Squirrels are no doubt one of the most fascinating and entertaining creatures in the animal kingdom. There is nothing like sitting on the back deck on a hot, summer day and watching the little guys scurry here and there. They will climb fences, jump from trees, and travel all over the yard without missing a beat.
It will be as if these creatures were naturally acrobatic and made for this sort of life. And, that’s because they were. However, there is still a lot more to these bushy-tailed little creatures than meets the eye. They really are fascinating when you get right down to it. Everything from their appetite to their life cycle is probably different than what you imagined. In fact, this article will take a look at the life cycle of the squirrel.
How long does a squirrel live? Well, this can be a bit of a hard question to answer outright because it really depends on several different factors. For one, it depends on where they are cared for.
Are you talking about wild squirrels or are you talking about squirrels that people keep as pets?
And, yes more and more people are adopting these cute and cuddly little guys as pets. It also depends on the type of squirrel that you are dealing with.
You might not realize it, but not all squirrels are the same. Just like every other animal in the animal kingdom, the squirrel can fall into different classifications.
That aside, some species can live as long as 24 years, whereas others might not get half this lifespan.
Continue reading to learn more about the fascinating life of squirrels and how long they are capable of living.
The Early Stages Of Squirrels
If you truly want to learn everything you possibly can about the squirrel and its life cycle, you’ll want to start with the actual life cycle. Obviously, the life of a squirrel begins when his mother gives birth to him or her.
However, before this article gets into that, you need to know that the life of the male and female squirrel varies as well. Female squirrels tend to live longer than the males, which is good for the continuance of the species, although the male sure does his part of contributing to the growth.
The gestation period for a female can be anywhere from 40 to 44 days and from here, she’ll produce a litter of anywhere from 1 to 9 babies.
These babies are usually born in a leafy den located inside a hollow tree and are commonly referred to by their technical name of neonates. When neonates are birthed from their mother, they will be hairless and blind.
Neonates usually hang with their mother for nearly 50 days, at which point she’ll being to wean the little guys and gals. The nursing process will continue at a reduced rate until the squirrels are 12 weeks old.
At this point, they’ll be able to leave the nest and forage for their own keep. However, they will always have a safe welcome back with their mother at the end of the day where they can nest and sleep in safety.
[Related Article: How Do Squirrels Survive The Winter]
You learned above that more and more people are starting to take these guys on as pets. And, this does not just constitute for sitting up a feeder in the back yard. No, people are actually storing them in cages in their homes and treating them like hamsters or guinea pigs.
There is nothing wrong with this, but you do need to be aware of the fact that it can impact the overall lifespan of the critter. If properly cared for, the squirrel might live to be as old as 20 years, but once again, this can vary depending on the species and the type of nutrition that he or she receives throughout its life.
It should also be noted that the longer squirrels are kept in confined quarters like zoos and residential settings, the less likely they’ll be able to survive in the wild.
If kept in a closed environment for 10 years and thrown back into the wild, the squirrel would likely last a few years. In addition to this, it is probably also obvious that if a squirrel maintains a healthier diet, he’ll live much longer.
Squirrels can consume as much as a pound of food a week and need proper nutrition.
The Grey Squirrel is a small animal, obviously with a Grey coat, and can last as long as 20 years in captivity. In the wild, they will be lucky to live for 13 years. In fact, the oldest Grey Squirrel in the wild on record is 12 years old.
Supposedly, there is one in captivity that is 20 years old. The life expectancy for these little guys as babies is anywhere from 1 to 2 years. The average adult is only expected to make it to 6.
This probably has to do with the fact that they are prey to a lot of animals. They are constantly hunted on a regular basis and are likely to get caught because they can’t stay out of the residential feeders.
These are likely the species that you’ll catch in your backyard.
The American Red Squirrel
Another well-known and popular species in the American Red Squirrel. This squirrel can make it to 8 years in the wild. Unfortunately, the mortality rate for these guys at birth is 22%, not giving them much of a chance of survival.
One of the reasons for this is because they are also prey to much more vicious, smarter, and hunter-worthy predators like the coyote, the hawk, the fox, the wolf, the weasel, and even the owl. The female of this species will also outlive the male.
The Fox Squirrel
These critters are unique right from the start, as they breed during the midwinter and summer. That’s right, they have two litters every year. The gestation period is usually anywhere from 44 to 45 days, and they are usually born in litters of 2 to 4.
In captivity, these guys can reach anywhere from 8 to 18 years of age. However, it should be noted that with this species, most of them tend to die before they even reach adulthood. Females usually make is at most 12 years, while the males will only get 8.
Another interesting fact about this species is that they’ll spend most of their on the ground. These are ground squirrels.
You can learn more here, Fox Squirrel.
The Black Squirrel
The Black Squirrel is nowhere as new as common as the others mentioned here, but it does exist. These squirrels are so uncommon because they are actually Grey Squirrels with a genetic condition known as Melanism.
This simply means that at birth they are lacking the gene that produces the Grey pigment coat.
As of right now, there isn’t a whole lot known about this species. It is unclear exactly how long they are capable of living, and it is unclear as to whether or not their medical condition affects their lifespan.
However, what is known is that they are predominantly located in the United Kingdom.
Cute, cuddly, and no doubt fun to watch scurry here and there, but the squirrel can be a complicated creature at times. Not only do they need proper nutrition, but they need to roam.
Squirrels are natural roamers or explorers and like to be on the move. Despite this, more people are taking them on as household pets, and you can actually see that it is doing some good, as the ones in residential settings tend to live much longer lives.