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How long do squirrels live?

The maximum longevity in the wild is somewhere around 12 years.  However, most don't live that long due to the many predators that they fall victim to, due to the lack of food in the wild and for city squirrels being hit by cars shortens their lives.  In the wild, many will not live past their third year.   However, in captivity squirrels have been known to live to be twenty years old.

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What do squirrels eat?

They are primarily vegetarians, living on seeds, nuts, fruits, fungi, lichens, buds, mushrooms, roots, pine cones, leaves, twigs and bark.   They do not normally eat meat.   However, if faced with hunger they have been known to eat bird eggs, snakes and insects.

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When does a mother squirrel wean her babies?

Babies will typically nurse for three to four months.

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What is the gestation period of a female squirrel?

The gestation period varies from 33 days in the smaller species to 60 days in the larger species, but is approximately 44 days for the eastern gray squirrel.

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Do squirrels make good pets?

As a general rule, no.  Squirrels have a built in instinct to be free because they are wildlife and were meant to live as such.  Being caged is an unnatural environment for them.  They need to run and climb and get plenty of exercise on a daily basis to prevent them from developing arthritis in their joints. They chew on anything they can get their teeth on.  Their teeth grow continuously throughout their life and they need to chew on things to keep their teeth sharp and worn down to the proper length.  They also have very sharp toenails which can cause damage to whatever they come in contact with (furniture, drapes, human skin, eyes, etc.).  As long as the squirrel is healthy and releasable, it would be better off having its freedom to live a normal squirrel life, as it was intended to do so it can mate and interact with other animals.

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Do squirrels remember where they bury their food?

No. They don't locate buried food from memory.  They find buried food with the use of their highly developed sense of smell.

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What would cause a baby squirrel to become orphaned?

The most common situations responsible for orphaning squirrels are:

      1. The nest tree is cut down.

      2. The nest is destroyed by natural elements, such as storms and/or high winds.

      3. The babies fall prey to cats or dogs.

      4. The mother is killed and the babies fall out of the nest searching for food.

A mature mother squirrel usually has a litter of  2 to 4 babies.  So if you discover a lone baby, be sure to look around for siblings.

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If I find an orphaned baby squirrel, what should I do first?

There are several things that need to be assessed when you first discover the baby squirrel.

      1. Touch the squirrel to see if it is cold.

      2. Check the skin for puncture marks or cuts, check for blood in the ears and/or nostrils and check the baby squirrel for any swelling, especially around the head.

      3. Check for broken bones - a bone pushing through the skin, a leg that is hanging at an awkward angle, or a leg the squirrel is not using.

      4. Check to see if the squirrel is dehydrated by turning it on its back and gently pinching up the stomach skin.  If the skin stays wrinkled, the squirrel is dehydrated.

I. If any of these 4 items apply to the baby squirrel you found, the baby squirrel needs immediate professional attention.  Call your local wildlife rehabilitator, wildlife rescue, veterinarian, or emergency animal clinic. Check the yellow pages in your phone book to locate one of the above if you don't already know how to contact them.  Until you can get the baby squirrel to someone for help, keep it warm, still and quiet.  Do not attempt to feed it! 

II. If none of the above applies to the baby squirrel, place it in a warm safe area at the base of the nearest tree to where you found it and get out of sight and watch.  In most cases the animal's mother is nearby and, if she is able, will usually come and retrieve her babies if she does not feel threatened and if you move to a position out of her line of sight. Keep checking the baby to make sure it doesn't get cold.  If at any time the baby feels cold to the touch, remove it from the base of the tree and follow the instructions in (I) above.  Never leave the baby squirrel outside overnight!

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If I find an orphaned baby squirrel, should I try to raise it myself?

No, please do not try to care for the orphaned squirrel on your own!  Wildlife is quite different from personal pets.  Wildlife requires specialized care and specialized diets.  For an orphaned squirrel, its best chance for survival is to get it to a wildlife rehabilitator as soon as possible.   There are too many variables to be considered in the care of an orphaned squirrel, and without the proper knowledge and experience an orphaned squirrel can be very difficult to keep alive.  Wildlife rehabilitators are always in need of good, dedicated volunteers.  So, when you take the orphaned squirrel to a wildlife rehabilitator, be sure to let them know you are willing to help in the care of the orphaned squirrel you found.

If all your efforts to locate a rehabber fail and you need some care instructions on things you can do, you may visit the following websites for help:

The Squirrel Place         Squirrel Wildlife Rehabilitation

In addition to the links above, we also recommend Esbilac for orphaned squirrels.  It can be purchased from your local pet store.  As it is expensive purchased from a pet store, just purchase a small quantity to start.  You can order additional quantities at a substantial savings over the Internet.   

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What size is a new born baby squirrel?

A baby squirrel weighs approximately one (1) ounce at birth and is about one (1) inch in length.  They do not have fur or teeth and their eyes and ears are both closed.

About Two Weeks Old    About Three Weeks Old

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Do squirrels communicate with each other?

Yes, they communicate through a series of shrill sounds and chirps.  The pitch, frequency and duration of these sounds communicate everything from contentment to alarm.  Their frequency range is normally between .01 kHz and 10 kHz (kilohertz).   They also use their tail as a form of communication.

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Why does there seem to be more nests than squirrels?

If a squirrel's nest becomes infested with fleas or other insects, it will move to another nest or build a new one.

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Do squirrels sweat when they are hot?

Yes.  Their sweat glands are located on their feet, between the foot pads and on their paws between the toes.

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Why do squirrel have big bushy tails?

A squirrel's tail is used primarily for balance which enables the squirrel to maneuver quickly through the trees without falling.  It is also used as a parachute should the squirrel fall, as a blanket in the winter time and to communicate with other squirrels.

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How fast can a squirrel run?

There is a story of an Illinois state police officer that once clocked a gray squirrel, with his radar gun at 20 mph, as it was running across a highway.   Other research has shown similar speed for gray squirrels.

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Do squirrels ever fall?

Yes, squirrels do fall sometimes.  They rarely get hurt from short falls because they use their tails as a parachute and usually land on their feet.   However, they can sustain severe spinal injuries from an awkward landing.

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Can squirrels swim?

Yes.  They use a "dog paddle" motion and use their tail as a rudder.  However, swimming is very strenuous for a squirrel and is not done unless it is a necessity.

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Do squirrels fight?

They play fight when they are young and they will fight for real during mating season.  Normally, squirrels are not aggressive, although they will chase or nip at other squirrels that are feeding in their territory.

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Where do squirrels sleep?

They sleep in nests which are made of twigs and leaves and the interior is lined with fur, feathers or other soft material for comfort.  There are normally two exits in the nest, and they are built high in a tree between two strong branches.  They build their nests high enough to provide protection from ground predators, yet not too high or the nest will be destroyed by the winds.  Squirrels also will build a nest in a hollowed-out tree cavity.

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Where can I find White Squirrels?

There are four towns in the United States that use white squirrels as their claims to fame.  These four towns are Olney, IL,  Marionville, MO,   Brevard, NC, and  Kenton, TN.

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