I was sitting on my back deck the other day after filling the squirrel feeder and I started wondering “how long do squirrels live?” I absolutely love these little bushy-tailed creatures and am always trying to learn as much as I can about them.
Short Answer: it depends on the type of squirrel if they are cared for in captivity (zoos) and as pets, and the nutritional value of the foods that they eat. Some squirrels have been known to live for up to 24 years.
This makes them the longest-living rodents in the world. Our dog lived for 16 years and this means that the grey squirrels we see running around in our backyard will be around longer than she was.
Whether you’re feeding them in your yard or if you want a squirrel as a pet, knowing their average life expectancy, can be helpful for anyone who loves these critters.
Here’s a list of some common names for squirrels that people give their backyard friends.
Who Lives Longer: Male or Female Squirrels?
If you’re feeding squirrels in your backyard, then you’ll likely get attached to them. It’s nice knowing how long these critters can live.
Life spans will vary dramatically between the different types of squirrels, however, female squirrels tend to live longer than males.
Life Cycle of A Squirrel
The gestation period for female squirrels is about 40-44 days. The average litter size is about 1-9 babies that are born in a leafy den, inside a hollow tree. At birth, squirrel babies also known as neonates are born hairless and blind.
It takes about 28-35 days before they are able to open their eyes.
How Long Do Baby Squirrels Live With Their Mother?
They are able to leave the nest between 42 and 49 days, but the mother begins to wean them when they are 6-7 weeks old. She will continue nursing them until they are 12 weeks old.
At that point, they are able to leave the nest and search for food. They will continue returning to the nest for safety and to sleep.
How Long Do Pet Squirrels Live?
With proper care, a pet squirrel can live about 20 years. The longer they are kept inside the house, the less likely it can survive in the wild.
Does Diet Affect A Squirrel’s Lifespan?
Humans require daily nutrition to survive and maintain a healthy well-balanced diet. Squirrels love eating and consume an average of about one pound of food per week.
Their diets consist of vegetables, meats, and anything they can get their paws on. Their favorite foods consist of nuts, fruit, fungi and some will even consume small snakes and eggs.
While there isn’t a lot of research that shows whether their diet affects their lifespan. However, I am sure that the ones that eat a more varied diet will live longer. Squirrels that eat unhealthy foods (Oreos, hamburgers and etc) will most likely suffer from digestive problems that can lead to other health issues.
However, a squirrel is most likely to get hit by a car than suffer from a heart attack.
How Long Do Squirrels Live?
As I mentioned above, squirrels in captivity can live a whopping 24 years, which is longer than most dogs and cats. However, squirrels in the wild have a lot of predators and don’t live that long. (we’ll discuss this in a bit)
This article divides the squirrels between some of the most common types that can be found roaming around your backyard. Of course, it depends on where you live.
I currently live in an area where I only see grey squirrels.
How Long Do Grey Squirrels Live
This small prey animal has a lifespan of around 20 years in captivity but will vary on an average to about 13 years in the wild. The life expectancy for a baby grey squirrel at birth is 1-2 years. The average adult is expected to live for around 6 years.
According to research, the oldest grey squirrel on record is 12 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity.
The average lifespan for an adult is closer to around 6 years of age when they are living in the wild. They have several predators that hunt them on a regular basis.
These are the most popular backyard squirrels that love visiting feeders.
American Red Squirrel?
These squirrels are prone to early mortality and only an average of 22% of newborn
babies make it past their first year of life. They have a lot of predators which include coyotes, Red-tailed Hawks, American Crows, Red Foxes, Wolves and Weasels, Great Horned Owls and so many more, including the Eastern Grey squirrel, which carries a disease (squirrel parapoxvirus) that is known to kill the red squirrel.
Most of them living in the wild will live to be a maximum of eight years. Juvenile squirrels less then one year of age, females tend to live longer than males.
Unlike the other species of squirrels, the males tend to live slightly longer than the females. Although, there isn’t a huge difference in the lifespan of males and females.
