If you’re always seeing new squirrels at your feeder, it’s easy to think that they are always mating and having squirrel babies. I wanted to share everything I found online about squirrels having babies and the gestation period.
When Do Squirrels Have Babies?
It’s not uncommon for Grey Squirrels and Fox Squirrels to have two litters of babies every year. The first breeding period starts in the mid-summer and the second in early spring. The mating season beings just after hibernation and usually lasts a few weeks. The gestation period will vary depending on the type of squirrel.
These are interesting critters and there is so much to know about your bushy-tailed friends. We’re going to learn about the different types of squirrels gestation period, finding a baby squirrel, what they eat and where they live.
Now let’s take a look at everything you need to know about baby squirrels also known as a litter of kits or kittens.
Where Do Squirrels Have Babies?
Baby squirrels also known as kittens are born in a nest also referred to as a drey. Some wildlife lovers buy squirrel nesting boxes to help Momma’s prepare for the birthing season.
However, these critters are survivalists and will spend their time preparing and building their own nests during the warm months. I’ve written a whole blog post on what a squirrel nest looks like, you should check it out.
It’s NOT uncommon for them to build several nests, in case they have to move their children. Yup, a mother will carry their child by the scruff of their neck to escape predators or parasite infection. Kind of like how a mother cat carries her offspring.
How Long Do Baby Squirrels Stay With Their Mother?
Once a baby is born, they will go through a period of when they can’t survive without the help of their mother. It’s no different than having a newborn child.
At the early stages of birth, the mother will nurse, bathe, and even regulate their temperature. A newborn baby cannot feed or care for themselves, that’s why it’s so vital for them to remain with their mother.
They are typically weaned and ready to be on their own at 10 weeks of age. At that point, it’s not unusual for you to see young squirrels at your feeders or just bouncing around playing in your backyard.
What Should You Do If You Find A Baby Squirrel?
Most baby squirrels are born and raised in nests that are located several feet off the ground in branches. It is not uncommon for a baby squirrel to fall from the nest, especially, during storms and high winds.
Mother squirrels will abandon a baby that is dying or sick. However, if the baby is NOT injured and the mother can find it, there’s a chance that she will carry it back to the nest.
Here is a video of a mother squirrel rescuing her babies after they fell out of their nest. You can even hear the sounds they make to let the mother hear them.
You can see that she moved them out of the sidewalk and put them back in the nest so the mother could find them easily.
If the mother doesn’t come back looking for them within a couple of hours, she has likely abandoned them or left them for dead, and it may need to be rescued.
A mother will NOT raise a baby if it needs to be rescued and is found in a nest with dead siblings. This is why so many people are rescuing them and raising them as pets.
However, I’ve put together some helpful tips in case you ever find a baby squirrel, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Five Primary Types of Squirrels
In North America, there are five main types of squirrels that people can see in their backyards or public places. The number of kittens born per litter will vary depending on the kind of squirrel. Every breed has different mating habits, breeding cycles and even their lifespan will vary.
The most common types of squirrel species are:
- Grey Squirrels
- Fox Squirrels
- Red Squirrels
- Flying Squirrels
- Ground Squirrels
These are the most common types, however, with over 200 species of squirrels found throughout the world, we thought we would just cover the most common types. Each species will have their own mating habits and different gestation periods.
We only cover the common types that can be found in people’s backyards.
A Look At The Squirrel Birthing Season & Gestation Period
As I mentioned above, the squirrel’s pregnancy will vary depending on the breed. Let’s take a look at the gestation average squirrel litter for each of the common types.
After about 10-12 months of age, a majority of the female squirrels will become fertile. All newborn squirrels are born blind and naked, which kind of makes it easy to tell what age it is.
Eastern Gray Squirrels
A female gray squirrel’s gestation period lasts about 44 days. A male gray squirrel can start breeding when they are 9-11 months of age. They mate twice per year from December to February and May to June.
Their average litter sizes will range from 2-6 young that are born hairless and completely helpless. The young are weaned in about 50 days. If the female has a second litter, the kittens will stay with her over the winter.
If they are born in a nesting box you provided, it won’t be unusual for you to see them poking their heads out on a daily basis.
In fact, many nature lovers provide them shelter because they love being entertained by the playfulness of young babies.
This is the most common squirrel that is found throughout North America, especially, on the east coast.
American Red Squirrels
The gestation period for a red squirrel is about 38 days. Like the gray squirrels, they have two
breeding seasons, which are March to May and July to September.
Their average litter size will range from 3-6 newborns (also known as kittens). Their nesting habits are similar to the gray squirrels, however, the red squirrels prefer to nest in conifer trees.
