How Long Can A Squirrel Live In A Trap? 

how long can a squirrel live in a trap

Squirrels can be a nuisance to several homeowners because of their pesky behaviors, from digging up bulbs and flowers, causing property damage, and nesting in attics and walls. Their foraging antics make it easy for them to become trapped in walls, attics, chimneys, crawlspaces, and virtually any other cramped area. So, how long can a squirrel survive being trapped?

The lifespan of a trapped squirrel depends on access to water and food, temperature, age, health, access to oxygen, size of the trap, physical trauma, stress, predators, etc. Never leave a squirrel in a trap for more than 24 hours. Once you’ve trapped a squirrel, consider relocating it if your state allows it, or contact a professional to have it removed.

How Long Can A Squirrel Survive In A Wall? 

Most homeowners don’t physically trap squirrels. Instead, they become trapped in walls, attics, roofs, vents, chimneys, crawlspaces, and virtually any other cramped area.

Squirrels are notorious for finding ways into your home, even when you don’t know it. 

They enter your house looking for food, making nests, shelter, or to raise their young. 

Sometimes, when they find your way in, they may get stuck or can’t find an exit. A stuck squirrel can survive inside a wall for several days or weeks. However, they end up dying of dehydration or starvation before you can find them. 

How Long Can A Squirrel Survive In A Trap? 

Most laws require you to check your traps twice daily. This ensures you don’t leave a squirrel in it longer than 24 hours. 

Leaving a squirrel in a trap for more than 24 hours is inhumane. 

As mentioned above, their lifespan will depend on the following factors. 

Food Availability

Like us, squirrels require a balanced diet to get the nutrients they need. According to professionals, they can survive around eight days without food. If they are stuck in a wall in your home, they will chew on anything they can get their incisors on looking for food.  

Water Availability

Unfortunately, a squirrel can only survive two days without water. They will die of dehydration before they can starve to death. The lack of water causes its organs to shut down and fail, leading to its death. 

Age of the Squirrel

Older squirrels do not have a good immune system and are more susceptible to infections and diseases. In addition, they have a harder time dealing with injuries, trauma, or illnesses than younger squirrels, making them more susceptible to a quicker death. 

Younger squirrels are more resilient and can withstand being trapped for a longer duration compared to older ones.

Pregnancy and Overall Health

A pregnant or nursing squirrel may have a lower chance of survival if trapped, as it requires more nutrients for itself and its offspring. Similarly, a squirrel with poor overall health or illnesses may have a reduced chance of survival in a trap.

Physical Trauma and Stress

Trapping animals induces stress. The longer the squirrel is trapped, it can alter their stress hormone, which can affect their overall well-being. According to this live trapping of the North American red squirrel, trapping increased the cortisol amounts when trapped no longer than 120 minutes. 

Access to Oxygen

If a squirrel is stuck in an area (such as water) where it can’t breathe, it may be able to survive for 2-3 minutes. That said, if it can get itself free, it may be able to swim to safety. 

Squirrels need sufficient oxygen to breathe and maintain their bodily functions. A poorly ventilated trap can lead to a shortage of oxygen, threatening the squirrel’s survival.

Size of Trap

A trap that is too small for the squirrel can cause additional stress and discomfort, reducing the chance of survival. Always choose a live trap that is large enough to accommodate the rodent. 

Amputation and Injuries From The Trap

Improperly set or poorly designed traps can cause injuries or amputation of limbs, causing the squirrel to suffer. Without proper medical treatment, a squirrel won’t survive long. 

Inability to Fend Off Predators

Trapped squirrels cannot escape their predators and are more vulnerable to predation. 

Injuries From Self Amputation “Ring-Off”

In a desperate attempt to escape, squirrels may chew off their limbs, known as “ring-off,” leading to severe injuries and decreased survival chances.

Temperature and Humidity

Extreme temperatures and humidity levels can significantly impact a squirrel’s survival in a trap. Extreme hot or cold temperatures and humidity can cause discomfort and stress. 


Domestic pets, such as dogs and cats, can pose a threat to trapped squirrels by stressing them, attacking the trapped animal, or knocking over the trap. 

When live trapping a squirrel, place the traps safely away from curious pets and children. 

How Often Should You Check A Squirrel Trap?

Check your trap at least once a day, preferably twice, once in the early morning or late evening, as these are the times these diurnal animals are most active. 

When checking the trap, approach it cautiously and quietly to avoid scaring the squirrel. 

Do a quick examination to ensure it’s not injured before releasing it. 

What To Do With A Trapped Squirrel?

People who trap squirrels do so because they don’t want them damaging their property. They use these traps to catch and release them back into the wild because they think this is humane.

However, according to statistics, 97% of relocated squirrels die or disappear within 80 days of release. The low chance of survival is due to the confusion of being in an unfamiliar setting. They struggle with finding food, water, and shelter. 

If you’re planning on trapping a squirrel, the best thing to do is to contact a professional pest control or local authorities to see if they can help you determine the best and safest way to release them. 

How to Release A Trapped Squirrel?

Releasing the squirrel can be confusing as the relocation laws vary from state to state. You’ll want to release the squirrel at least 15 miles from your home if relocation is allowed. 

Make sure you release them in an area with plenty of food, water, and shelter. 

This will ensure it doesn’t return, as squirrels can travel a long way for food. If relocation is illegal, you may need to euthanize it or contact local authorities to determine your options.  

Final Word

A trapped squirrel’s lifespan will vary depending on its food availability, temperature, trap size, injury and stress, age, illnesses, predator attacks, and humidity conditions. 

Avoid leaving a squirrel in a trap for more than 24 hours. Contact your local authorities for the most humane method of releasing them. The goal should be to trap and release them back into the wild. 

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