squirrels are the smallest species of squirrels. It is only 2.5 to 5 inches long and only 10 grams (0.35 ounce) heavy. 

The largest known squirrel is the Indian Giant squirrel. It can be up to 36 inches (or 1 meter) in length and can weigh up to 1.8 kilograms (or 4 pounds). The weight of the remaining species varies between them. An eastern squirrel is a well-known species of squirrels. From head to tail their length varies between 20-30 inches and weighs between 400 grams and  600 grams. 

Fox squirrels are commonly found in North America. Their body and tail together make them 20 to 30 inches long, both separately 10-15 inches. While they can weigh from 0.400 kg to 1.2 kg (or 1 to 2.5 pounds).

How Fast Can Squirrels Run

A squirrel runs at an average speed of 20-25 km per hour. But let me clear in advance that the speed of each species varies. They will run at their greatest speed in the presence of predators or any threat. Obstacles and inconveniences in their path also distract their speed, such as squirrels running in the ground can run faster than trees or rocks.

A red squirrel can attain speeds of 14 mph or 22.5 km/h, but for a short distance.

A fox squirrel initially runs at a speed of 12 mph (19 km/hr) but gradually decreases and remains at 10 mph (16 km/hr).

An Eastern gray squirrel can run very fast and reach the speed of  20 mph (32 km/hr).

Is a Squirrel a Mammal

Squirrels are very small mammals from the family Sciuridae. They are also a division of the Rodentia, a scientific order. The name is derived from the Greek word ‘skiouros’ which means “shade tail”. This term describes the most recognizable,  exclusive, and distinct properties of these small mammals.

There are about 50 genera and approximately 270 species of rodents belong to this family including marmots, chipmunks, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, gray squirrels, tree squirrels, and ground squirrels. They are native to Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and later humans transported them to other sides of the world like Australia.

Are Squirrels Herbivores, Carnivore or Omnivores

Before going to the answer you should understand the difference between herbivores, omnivores and carnivores. A creature is taking green vegetation and a plant-based diet only, then it is known as herbivores like cows or goats 

Whereas, if one depends on meat only to live life, it is called Carnivore such as tigers and lion. But if someone eats both meat and plants, it is recognized as an omnivore for example humans and squirrels.

Squirrels are a combination of carnivores and herbivores, which means they are omnivores. Being an omnivore they eat plant-based matter like nuts, leaves, bark, roots, fruits, fungi, and other green vegetation. Similarly, they also feed smaller rodents, small birds, insects, bird eggs, and young snakes, as carnivores do. 

Are squirrels carnivores

Non-vegetarians or carnivores are animals that eat only meat, but a squirrel eats as much meat as products made from trees and plants. Squirrels are also just like us, such as we eat fruits, vegetables and also consume meat, in the same way, they also do it.

Are squirrels vegetarian

Elephants, monkeys, gorillas, horses, cows, or goats browse a variety of plant products and are known as vegan. This means animals eating only plants or related products is called vegetarian. Squirrels do this too. But, along with this they also feed on insects or small animals, which means they are not vegetarian.

Do squirrels eat lizards?

Although not all squirrel species eat lizards, a rock squirrel can eat a lizard, snake, or eggs. I have seen lots of videos related to it when a squirrel kills or eats a lizard. I have never had such an experience with myself and I used to think that they are vegetarians. When I saw these videos, I was more interested to know about this, so I started searching and found that they also eat small animals.

Do squirrels eat snails?

No, there is no specific answer available about it yet, but if we get any information, then we will update it here. Till then we will assume that they do not eat snails.

what do they eat

Squirrel As Pet

Every person has their own choice whether to keep squirrels as pets or not. Every animal has some goodies as well as some drawbacks. Seeing the cuteness and beauty of squirrels, you must have thought in your mind that they should be kept domesticated in your house. A squirrel could be a bad pet, here are some reasons for it. 

– Squirrel diet. If you can spend a lot on your pet’s food then you can choose these because squirrels demand a natural and balanced diet which is costly, time-consuming, and hitch to offer. 

