Jumping and climbing are the two most commonly associated behaviors with a squirrel. They are quick creatures that will scurry away as soon as you try to approach them. I once saw a squirrel jump at least 4 feet from the ground.
Since I’m not exactly the most athletic person around, the effortless acrobatics from that squirrel definitely left quite an impression on me. I decided to find out a little more about a squirrel’s jumping ability and here’s what I found:
The Eastern gray squirrel, the most common squirrel in the United States, can jump four feet in the vertical direction. That’s basically the height of an average 7-year-old child. When jumping horizontally, squirrels can cover a distance of 9 feet. The incredible jumping ability of a squirrel is enabled by over sized back legs, double jointed ankles and sharp claws.
The fact that squirrels defy gravity and jump up to such a height is… pretty impressive. Especially since they sometimes don’t even need a running start. Here’s a video of a squirrel making a horizontal jump that showcases their abilities:
How Can Squirrels Jump So High?
Squirrels have undergone several anatomical adaptations as part of their evolution process (source). Some of these adaptations have contributed to their jumping abilities as well. Firstly, squirrels have powerful hind legs.
These are longer than their front legs and give them very strong propulsion. The impact of this propulsion is magnified because their bodies are comparatively small and light.
They also run up to 12 miles per hour and are really fast. Squirrels are agile creatures and can hold onto many kinds of surfaces. They can also turn their hind feet backward.
Secondly, they have hyper-expendable and double-jointed ankles in their hind legs. This allows squirrels to reverse the directions of their paws. Where most animals will climb up a tree, squirrels can do both. They can run up a tree, but they can also run down a tree without losing their footing. This kind of hyper-mobility is pretty exclusive for squirrels and helps them in changing directions very fast.
Squirrels have very sharp claws as well. If you combine this with their hyper-mobility, it means they can hang upside down from any surface. The claws also allow squirrels to secure themselves on both smooth and irregular surfaces. This means that whether they are present on the rough, irregular bark of a tree or on a smooth telephone pole, they won’t fall. It also provides them with a firm place to jump off when they are looking to make a vertical or horizontal leap.
Check out this video of a squirrel managing to hold onto a tree branch after making a jump:
However, sometimes, these fur balls aren’t so lucky. Here’s a funny video of a squirrel landing while hitting a wall:
In summary, the hind legs, the reversible paws, and the claws all lend to a squirrel’s jumping ability and make them exceptionally good at it (source).
Why Don’t Squirrels Get Hurt as Easily?
I once saw a squirrel jump from a telephone pole and onto the ground without hurting itself. If a human were to attempt such a thing, then they would, at the very least, be nursing a broken bone. So what makes squirrels such superhuman jumpers?
It’s just simple physics. If the size of a falling object is small, but the exposed surface area is very large, then the drag forces that oppose this fall are also very high. Squirrels will often use their tail as a parachute to increase the drag even more!
Read all about amazing squirrel tails here:
Can A Squirrel Lose Its Tail? Will It Grow Back? Interesting Facts!!
Given that squirrels are incredibly small, they generate enough drag force to oppose their movements and land safely on the ground. It’s the opposite case for humans, who generate low drag force and will most certainly hurt themselves even if they fall from a small height.
Have a look at this pretty impressive jump that a squirrel made from a rooftop:
Can Squirrels’ Jumping Be a Problem?
If you are trying to keep squirrels out of your bird feeders then there ability to leap will drive you crazy! Even if you have a great squirrel-proof bird feeder with a baffle, if a squirrel is able to land on it then he will eventually defeat it! I wrote an article outlining my Five Steps for the Ultimate Squirrel Proof Bird Feeding Stations for Cardinals that might give you some ideas on how to keep them out of your feeder.
I am one of those folks that gave up, joined the dark side and put up a few squirrel feeders so I could enjoy the squirrel show!
Squirrels can also jump and climb into your house. If they get into the attic, they can chew on the wood and you’ll end up paying for a lot of money in damages. They can also chew on wires, which is pretty risky on its own.
How Can You Prevent Squirrels From Getting Into The House?
Squirrels may be cute, but you can’t let them take up space in your house. There are some preventive measures you can take to keep them out. These are:
- Cover or repair any holes that they can use to enter your home and seal all the soffits.
- Install a steel screen over the vents in your house and have it bolted. Squirrels can chew through soft metals such as aluminum. Steel is harder in comparison, and they won’t be able to chew through it. You can also install a heavy-duty sheet metal mesh screen to cover the chimneys.
Curious? Read this: Can Squirrels Chew Through Aluminum? How Tough Are They??
- If you have trees in your yard, trim the branches so they are at least 10 feet away from the roof.
- If you have PVC pipes on the roof, then have them fitted with slit strips by a professional. The slit strips will allow the PVC pipe to rotate if any animal tries to move along it.
Crazy Jumping Squirrels
A squirrel’s jumping ability is extremely impressive. They are very skilled acrobats and from everything I have learned about squirrels so far, I can say that looks can be deceiving. These small creatures can make for a pretty formidable foe. And if they do get into your house, I suggest you take some quick measures to make sure they don’t overstay their welcome.
I’ll leave you with this cute video of a squirrel flipping about and going silly for no apparent reason: