Nature is beautiful but complex, and every animal has strange habits, but it’s for a good reason when you look closer! Have you ever seen a mother squirrel frantically carrying her tiny babies out of a nest? You may wonder what this strange behavior means and whether or not the babies turned out to be okay. Why do squirrels move their babies?
Squirrels will move their babies when they become too big, when the food resources are depleted, deforestation or the nest has a flea infestation. In addition, squirrels will move their babies to protect them from the cold when the current nest becomes unsafe or when the babies are ready to learn how to jump and climb.
When you see a squirrel carrying her babies around, you can rest assured it’s for a good reason. So let’s look at why a mother squirrel will resort to moving her babies to a new nest.
Why Will A Squirrel Decide To Move Her Babies?
Usually, a mother will decide to move her babies to a new nest at six weeks of age, and it could be for many reasons:
A Squirrel Will Move Her Babies As They Grow
When a mother squirrel notices that the movement is becoming limited in her litter’s current nest and the babies are growing out of the nest, she will relocate them.
In this situation, she will search beyond her housing and look for a space to better accommodate her litter’s size. As soon as she finds a comfortable and safe branch or cavity, she will build the nest, also known as a drey.
She will interweave twigs, grass, feathers, bark, and moss and even use her fur to create a new nest. The new nest is usually 30 feet or higher from the ground and shaped like a globe.
Not Enough Resources Are Easily Available
Sometimes, the nest the mother squirrel chooses may run out of resources. This especially becomes the case in the wintertime, when the resources for food become less and less. So, although the mother squirrel may have picked the ideal spot that seems safe, the food resources may become scarce over a short period.
Usually, the babies will be around six to eight weeks at this stage, which means they will need to be taught by the mother how to forage for their own food.
The mother squirrel will choose a new nest where she will watch them constantly and where she and the entire litter will be close to a reliable food source that she knows is safe from predators.
While colder weather will generally suspend the activities of mosquitoes and biting flies, the flightless pests that infest and torment wild mammals, including squirrels, will start to enter their peak season.
Squirrel lice are most common during the cold winter months, and their infestation rates climb to a whopping 100%. Wild squirrels, especially weak baby squirrels, are exceptionally vulnerable to skin parasites, including mites, mange, ticks, lice, and fleas.
Wildlife rehabilitators deal with these issues daily, but wild squirrels do not have the luxury of receiving help from humans, so they need to take matters into their own hands!
As the current nest holding a squirrel litter will become infested with fleas or other pests, the mother needs to prevent these pests from spreading and feasting on their young, which may be relatively weak and susceptible to them.
The mother will then call to move their babies from the current nest and relocate them to a new, clean one.
To Shield Them From The Cold
A mother squirrel may also move her babies during stormy or wet weather. However, if she had built her current nest before colder weather started to set in, the current nest would be unlikely to protect her litter during colder weather and extreme rainfall.
This will result in her having to move her babies temporarily until the weather clears up. After that, she may move them to a cavity in the same tree to provide enough protection.
Mother squirrels will often find holes in trees created by other animals, as it will offer their litter more protection than nests on branches.
Once the weather has returned to normal, the mother squirrel will most often return to the old nest along with her litter or decide to create a new one if the current one has been destroyed.
The Nest Becomes Unsafe
Most wild animals have ways of protecting their young. For mother squirrels, the protection involves moving their babies from their current nest.
When a mother squirrel spots a predator too close to her litter’s nest, she will relocate her babies. The nest will usually be on the same tree but on a higher level.
While many of us mistake a squirrel nest for a bird’s nest, the simplest act, such as shaking or inspecting a nest, could trigger the mother squirrel and result in her moving her babies one by one.
To Teach Them Independence
As soon as the litter becomes older and ready to learn how to fend for themselves, the mother will move them to a larger, more open nest. She will spend all her time teaching them independence and helping them to practice and develop their climbing and jumping skills.
Squirrel Nesting Behavior
Squirrels will build their nests wherever they see fit, sometimes including tree trunks, chimneys, attics, or leaf nests.
Squirrels will generally build two to three nests, as they know they will need to move their babies when the nest becomes infected with fleas, becomes threatened by predators, or outgrow the current nest.
These nests will usually be located not far from each other, as the mother squirrel needs to carry each litter member to the new nest, no matter how big or small they might be.
Unfortunately, deforestation destroys the habitat of squirrels and other animals. When this happens, their natural environment is destroyed, and they cannot protect themselves or their young.
Squirrels may be forced to relocate their young to safer areas. In some cases, the babies may not survive.
Deforestation is one of the leading causes of extinction or endangerment of certain squirrels and other wildlife species.
There are various reasons why a mother squirrel will move her babies, and not all of their reasons are because of danger or stress. Mother squirrels know what they’re doing and know what’s best for their young!
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