– Squirrel’s sharp nails. These nails are designed to grip bark and help them to ride on trees or walls, completely damaging skin. If you hold them, then you are putting yourself in trouble because their nails can cause wounds on your skin.

– Their sharp teeth. Their teeth are also very sharp, especially incisors. First of all, if they bite you or any other pet then it would be a very bad sign. It can create a deep wound. Second, if they find it tasty, they can eat anything in the house such as paper, dry walls, furniture, and everything else that you may have. 

– Since their teeth never stop increasing, so it requires appropriate maintenance. If you do not give enough material to chew them, then these teeth will become a disease for them.

– Squirrels require a great space. They need a bigger space; a large cage to roam or play. They need to spend 3 to 4 hours outside every day, which consumes a lot of time.

– Squirrels just like to keep their habitat clean and throw dirty garbage on the floor. You will find partially eaten bits of the meal, wilted fruits or vegetables, unliked food, nutshells, badly eaten insects, and other wastes, spread on your floor. You feel messy and frustrated with them.

– I think it is an important reason for not keeping a squirrel as a pet. The squirrel is a wild animal and if we really love them then we should let them be free. 

Apart from this, many facts suggest that squirrels can become very good pets. Like they are beautiful, entertaining, intelligent, excellent acrobats and could be a good friend. 


Squirrel Facts

  1. The front teeth of squirrels are always growing. These front teeth are known as incisors and don’t have roots, so they never stop growing. To prevent these teeth from sinking into their brain, they grind them against each other. This is called self-sharpening and it has two benefits, one is that their teeth do not grow and the second is these teeth always remain spiked.
  2. A squirrel can find food buried under a foot of snow. During winter months food is most important and squirrels are able to smell their buried treasure under a foot of snow. They will dig tunnels inside the ice while chasing the fragrance. 
  3. The word ‘squirrel’ originated from Greek means ‘Shadow Tail’. Squirrels belong to the species Sciurus, which is taken from Greek words “skia” means ‘shadow’ and “oura” means tail. It is believed, this name refers to the habit of squirrels hiding in their bushy and long tails.
  4. Squirrels use zigzag to evade predators. If a squirrel feels threatened, she will run in zigzag. For them, zigzag is a way of self-defense, in which they run by doing left-right, left-right. This can be a useful strategy against hawks or other predators but does not apply to cars.
  5. Squirrels bury nuts in the ground so that they can be used later when needed.
  6. About 25 percent of the burial food of squirrels is stolen by thieves. Yes, you heard it right, and that too through other members of the genus. Squirrels having multiple caches of the meal (scatter hoarders) have arduous time to monitor their all stores of hidden food. Most of the time birds or their fellow squirrels take advantage of that and get a free meal.
  7. Squirrels may playact to immerse nuts to drive away potential thieves. They have been noticed engaging in “deceptive catching” or “tactical deception“. They dig a hole and quickly cover it up again but without depositing any nut in it. Possibly she does this to keep food thieves away. This leads to the conclusion that squirrels are very clever animals. 
  8. A newborn baby of a squirrel is about an inch long. 
  9. Squirrels are adorable acrobats, adaptable and very intelligent.
  10. Squirrels are uniquely diverse. Their family is one of the most miscellaneous among modern mammals. There are nearly 270 species and 50 genera living everywhere. 
  11. The size of the biggest squirrels is about seven times bigger than the shortest.
  12. Solitary tree squirrels help each other to keep warm during winter.
  13. Their hind/back legs are double-jointed, which helps them to run and climb trees very quickly. Even they can sprint faster than a normal human. 
  14. There are 4 extremely sharp toes on the squirrel’s front feet which assist them to get a better grip on tree barks. 5 toes are also present on their hind feet.
  15. While jumping, falling and flying, they deploy their tail as a parachute and to get a perfect balance.
  16. If a squirrel falls from a height of 30 meters, it will not be harmed.

Wrap up

I hope you get everything related to”Squirrels” like their habitat, eatings, lifespan and facts. You can also read the following articles.

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