Have you come across squirrels in your garden? But do you ever ask yourself how long do squirrels live? Did you know that there are different species of squirrels (just like with chipmunks) and they have a different life span and
Well, I was in the same situation as you a few years back when I had squirrels all over my garden. This prompted me into finding out more about squirrels. Here is what I found.
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How Long Do Squirrels Live?
The life span of a squirrel is dependent on its species and the predisposing factors. For instance, squirrels in captivity live longer than those that live in the wild. The life span of the squirrels in the wild is shorter than those that live in captivity.
- Squirrels have predators like hawks, dogs among other carnivores in the wild. They barely survive even two years of their life. In case this happens, most of these squirrels can live between 6-12 years on average.
- Squirrels can be categorized into 3 species which include flying squirrels, ground and tree squirrels.
1. Ground squirrels
Ground squirrels’ life span varies from 2-4 years. Female squirrels live longer with a life span of 4 years while male squirrels live up to 2 years. This is according to the research carried out on California ground squirrels.
2. American red squirrel
The average life span of an American red squirrel is 5 years. Though this is not the case with most squirrels and 25% will live beyond one year.
- Unlike ground squirrels, male red squirrels live longer than female ones.
- It takes about 2-4 years for this squirrel to attain its maturity. But, in captivity, their life span can go up to 8 years.
The oldest living red squirrel was recorded to be 10 years.
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3. Fox squirrels
They are popularly known as eastern fox squirrels. They are mostly found in North America and are known for their distinct color of rich and chest brown.
- They have a lifespan of 18 years while living as wild squirrels. Females have a longer lifespan than males. A female can live up to 13 years of age while a male can live up to 8 years of age.
- However, most of these squirrels will barely live up to maturity
4. Southern flying squirrel
These are the only flying squirrels in North America. They have an average life span of 3-5 years.
Although the oldest recorded squirrel was 19 years, most flying squirrels will live up to 10 years when in confinement.
5. Black Squirrels
Black squirrels and the eastern grey squirrels belong to the same species with the only difference being the amount of melanin. The black species has more melanin than the fox grey species.
If in the wild, this species can live up to 6 years but this can increase up to 18 years when in captivity.
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6. Eastern Grey Squirrels
This is a common squirrel in the Midwest. They have a lifespan of 12-24 years. The oldest recorded grey squirrel was 20 years.
Factors That Affect the Life Span of Squirrels
If you are keeping a squirrel as a pet, there are different factors that can lower or raise the life span of any squirrel. Below is an outline.
1. Pest and diseases
Squirrels like any other animals are prone to pests and diseases which if not treated, can lead to death.
- Squirrels are very much prone to viral diseases and the most common viral disease is squirrel pox. It is transmitted by insect bites which later turn into a tumor in some squirrels. In others, this virus can lead to skin ulcers, lesions, and scabs.
- There are some other squirrels like the European red squirrel who are so vulnerable that they can even die from the infection. However, there are also those squirrels like the grey squirrel that are resistant to the virus.
The most common pests are ticks and fleas. There are also parasites that you are likely to see in squirrels-such are flesh fly that lays its larvae on the ground squirrel. These larvae penetrate the squirrel’s skin and continue feeding on the body tissues of the squirrel.
- In this case, the squirrel can only survive for 5-6 days if not treated.
- Other parasites are single-celled coccidia which is found in the digestive system. Though it’s not fatal, it affects can lead to health deterioration of the squirrel.
Also, they can be attacked by nematodes and flatworms.
In the food chain, squirrels are prey to many animals and carnivorous birds. The most common predators are hawks and owls. Their preference for squirrels makes them the number one predators.
- Other predators include foxes, weasels, skunks, rattle, and black snakes. Unlike other predators, snakes prefer feeding on the young squirrels.
3. Squirrels in town
Though there are not many predators in the urban areas, squirrels are exposed to all sorts of dangers including being hit by cars, attack by dogs among others.
- The attacks on the squirrels are less but only skillful and the well-camouflaged squirrels can survive in the urban set-up.
The grey squirrels do very well in the adapted urban set-up as compared to other types of squirrels due to their color.
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4. Loss of eyesight
When squirrels become older, they develop cataracts and have a high likelihood of losing vision.
- This is very dangerous because most of them depend on that to easily spot their predators and run away from danger. Poor eyesight makes them a soft target and an easy way for them to die.
5. Loss of teeth
Squirrels are rodents who greatly use their incisors in gnawing and eat. These incisors are sharp and continually grows throughout a squirrel’s life.
- Anytime the scissor is broken, damaged, or lost this means inability by the squirrel to feed which can lead to death through starvation.
- Some squirrels may also suffer a condition called malocclusion where it has misaligned incisors-these affects their feeding in a great way. The good thing is that this condition can be corrected and the squirrels lead a normal life.
How long do squirrels live? This will totally depend on the predisposing factors and also the species of the squirrel.
- It is also good to note that, most squirrels in captivity live longer than those in the wild. Most probably, a lot of squirrels have a longer life span if they survive the first and the second year of their life.
Besides all these factors that lead to a shorter lifespan, it is good to be nice to the squirrels and other animals in your garden. If you have spotted squirrels frequently in your garden, maybe you need to consider doing a feeding area for them.