With the abundance of squirrels in most neighborhoods, it is easy to assume that these wild animals have a lot of babies throughout the year. However, it turns out that squirrels only mate twice during the year, once in the Late Winter/ Early Spring and again in the Late Summer. The babies are typically born about 44 days later.
Grey and Fox Squirrels usually have one litter of babies in March. Older female squirrels will often produce a second litter of babies in August. Two to five is the average number of squirrels born to a mother but there are differences between the various types of squirrels and the regions where they live.
The following details explore the mating habits, gestation periods, and life cycles of squirrels and their babies.
Squirrels Typically Have Two Mating Seasons
Most species of squirrel, including the common grey squirrel, mate twice per year and the females may give birth to one or two litters. The two mating seasons are the late winter and summer.
In the late winter or early spring, the warmer weather brings all types of animals back out into the open. They venture for food and begin to prepare for mating.
Female squirrels reach maturity at ten months. At the start of the mating season, the fertile female squirrels begin to emit scents and make various sounds to attract the male squirrels. The males then start to seek the females.
With most species, a group of eight or ten male squirrels may compete for the attention of a single female. You may seem a group of squirrels wrestling, with a female squirrel watching from the distance.
When one of the males asserts his dominance, the female tends to run off. The dominant male then chases the fertile female and they pair off to mate. Squirrels do not mate for life but instead mate with the best available partners.
The mating process often only lasts about one minute. The male squirrel secretes a waxy substance that essentially plugs the reproductive system. The plug keeps other male squirrels from impregnating the female squirrel.
Where Do Female Squirrels Have Their Babies?
The most common species of squirrels are considered tree squirrels, and they tend to live in one of two types of nests. These species include most grey squirrels and fox squirrels.
When a female squirrel partners with a male squirrel, they retreat to the nest to mate. This is also where the female squirrel gives birth and cares for her babies.
The two types of squirrel nests include tree cavities and leaf nests. The tree cavities are typically hollowed out by a woodpecker and then abandoned. The inside of the tree then begins to decay. The squirrels then come and claim the cavity as their den.
Squirrels often prefer the tree cavities, as they offer more protection from the weather and predators. They can also safely shield their babies from warm until they are ready to leave the den.
Along with tree cavities, tree squirrels often set up nests in the branches. These nests are like bird nests. They are made from leaves, twigs, and other debris that the squirrels find. However, they tend to be quite a bit bigger than the bird nests.
Of course you can always buy a nest box for your squirrels to use.
Ground squirrels are less common in many parts of the world compared to tree squirrels. Instead of building a nest in a tree, these animals burrow into the ground. They establish a series of tunnels to offer shelter and a place to raise their babies.
How Long Do Squirrels Carry Their Babies?
Many species of rodents have short gestation periods. Instead of carrying their babies for most of the year, their pregnancies may only last one or two months.
A typical female squirrel has a gestation period lasting between 29 and 46 days. Larger species of squirrel tend to have longer gestation periods, while smaller species have shorter pregnancies.
During the gestation period, the female squirrel often lives alone. Most squirrels are not communal animals. They establish their own nests and typically only share the nest when mating or caring for their new babies.
The female squirrels remain busy during the gestation period. During the pregnancy, a female squirrel will begin stockpiling nuts and other food for her babies. She will also start eating more food, as she is eating for more than one squirrel.
About four to six weeks after getting pregnant, the female squirrel gives birth. This typically occurs in the nest, where the babies will remain for ten or eleven weeks, when they are old enough to venture out on their own.
How Many Babies Do Squirrels Have?
The average squirrel has two to five babies per litter. These babies are called kits or kittens. They are born blind, deaf, and furless, like most other species of rodents. Their ears are also folded against their skull and they are completely helpless.
The mother remains in the nest with the babies, where she cares for them by herself. They are fed every few hours and require constant care by their mother for several weeks.
By the seventh or eighth week, the baby squirrels begin to wander around the nest or den area. They may follow their mother as she tends to the nest. These young squirrels also start to eat solids and are often weaned by 10 or 11 weeks.
When Do Baby Squirrels Leave the Nest?
At 10 or 11 weeks, some squirrels may venture out on their own. However, most squirrels are ready to leave the nest about one month after weaning. By two or three months, the baby squirrels are off on their own, looking for food and setting up their own nests.
Depending on the number of squirrels in the immediate area, the young squirrels may try to build their nest close to their mother. In fact, most squirrels stay within two miles of their home nest.
If the area is crowded with other squirrels, the young squirrels may be forced to travel further away to establish their nest.
The young squirrels then go about their lives on their own, until they reach sexual maturity. Most species of squirrel reach maturity at 10 to 11 months. A year after they are conceived, they are ready to repeat the process and produce their own babies.
