These treetop rodents exist in multiple countries with over 200 known species. With so many squirrels covering the globe, there are bound to be thousands of adorable baby squirrels, so why do we hardly ever see them? Squirrel babies have many intriguing secrets that researchers have uncovered over the years, so let’s explore the lifecycle of the squirrel!
How Many Babies Do Squirrels Have?
Once squirrels successfully mate they could have anywhere from two to fifteen baby squirrels. This estimate takes into account the litter sizes of squirrels amongst various species.
While squirrels tend to breed with multiple mates during a single breeding season, this does not necessarily determine how many babies a squirrel will have. However multiple mates does mean that a single litter of squirrels can have different sires, much like a litter of cats.
To clarify, this means that each baby squirrel can have a different dad, but all be from the same litter. It does not mean that a single baby squirrel has multiple dads, as that is not how genetics work.
How Often Do Squirrels Have Babies?
Most squirrels can have two litters per year. Eastern grey squirrels typically have two litters with one litter born in early spring and one in late summer. Researchers have found that northern American red squirrels are more unlikely to have a second litter. This is believed to happen since young born at that time of year would not survive the northern winter temperatures.
When Do Squirrels Have Their Babies?
Squirrels give birth to live young at the end of their relatively short gestation period. The exact time of the year when squirrels give birth is species-dependent and relative to its breeding seasons.
Eastern grey squirrels tend to give birth to a litter in late winter or early spring, and again in July or August. American red squirrels can have two litters a year, one in the late spring or early summer and another before winter falls.
When Do Squirrels Mate?
Squirrels have specific mating seasons, meaning that they can not normally produce young year-round. This method of mating is interesting because it reflects the environments in which specific species of squirrels reside. Male squirrels can mate year-round, however, female squirrels are only fertile at specific times of the year.
For eastern grey squirrels the mating season is late winter to early spring, and again in the middle of the summer. Female American red squirrels are only fertile for one day in the late winter and one day in mid-summer, meanwhile ground squirrels breed in the early spring.
Why are there so many different breeding seasons amongst different species of squirrels? These seasons are the best time for each species to get the food they need to carry and sustain their young. This is especially crucial in harsher climates where feeding a litter of young during the wrong season could be impossible. In short, squirrel breeding seasons are an impressive feat of evolution.
How Long Are Squirrels Pregnant For?
In classic rodent fashion, squirrels have a relatively short gestation period. A gestation period is how long an animal is pregnant and in squirrels, it is around 44 days, however, ground squirrels are an outlier with a rapid 25 to 30 day gestation period.
How Do Squirrels Have Babies?
Since squirrels are mammals, they give birth to live young. The birthing process is normally done in a secure and isolated nest built by the mother squirrel during her pregnancy. These nests are dependent on the squirrel species.
Eastern grey squirrels build their nests in nut-bearing trees where they use either hollowed-out sections of the tree or sticks to complete their nesting site. These squirrels may even take over old woodpecker holes. American red squirrels prefer hearty evergreen trees instead of leafy nut-bearing trees, and ground squirrels are the oddest as they prefer to build their nests underground.
When Do Baby Squirrels Leave the Nest?
When baby squirrels are born they are completely helpless. Baby squirrels come into the world without any fur. They are naked and pink with their eyes completely closed, and they will remain that way for the first few weeks of their life.
During the early weeks of a squirrel’s life, they stay in the nest and are fully dependent on their mother to keep them clean, warm, fed, and safe. Baby squirrels nurse every two to four hours and it generally takes them around two months to wean off their mother’s milk. As the squirrels mature they begin to transition from milk to solid food sources, explore lightly, and socialize with their siblings.
Shortly after the baby squirrels are weaned, they leave the nest to start their own lives. This time frame is dependent on the species, but a baby squirrel is considered to be capable of living on its own at around 10 to 12 weeks of age.
At around 10 weeks of age, baby squirrels are considered to be young, but capable of caring for themselves. They are considered juvenile until about 10 to 12 months of age, as this is the time when most squirrel species become sexually mature and can have litters of their own.
- Squirrels typically live for about two to three years, but some species can live up to ten years. If you do the math, this means that mother squirrels can have between 6 to 80 baby squirrels in their lifetime depending on their breed, litter sizes, and mating seasons.
- Mother squirrels have been known to make a backup nest. If anything goes wrong with the first nest or if the mother senses danger, she will move her young to the second nest.
- If a baby squirrel is taken or falls from their nest, a mother squirrel will normally retrieve them and carry them back to the nest using the scruff on the back of their necks.
- If you see a seemingly young squirrel wandering about, but it has fur, open eyes, is about 6 inches long, and has a puffy tail, then it may actually be old enough to be out on its own.
- While baby squirrels are super cute, they are best cared for by their mothers, and a baby squirrel should only be taken from the wild if it is hurt and needs medical attention. If you ever find a hurt baby squirrel it is best to contact a wildlife rescue near you for instruction on what to do next.