The young develop slowly and some mothers will care and stay with the babies throughout the summer season.
Red squirrels are commonly found throughout North America.
They are also known to create nests in nesting boxes and houses if you provide them shelter.
Southern Fox Squirrels
Southern Fox squirrel’s gestation period lasts around 45 days and is the largest of the tree squirrel family. They can mate at any time of the year, but mating season usually reaches its peak in December and June.
Some females will have two litters of two to four young. They usually give birth to their babies in a nest they built in a hollow tree.
They prefer to building their nests in large hollow cavities in trees.
They are usually weaned until they reach 8 weeks of age. At 10 weeks they are courageous enough to climb to the ground in search of food and are able to live independently.
This breed can be found in the eastern and central regions of Mexico and North America.
Southern Flying Squirrels
There are two types of flying squirrels and they are Northern and Southern. This breed can be found
living throughout Southeast Alaska and Canada. However, it’s not unusual to find them in California and the Yosemite Valley.
Their gestation period lasts around 40 days and will usually give birth to 3-6 babies in a litter. Their peak breeding season is from February through March and August through October.
They prefer to breed in warmer climates, so it’s not unusual for the squirrels living farther south to give birth earlier in the year than the squirrels that live in the northern part of the world.
At nine months old, the females will reach reproductive maturity, but don’t usually have their first litter until they are 12 months old.
The females care for their young in the nest and nurse them for 65 days. The young will become fully independent when they are four months old.
If they are born in the second birthing cycle, they will remain with the family during the winter.
Ground squirrels are a member of the squirrel family and can be found living on the ground as opposed to living in trees. You’ve probably seen the most common one which is known as the chipmunk, but they also include marmots, prairie dogs, and groundhogs.
There are over 20 species of ground squirrels living in North America. Females will enter the estrus period right after their hibernation period.
They usually mate four or five days after emerging from hibernation. Their mating season lasts about 3 weeks. The gestation period lasts about 25-30 days and the litter of babies is usually born overnight.
Females give birth to an average litter size of 5-4 babies, but can have as many as 9 or even 15 at one time! This breed of the squirrel family produce the most babies per litter.
The babies are helpless for the first 4-6 weeks of their life. The mother will nursing, grooming them, and keeping them warm every 3-4 hours.
During this period, she spends time finding foraging for her food and protecting the nest from predators and human activity.
Like tree squirrels, she usually builds multiple nests in case she has to move them to get away from danger.
How Do Squirrels Give Birth?
It’s funny, but I asked my niece how a squirrel gives birth and she thought that they lay eggs. The truth is that the only mammals that lay eggs are monotremes, which consist of the platypus and four species of the echidna.
Squirrels are mammals and this means that they give birth just like humans, dogs, and cats. I’ve personally never seen a squirrel being born, but this video will show you a squirrel giving birth, which is amazing.
Once the squirrels are born, the mother will feed them and start caring for them. This will usually last for several weeks until they are old enough to go out into the wild on their own.
What Does A Baby Squirrel Eat?
If a baby is raised with their mother, they will nurse and survive off their mother’s milk, until they are ready to eat solid foods at 6-7 weeks.
At 10-11 weeks, the mother will wean them off of her milk. At this point, the mother will start feeding them solid foods that she has stored.
Some may even start venturing out on their own in search of food. However, they will still return to the nest to sleep at night.
The types of foods that squirrels eat, will depend on where they live and what they can gather from the wild. If you provide them nuts and seeds at a feeder, they will bring that back to the nest for their babies.
People who rescue and nurse them back to health to release them to the wild or keep them as pets will need to give them powdered milk replacer such as Esbilac Puppy Milk Replacer, which you can get at your local pet store or on Amazon.
At the early stages in life, their nutritional needs are fragile and can die if they do not get the proper nutrients.
If you are rescuing a baby squirrel, make sure that you understand how to properly care for it.
As you can see, there are several squirrel litters per year, that’s why you see some juvenile squirrels at the feeder.
We’ve covered the most common types you’ll find in your neighborhoods or public places. However, depending on where you live, you may see different species that we didn’t cover here.
The best way to get more information on the species of squirrels in your area is to research the local wildlife in your area. This will help you compare their mating and birthing season as well as the number of babies in a litter.
Related Articles Squirrel Facts You May Be Interested In:
References and Further Reading
Sciencing – Squirrel Mating and Gestation
Department of Natural Resources – Maryland Mammals – Eastern Gray Squirrel
Kid’s Inquiry of Diverse Species – Southern Flying Squirrels
NCBI – Studies of The Estrus Cycle of The Ground Squirrel