How Do Squirrels Survive In The Winter? Help Squirrels For Better Winter

The winter presents a challenging period for squirrels, given the intolerable low temperatures and food scarcity often associated with the chilly and frosty season.

Consequently, if you enjoy the presence of these cute little critters, the cold season may get you contemplating; how do squirrels survive in the winter? 

Perhaps it is just out of curiosity, or you dearly love squirrels, and you would appreciate knowing how they manage the winter and how you can help them sustain the callous, cold season.

Well, if that is the case, I would guarantee that you are reading the ideal article.  Tag along to get informed.

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Cute Reptiles as Pets

Do Squirrels Hibernate in The Winter?

Yes, most ground squirrels hibernate in the winter. Hibernation is a state of reduced body temperature and slowed metabolic activity in certain animals.

It’s an adaptation that entails conserving energy to survive extreme weather changes and food shortages

However, not all squirrels hibernate. Flying and tree squirrels, including the fox and red squirrels, do not hibernate.

They are considered homeotherms since they can preserve a perpetual body temperature throughout the seasons; thus, they do not need to hibernate. 

How Do Squirrels Survive In The Winter
A hibernating wild squirrel looking for food

How Do Squirrels Survive In The Winter? 6 Things to Help Squirrels Survive Winter

Whereas not all squirrels’ species hibernate in the winter, they all have different techniques of maneuvering the thrilling winters.

Preparation for the winter, therefore, varies across the numerous species because of the difference in habitation. The following are mechanisms that squirrels employ to survive the winter;

Method #1: Fat Reserves on Body in Autumn

As the winter approaches, trees are usually packed with seeds and nuts that squirrels maximize during the warm season by developing a voracious feeding habit. 

Gray squirrels, for example, gobble up on extra food, thus gaining up to 25 percent of extra weight.

The extra weight added from consuming more food consists of fat reserves, which is essential in keeping the squirrels that don’t hibernate warm during the usually icy winter. 

Method #2: Limit Move Out by Storing Food

ground squirrel bury nuts against winter
Ground squirrel stashing some nuts in the ground against winter

To ensure they are sorted for the winter, tree squirrels overindulge themselves during the fall by setting up food stores towards the end of the year.

They stash up as much food as they can to limit their activities and movement in search of nourishment during the winter.

Tree squirrels’ limited movement in the cold season ensures that they stay warm by using less energy and preserving mutual body heat.

They will often stay in their nests for 2-4 days and only come out to hunt for food.

Method #3: Build Spacious and Share a Nest

To survive the severe winter, squirrels need a place to stay, a warm place, of course. That is where the spacious and warm nests come in.

Tree squirrels often build huge and impressive sheltered nests to overcome the chilly spell.

These nests are usually spacious to accommodate several squirrels for shared body heat. Sharing of nests by squirrels helps them in maintaining their body temperatures.

Method #4: Coat Changes

Squirrels also adjust their bodies for the cold season by developing a bushier coat. These thick coats act as thermal regulators that help the squirrels to balance their body heat. The bushy coats keep the squirrels warm by trapping air and insulating the squirrel.

Method #5: Body Heat

Squirrels depend on body heat to survive the cold winters. Consequently, they make use of different tactics to ensure that their core temperature is maintained. They include:  

By Shivering

Shivering by squirrels during the cold season is significant in producing warmth for the little critters.

The shakings and vibrations behavior resulting from shivering help generate body heat that keeps the squirrel cozy. 

squirrels shiver to keep warm in winter
During winter, squirrels also shiver to generate some body heat and keep warm

Sharing A Nest and Keep Warm Together

Sharing of nests among squirrels is widespread during the winter as a mechanism of combating the cold. Squirrels benefit from shared body heat if they crowd together in a den.  

Grey squirrels are not very accommodating and share a nest with just a few other squirrels. On the other hand, Flying squirrels are generous by disposition and can reportedly share nests with more than ten other squirrels. 

Method #6: Physiological Changes

Squirrels, particularly those that hibernate, undergo psychological changes as a necessary adaptation in enduring the frosty season. Examples of those psychological changes include reduced body temperature and slowed metabolism.

Reduced body temperature and slowed metabolism allow hibernating squirrels to conserve energy to survive adverse atmospheric conditions or food shortages. 

How squirrels survive winter [source: BBC Earth]

What Can Humans Do to Help Squirrels Survive in Extreme cold?

Winters can be very harsh and overwhelming for our wild little friends – squirrels. Temperatures drop rapidly, and food sources become extinct, putting the lives of squirrels at a balance. 

Sometimes, a little intervention from humans can make the difference. Humans can help squirrels survive in the following ways:

Tip #1: Provide Food

Food is very critical because it provides the energy needed by squirrels to survive the cold winters.

During this time, most food sources are frozen or buried, and sometimes the food cached during the fall may not be enough.

Therefore, you can aid squirrels by offering them food consisting of nuts, seeds, and fruits throughout the cold season to boost their energy levels and prevent them from dying.

Tip #2: Provide a Fresh Source of Water

Squirrels need to stay hydrated despite the cold winters, and it’s always a challenge as vital water sources are usually blocked by ice. Therefore, providing a source of clean water for squirrels can be very helpful.  

FAQs

What Temperature Can Squirrels Survive?

Different species of squirrels have different genetic adaptations that help them in surviving icy weather conditions.

For example, ground squirrels, e.g., the Arctic ground squirrel, can survive temperatures as low as -30 degrees centigrade.

On the other hand, Tree squirrels do not hibernate and can withstand temperatures not below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. 

What do squirrels eat in the winter?

When it’s cold outside, and squirrels need to eat, they rely on cached food that constitutes nut fruits such as acorns and seeds.
They may also periodically come out of their nests to feed on bugs, mushrooms, and soil, or anything edible they can find.

Do squirrels hibernate in the winter?

Most ground squirrels hibernate in winter, for instance, the Arctic ground squirrel. On the other hand, Tree squirrels do not hibernate but spend most of their time in their nests.

Should I feed squirrels in winter?

Since food is always a critical concern for squirrels in winter, it is appropriate to feed them during this time.

This is because they barely roam around to forage for food during the summer and still need all the food they can get. 

Can squirrels freeze to death?

Winters can be exhilarating for squirrels, and if they don’t get all the prerequisites, such as warm dens and enough food, they can definitely freeze to death if the temperature falls to extreme levels. 

Wrapping up

Winters are technically tribulation periods for squirrels. They are characterized by low temperatures that the little creatures find difficult to sustain and food shortages that are always fatal to the existence of squirrels. 

However, squirrels are intelligent creatures. During the fall, they usually prepare for the harsh winters through various activities, such as building spacious and warm nests and creating food stores to counter food shortages. 

Ground squirrels, on the other hand, sustain the winter by hibernating, unlike tree squirrels.

In some instances, squirrels get overwhelmed, and humans can be beneficial by intervening through the provision of food and fresh water sources. In conclusion, squirrels can survive the winter with the proper preparation.