Squirrels are fascinating creatures to watch. But have you ever been curious as to how they live?
There are several squirrel species in the U.S. ranging from the common fox tail to the gray squirrels. The exact squirrel population in the country is unknown, but some estimates say that there could be as many one billion squirrels living in the United States alone.
Yes, that’s a lot of squirrels.
Where do they all stay? What do their nests look like? How do they accommodate each other in these nests?
We are going to attempt to answer all these and more questions about squirrel living situations in this article.
What Makes Up a Squirrel Nest?
Squirrels don’t all build the same type of nest, in just the same way as humans don’t build similar houses.
The squirrels nest that a squirrel builds is dependent on two major factors. These are the materials available in their surroundings and also the type of squirrel involved.
The nest that a ground squirrel builds is different from that built by a tree squirrel, and will also be totally different from that built by a flying squirrel.
Each squirrel type has devised its own way of constructing nests. What’s interesting to note is that each type of squirrel pays particular attention to comfort and safety when choosing the site for a nest.
Squirrels Nesting Places
First, we need to know where do squirrels nest?
One thing is common – all squirrels construct their nests inside something.
It doesn’t matter if the nest is up in a tree or under the ground. The nests may vary in structure depending on the geography, available materials and season.
Drays and dens are common homes to flying and tree squirrels and you can see their resting places up in the trees. They mostly use leaves and moss to ensure comfortable bedding. Sometimes, squirrels prefer the empty woodpecker hole as the best place for their nest because it’s safer and comfortable during the winter.
Squirrels also like to opt for dreys in the tree branches especially during the summer season. Leaves, twigs, and moss are the basic squirrel-nest-construction materials.
The ground squirrels rest in underground dens which are similar to a tree-den. If you’re not sure whether it’s a ground squirrel or a tree squirrel, simply step towards it. If it sprits along the ground and disappears somewhere under the ground, then you have your answer. If it sprints and climbs the nearest tree you can be assured that the squirrel in question is a tree squirrel.
The underground den of a squirrel is a network of tunnels (similar to that of a rabbit). Rabbits don’t leave a dirt pile, but squirrels do. You can therefore easily identify a squirrel’s underground den if you happen to see a dirt pile near the hole.
You may find dozens of squirrel nests within a small area because they don’t rely on just one nest. It is normal for the squirrels to build more than two nests.
Where Do Squirrels Sleep?
Being diurnal, squirrels are active during the day and rest during the night in the safety and comfort of their nests.
The sleeping pattern isn’t set in stone, however, and may differ as seasons change. Ground squirrels occasionally aestivate in summer (this means that they spend their time in a dormant state because of the heat) or hibernate during the winter season.
But where do squirrels live in the winter? In the cold regions, as winter sets in, the squirrels retreat to their dens and hibernate for around five months. Their body temperature falls drastically and is generally a few degrees above the outside temperature. The decrease in the body temperature means that the squirrels need a lesser amount of energy as they hibernate.
Squirrel nests provide sufficient protection from the predators and the harsh weather. Tree squirrels don’t hibernate but the ground squirrels do. During the winter, the tree squirrels thicken their nests to keep themselves warm.
Squirrel Nests – More Than Just a Place to Sleep
It’s clear to see that squirrels do more than just sleep in their nests.
In fact, these nests act as shelters from predators, and places where the females give birth. Baby squirrels are very vulnerable in their first weeks and so require warmth, comfort, and to be shielded from the prying eyes of predators.
A quick word of warning, if you want to come in contact with squirrels.
It’s preferable that you wear gloves because squirrels have been known to carry diseases which may be transmitted to human beings via contact. Also, squirrels generally will never attack you. The squirrels that seem to attack people are those that associate humans with food. So be warned.