Do Squirrels Hibernate?
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about squirrel behavior. Do squirrels hibernate? If you have ever wondered if squirrels hibernate, then this short article is for you. Although many animals do not exactly “hibernate,” they will certainly change their habits during the colder months of the year.
Squirrels are warm-blooded animals with strong hind legs, bushy tails, large eyes, and fluffy fur coats that help them stay warm during winters. Their front incisor teeth grow constantly and they chew on objects to keep their teeth from growing too long. Squirrels can run up to 20 miles per hour when scared or chased.
While there is a wide variety of squirrel species, all squirrels have certain characteristics in common. They live in trees and feed on nuts, seeds, plants and insects.
What does “hibernation” mean?
Hibernation is a survival mechanism that allows animals to conserve energy when food is scarce. It’s a type of deep sleep that can last days, weeks or even months.
Do squirrels hibernate?
Squirrels mostly do not hibernate during winter because they do not sleep for a long time like bears or other mammals that hibernate. However, they do rest during winter when food is not readily available. During this period of rest, their heart rate slows down and so does their breathing rate. This reduces the amount of oxygen they use, allowing them to conserve energy while they wait out harsh winter weather.
In the summer months, squirrels usually wake early in the morning and go out to hunt for food during the day and rest at night. Squirrels also have their babies in the spring and summer months. In the fall months, they begin to store food for winter. Once winter arrives, they may stay in their nests for days at a time waiting for the weather to improve before going out to look for food.
Even though squirrels do not hibernate, they are still able to survive cold winters by changing their behavior and adapting to their environment. Their fluffy fur coats help keep them warm and their ability to find food and store it ahead of time allows them to have enough energy to get through the winter months.
So, if you see a squirrel curled up in a ball asleep during the day, don’t be fooled into thinking they are hibernating. They are just taking a little nap until it’s time to go out and look for food again.
Where do squirrels live in the winter?
Most squirrels in North America are what biologists call “coniferous forest dwellers.” This means that they live in areas where there are evergreen trees, like pines and firs. In the wintertime, these areas can be bitterly cold and covered in snow.
So how do squirrels survive?
First of all, most squirrels do not hibernate. Hibernation is a state of deep sleep that helps animals conserve energy during times when food is scarce. But since squirrels hoard food in the fall to get them through the winter, they don’t need to go into such a deep sleep.
However, some types of squirrels do enter a state of hibernation. The northern flying squirrel, for example, will sleep in a tree hollow or other sheltered spots during the coldest months.
Other squirrels may simply slow down their activity level and stay in their nests more often to conserve energy.
Other facts you should know about squirrels
- Squirrels are very active during the day, and they love to play.
- They can be seen in trees, on the ground, or even up on power lines.
- Squirrels build their nests (called dreys) out of leaves, twigs, and bark.
- Female squirrels typically have two litters per year, each containing three to four young.
- Baby squirrels are called kittens.
- Adult squirrels weigh between one and three pounds.
- The average lifespan of a wild squirrel is about two years.
- Squirrels are rodents, and like all rodents, they have two incisors in the front of their mouth that never stop growing. This is why squirrels constantly chew on things – to keep their teeth sharp.
- Squirrels are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Their diet consists mainly of nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects.
So, do squirrels hibernate? The answer is yes and no. Some squirrels will hibernate while others will not. It all depends on the species of squirrel and the climate they live in. If you see a squirrel sleeping in the winter, it’s most likely just taking a nap and not truly hibernating.
Now you know a little more about these furry creatures and their habits.