When you see squirrels storing nuts in the fall, you might assume that they do it every year of their lives. But would you be surprised to find out that most squirrels actually only go through this ritual once or twice? That's because the life expectancy of a wild squirrel is only between ten and eighteen months.
That's right. Though healthy wild squirrels can naturally live five to ten years, they rarely do. Many factors tend to shorten their lifespan, including predators, disease, and human interaction.
And yet, squirrel populations are thriving around the globe. In the city of Winnipeg, we have two main species of tree squirrels - Eastern Grey Squirrels and Red Squirrels - and both are plentiful. Despite their bright eyes and bushy tails, squirrels commonly become pests for property owners.
Understanding the squirrel life cycle can help to mitigate the problems these pests may cause. If you have them on your property, read on to gain some in-depth knowledge about the lives of squirrels:
Squirrels are in the rodent family (Sciuridae), which is a subset of mammals. Like all mammals, squirrels are born to live with their mothers.
The gestation period for squirrels lasts between 39-44 days, and baby squirrels are born blind, hairless, and completely reliant on their mothers. Each baby squirrel weighs 14 to 18 grams( 0.5 - 0.65 ounces). Litters typically consist of three to five kits (though up to eight is not unheard of), and young squirrels are weaned after about two months.
Squirrels have two breeding periods each year and usually raise two litters of kits during the summer months. Adolescent squirrels leave the nest around twelve weeks old and reach full adulthood after about nine months.
Do the math, and that means that one mother squirrel on your property can produce ten or more youngsters in one season - each of whom can be ready to start families of their own by the following spring. That's a lot of squirrels to manage!
Of course, not all baby squirrels survive to adulthood. The lifespan of a squirrel is often cut short in infancy due to factors including predation and disease - not to mention occasional cannibalization by other squirrels or rodents!
In North America, adult squirrels live in many different settings. Though they are native to woodlands and forests, urban property owners know all too well that they’ve adapted and thrive alongside humans.
Tree squirrels live primarily in - well - trees, most often in protected holes and hollows. In the absence of a suitable hollow, they will build nests out of leaves and twigs. These nests are known as dreys and can often be conspicuous and rather unkempt features in your property's tree canopy.
Of course, they're also not opposed to taking up residence - or storing food - in warm, dry holes in your roof or walls.
Squirrels are not even close to being endangered. In fact, their distinction as animals of "least concern", according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, confirms that squirrel species are plentiful - often to the point of becoming a nuisance.
Diurnal and active year-round, squirrels are one of the easiest species of wildlife to spot in an urban environment. And that includes your yard! Amazingly adapted to the cold, observe squirrels searching for and storing food, attempting to stay warm in the winter, and chasing each other all over the place.
In captivity, squirrels live much longer than their wild counterparts. This is mainly due to the reduction of threats, including predation, disease, and exposure to the elements.
The record for longest-living squirrel in captivity goes to a female squirrel whose life span was over 20 years old!
A squirrel's life can be five to ten years in the wild but is usually much less. Predators like foxes, hawks, and weasels (as well as other animals) prey on all types of squirrels, lowering their average lifespan. And, of course, harsh winters, human interactions, and parasitic infections can all put wild squirrels at risk as well.
Armed with squirrel knowledge, you can now feel a little more informed as you prepare to wage a battle against the squirrels on your property. Of course, the experts at Gilles Lambert Pest Control Services Inc. can help.