The Life Cycle of Squirrels
Squirrels belong to the rodent family along with mice and rats, but they are nowhere near the menace that they are. Learn a little bit about the life cycle of squirrels and their habitat.
Habitat and Body Structure
Every living thing has its particular habitat which suits its lifestyle and body structure. Similarly, squirrels have a particular habitat as well.
They are generally forest-oriented creatures, but over the years have adapted in urban, and suburban conditions. If you have a lot of green forest areas around your home, some trees, plants, or a garden, then squirrels are fairly common to you. They are as agile on land as they are on trees.
Squirrels follow a specific routine in their daily lives. They hunt for food after dawn and spend 4-6 hours on food searching. The rest of the day is spent resting, and sleeping in their nests. They live inside their nests during intense winters instead of hibernating and come out during the spring months.
Squirrels have an amazing body structure, and every single part of their body is utilized for some specific function. Their teeth are sharp enough to feast on even the hardest of solid foods.
The tail of squirrels plays a key role as it helps them to maintain their balance while climbing trees.
Their claws help them to hold on to the bark of a tree while the flexibility of their body lets them twist and turn on thin branches. To avoid predators they can even flatten their body and tail, and stick against the tree trunk. They then freeze in position, deceiving their predators.
Life Cycle of Squirrels
The gestation period of squirrels lasts for 40-60 days before the first baby is born. The female squirrel has its first litter between February and April. The second litter comes the following summer.
Usually, there aren’t more than 4 babies in one litter, but sometimes the number can be as much as 9 if there are favorable outside conditions like weather, food supply, and habitat. The babies are born in a hollow tree trunk within the leafy den.
Squirrel Babies (Neonates)
When babies are born they are quite feeble, and vulnerable to certain diseases. At the time of birth, squirrel babies are pink in color, blind, and hairless. At birth, they are very small in size and weigh just 6/10 of an ounce.
Squirrel babies grow at an amazing speed. In the first week alone they gain weight double to their birth-weight.
During the third week, their body fur starts growing and by the time they reach the 4th week, the babies start opening their eyes along with the teething.
During the 7th and 8th week is the time when the babies start to go out of the nest, but only around the leafy den where they were born. The mother squirrel does not allow them to go outside of her sight. At the same stage of their life, they grow half the size of their adult body.
They continue to develop themselves under the surveillance of their mother. The mother squirrel allows them to move out freely on their own when they are 56-70 days old.
By the beginning of the 12th week, baby squirrels start eating solid food which includes fruits, vegetables, and nuts as they derive their daily dose of nutrients from them.
Once the baby squirrels leave their nests they don’t come back, not even for their mothers. They go out in the forests and build their summer homes. After constructing their nests, they start their quest for food. They gather nuts, store them, and build their homes for the upcoming winter season.
Squirrels reach adulthood after almost 9 months, and within 12 months male and female squirrels mate in the spring or summer seasons. Then the entire life cycle of squirrels starts again with new neonates.
Lifespan of Squirrels
The average lifespan of squirrels is 6-12 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity. Squirrels, especially neonates, are easy prey for predators like snakes, owls, and hawks. Only 25% of squirrels survive their first year.
Those that survive the attacks of predators have to face other factors that reduce their life expectancies such as diseases, cataracts, parasites, and tooth loss. These diseases gradually slow down their activity, and the ability to survive. Some strong squirrels can adapt to survive in urban settings, and therefore live longer than those in the forest.
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