How Long Do Squirrels Live?
Squirrels are small, and often known by their bushy-tails – they may look cute but they are actually rodents and a common pest problem in America. However they are found in all parts of the world. This animal belongs to the Sciuridae family which includes other animals such as prairie dogs, chipmunks and marmots.
According to the Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), there are over 200 species of squirrels and they are categorized into three types: tree squirrels, ground squirrels and flying squirrels. However for this article we will focus on the species that live in North America.
Due to the amount of different species, each type of squirrel has a different expected life span.
Squirrels in captivity tend to live much longer than squirrels in the wild.
What’s in this guide?
- What are squirrels?
- How long do squirrels live?
- What factors affect their life span?
- Summary on the squirrel lifespan
What are squirrels?
Fun fact: The Squirrel is both a rodent and also a mammal. They are rodents because they gnaw on food sources and objects with their sharp over-sized incisors. They are considered mammals due to being covered in hair and having mammary glands to feed their young.
Squirrels are popular all over the world ranging from places such as North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Even though there are over 200 species of Squirrels on earth, for this article we will focus on North America.
Where Do Squirrels Live?
Squirrels can be broken up into three categories which helps to understand where each type lives; tree, ground and flying.
These squirrels like the name suggests typically build their nests in the crooks of branches or in burrows within trees, which makes for a safe food storage area.
Ground Squirrels however naturally live under the ground, they normally dig deep burrows to hide from predators.
Flying squirrels depend very much on the squirrel, some live in burrows in trees while others build nests in branches and move their nests frequently to avoid predators. Their wings allow them to survive as they can move quickly from tree to tree.
How long do squirrels live?
If squirrels are raised in captivity such as zoos or animal sanctuaries, it has been recorded that squirrels can live for up to 24 years. Surprising right?
However in reality squirrels won’t live for this long, this is due to the number of threats in a day the average squirrel will face. Most squirrels will not make it to their first year, but if they do they tend to live between 6-10 years.
To accurately explain the lifespan of squirrels, we must first breakdown squirrels into their common types.
Red squirrels are commonly found in North America. They are also known to have quite a high mortality rate and only 25% of this species will make it past their first year, if they do they can live up to 5 years in the wild.
The male red squirrels tend to live longer than the female ones, which for other squirrel species it’s the opposite. The longest recorded lifespan of a red squirrel in the wild is 10 years.
Fox squirrels are expected to live between 8 and 18 years in the wild, however most fox squirrels will die before maturity. Female fox squirrels have been recorded to live up to 13 years of age while male squirrels have lived for 8 years, on average.
While in captivity, it has also been recorded that fox squirrels have lived up to 18 years old, which is quite long compared to other rodents.
Southern flying squirrels
Southern flying squirrels have a rather short lifespan, they live up to 3 to 5 years in the wild which compared to their non-flying cousins is very short.
While in captivity however they tend to live much longer and have an average lifespan of 10 years. The highest age that has been recorded for a flying squirrel in captivity was 19 years.
Eastern grey squirrels
Eastern grey squirrels are recorded to have made it up to a nice age of 12 years in the wild. They are commonly found throughout the Midwest and are what several people in America would think of when trying to imagine a squirrel.
Ground squirrels such as the Richardson ground squirrels have a very short lifespan ranging from 2-4 years while in the wild.
Once again males tend to have a shorter life span than females, female ground squirrels commonly live for four years in the wild while the males only live for two. These squirrels are a common pest problem for people in America.
Black Squirrels are considered to be within the fox or eastern grey squirrels category. Their hair color depends on the levels of melanin in their body.
The black squirrel is quite rare in the United States but may be found in the midwest. Most of these black squirrels are capable of surviving up to 6 years in the wild.
Factors that impact how long squirrels live?
Squirrels face many problems which reduce their average life expectancy such as: predators, disease, parasites, tooth loss and vision loss. If they survive all of these potential life threatening problems they may live a long life.
Like all animals in the food chain, most squirrels may not live past their first year. The most immediate threat to the life of a squirrel is a predator. Owls and hawks are their most common predators but are also at risk from animals such as weasels, foxes, skunks and snakes.
Even though squirrels face all types of predators, they have a more immediate and modern day predator that the average squirrel faces is getting run over by a car.
Common diseases squirrels face
Squirrels are commonly infected by diseases such as squirrel pox, which spreads through insect bites and can cause tumors. This virus can cause lesions, skin ulcers and scabs and these lesions may swell producing a discharge liquid that will make the squirrel lethargic and will eventually die. Like other rodents such as mice and rats they may become host to a serious of parasites.
Squirrel Lifespan Summary
When discussing age, like most animals, squirrels in the wild have much shorter lifespans than in captivity. If you have noticed one or two squirrels in your yard, take peace in that it will most likely die within a year.
That being said the strong squirrels who do make it past a year, could end up being around for a long time. Perfect if you’re looking to keep one as a pet.
Male vs female – Which squirrel lives longer?
Female squirrels are more likely to live longer than the male squirrel. In various studies the grey squirrel population of squirrels, the female squirrel has been recorded to live for 12 years while the male squirrel was 9.
Tree squirrel vs ground squirrel – who lives longer?
Due to tree squirrels being able to escape in the crooks of trees and live way above the ground, tree squirrels typically live longer than the ground squirrel.
Other Squirrel Guides
If squirrels are causing you a headache, have a look at our other squirrel articles. We have a range of in-depth guides to help deal with your squirrel problems.