Unlike other species, Fox squirrels breed in midwinter and may even have a second litter in the summer. New babies are born in a litter of 2-4 after a gestation period of 44-45 days.
Fox squirrels can live up to 18 years in captivity. Their life span will vary between 8-18 years when living in the wild, though most squirrels will die before they reach adulthood.
Females tend to live to be around 12.5 years old while the males have an average lifespan of around 8.5 years of age.
They spend more time on the ground than any other tree squirrels.
The black squirrel is not as common as the gray, brown or red.
Black squirrels are actually, Eastern Gray squirrels that have a genetic condition known a,s Melanism. This means that they are missing a piece of the gene that is involved in producing the pigments that color fur.
I couldn’t find any research that shows how old they live to be.
However, since they are just grey squirrel’s with the genetic mutation. I’m not sure if this mutation affects their life span.
This species lives predominantly in the UK and is becoming seen more often.
You can read more about the black squirrel on this website.
Southern Flying Squirrel
Females will usually mate twice per year, during the warm months. The gestation period
is about 40 days and they give birth to a litter of 1-6 baby squirrels. Juvenile squirrels are considered full grown at one year of age.
Females care for the young in the nest and nurse them for 65 days. At 4 months old, they are old enough to be independent. If the litter was born in the midsummer, the mother will continue nursing and caring for them over the winter.
Most newborns will not make it to their first year of life. Adult flying squirrels can live to 5-6 years in the wild.
In captivity, they have been known to live up to 10 years of age.
How Long Do Squirrels Live In The Nest?
Both males and females participate in the next building construction. A mother squirrel will build several nests, in case they need to flee because of predators.
Gray squirrels will reuse their nests. However, since squirrels in the wild do not live more than a couple of years, new families will move into unoccupied nests.
How Long Do Squirrels Live With Rabies?
Small mammals like squirrels, groundhogs, rabbits, gerbils, and mice almost never get infected with rabies. There are no known cases of a human getting infected with rabies from a squirrel, even if they were bitten.
This should make you feel a lot better if you’re feeding squirrels in your backyard. You’re more likely to get rabies from raccoons, dogs, cats, skunks or other wild animals.
Why Do Squirrels Live So Long?
The squirrel is NOT very high on the food chain and they have plenty of predators that will prey on them. The different species of squirrels choose different types of habitats, this is what makes them vulnerable to several types of predators.
- Hawks and Owls
- Cats and Dogs
With so many predators, you might be wondering, how do they live so long? Well, the answer is simple.
They are very cautious critters and will scurry quickly if they feel they are in trouble. They are quick and agile, you’ve probably seen their agility when they are crossing the road.
In fact, the other day, one ran out right in front of the road while I was driving. I tried swerving and thought that I had run over him.
However, he made it safely across the road. This agility is what makes it hard for predators to catch.
Are Squirrels Protected?
Some states like California require a permit to trap squirrels. Hunting game animals require a hunting license and most states require you to acquire a license to hunt squirrels.
Most states classify gray and red squirrels as game animals that can be hunted and killed for food consumption.
Unfortunately, it is not illegal to kill squirrels in most states. This means that squirrels have to watch for the human predator that can have an effect on shortening their lifespan.
Final Thoughts On The Squirrel Lifespan
Squirrels like other wild animals will have a shorter lifespan when living in the wild than in captivity. If you enjoy feeding them in your backyard, you’ll at least know that they’ll be coming around to the squirrel feeder for at least a year.
If you have been wanting a pet squirrel, you’ll be increasing their lifespan by providing them a home. Believe it or not, many people have raised a squirrel and kept them as a pet.
Are you feeding these bushy-tailed critters? If so, let me know about your personal experience with them.
Other Squirrel Facts You Maybe Be Interested In:
References and Further Reading
Animal Spot – What Is An Eastern Gray Squirrel
About Squirrels – Learn About Nature – About Red Squirrels
Animal Diversity Web – Tamisciurus Hudsonicus Red Squirrel
Sciencing – Squirrel Life Cycles
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – What Is The Risk for My Pet?
Kids Inquiry of Diverse Species – Southern Flying Squirrel