What Does a Baby Squirrel Eat?
For the first six weeks of their lives, baby squirrels mostly live off their mother’s milk. By six or seven weeks, they may start eating solid foods. The mother weans them off her milk by 10 or 11 weeks.
The solid foods that are introduced to the baby squirrel’s diet are collected by his or her mother. The female squirrel stockpiles food before birth and continues to collect food afterward. The type of food depends on the region, the season, and the species.
In the summer, squirrels often eat buds and plants that they come across. If there is a garden or farm nearby, they may live off the plant life until harvesting.
In the fall, squirrels tend to stock up on acorns and nuts. They also start burying these items in the ground so that they can collect them during the winter. Contrary to popular belief, squirrels remember where they bury their nuts.
The common grey squirrel tends to eat fungi and tree bark in the winter. There is not an abundance of food to be found and these squirrels do not hibernate. They need a constant source of food to survive throughout the winter.
When they have trouble finding food, squirrels are known to raid bird nests for their eggs. They may also try to take food from bird feeders or dig up plant life.
What Should You Do if You Find a Baby Squirrel?
As most baby squirrels are raised in nests located high up in tree branches, it is not uncommon for a baby squirrel to fall from the nest. Mother squirrels will not care for a baby that is dying or sick. However, if the baby squirrel appears uninjured, there may be a chance that the mother will take the baby back.
Here is a GREAT video showing a Mother Squirrel saving her babies!
When a person comes across a baby squirrel in the wild, it is best to try to find the mother squirrel. It is okay to pick up the baby squirrel. Mothers still take back their babies even if they detect a human scent.
There is a good chance that the nest is nearby. If the mother does not come to check on the baby within a couple of hours, she has likely left the baby for dead, and it may need to be rescued.
A baby squirrel also needs to be rescued if it is found with one or more dead babies. The mother will not accept the live one.
If you decide to rescue the baby squirrel, try to find a squirrel rehab center. Your local veterinarian or animal shelter may have the number or contact information for a local wildlife rehabilitation center. These centers often take animals and raise them until they can be released back into the wild.
Five Primary Types of Squirrels
These are just a few of the most common species of squirrels. There are over 200 different species found throughout the world, each with different mating habits and gestation periods. Some of these species may only be found in certain parts of the world.
The grey squirrel is the most common species of squirrel found throughout North America, especially along the eastern coasts. These species of squirrels have two mating seasons. They mate in the middle of summer and at the end of winter or early spring.
The gestation period typically lasts 44 to 46 days. These squirrels are larger than some of the other species and may have more babies per litter. In fact, they may have up to nine babies in a litter. However, the average is still two to five.
While many species of squirrel mate twice per year, they do not always get pregnant twice. The grey squirrel is one of the few species that are more likely to give birth twice per year.
The red squirrels are also commonly found throughout North America. However, their mating habits are a little different from those of grey squirrels.
Female red squirrels only remain fertile for a single day during each breeding season. The mating process is quick. The dominant male chases the female squirrel and they will mate several times to increase the likelihood of conception.
The gestation period may only last 35 days. While they can have two litters in a year, most red squirrels only give birth once per year. Their litters may contain up to eight kittens, and the average is between three and four.
Fox squirrels are primarily found in the eastern and central regions of North America and Mexico. These squirrels do not have a specific mating period. They mate throughout the year. The female may also mate with many partners during a single breeding period.
After conception, gestation often lasts about 45 days. These squirrels may have up to seven babies, but they often have two to three per litter. While these squirrels can mate throughout the year, the females often only have one litter. However, it is possible for them to have two litters per year.
Ground squirrels only mate once each year. Unlike the tree squirrels listed above, these squirrels need to hibernate during the winter. When the weather gets warmer and they come out of hibernation, their mating season begins.
The mating season for the ground squirrel lasts about three weeks. During this period, the female and male ground squirrels may mate with many different partners. It is even possible for one litter of babies to have multiple fathers.
The gestation period often lasts between 25 and 30 days. These squirrels produce the most babies per litter. They can have up to 15 babies in a single litter. However, the average litter size is seven or eight baby squirrels.
Along with these four squirrels, your area may have a few other species of squirrels. Depending on where you live, you should consider researching your local squirrel species. Compare their mating habits and the number of babies in a litter to the species described.
Their are two types of flying squirrel, Northern and Southern.
Northern flying squirrels only mate once per year between March and May and have a gestation period of 37-42 days. Southern flying squirrels mate twice per year, once in the Spring and again in late summer, and have a gestation period of 40 days. The average litter size for both species is 2-3.