To look at a baby squirrel, you may wonder how such a fragile and vulnerable little thing might have a chance in the world. You may also wonder at the care that a mother must bestow upon their young to give them that chance. It is amazing how something so tiny, precious and dependant, can turn into something so agile, wily and adaptive.
Here are some great baby squirrel facts that you may not know about these fascinating little rodents. As well as some pictures and answers to many frequently asked questions!
6 Fun Baby Squirrel Facts
Baby Squirrels Are Called Kits
Like many other cute and furry mammals, squirrel babies are called kits or kittens if there are more than one. Baby squirrels are born into litters with their siblings and a litter size usually averages around 3-7 kittens. Though larger or smaller litters are not rare. Much if it depends on the species of squirrel.
As they mature, male squirrels are called boars and females are sows. Collectively, a group of squirrels is known as a ‘dray’ or a ‘scurry’. The collective noun ‘drey’ comes from the word ‘dray’ which is a term used to describe a squirrel’s nest. So it may be more appropriate to use the collective noun ‘drey’ of squirrels to describe a nesting family.
Baby Squirrels Are Born Naked And Blind
At birth, squirrel kits are very vulnerable, with closed ears and eyes and completely naked. They remain furless for about 14 days at which point the skin pigment changes and fur starts to grow in. They can have a full coat by about 3 to 4 weeks so it grows in quick once it starts.
Once they have a coat of fur that is usually when their eyes start to open, around week four. Their eyes and their ears start to open and they are less vulnerable to the environment around them. It doesn’t take them long to pick up life skills once they have all their senses, and they may be fully weaned by 10 weeks.
Baby Squirrels Are Fully Dependant On Their Mother
As you might imagine from the fact above, baby squirrels are fully dependant on their mother for the first few weeks of life. They rely on their mothers milk for about the first six weeks, adding solid foods after that. By this time their eyes are open, they have fur and they can start to get a feel for the world around them.
If something happens to the mother in the first few weeks, the outlook is not so good for the kits. Those that end up being rescued need to be given milk and the younger they are, the less time they can go without.
Squirrel Kits Cry
Baby squirrels are known to cry for their mothers, particularly when they are hungry or thirsty or have a sense of danger. The cry is low, and not much of a disturbance to anyone living close to a nest. It is however, loud enough to get the attention of the mother, and they will often respond quickly to the cry of their young.
Squirrels Usually Have Two Litters In A Year
Squirrels are a busy bunch, having up to two litters every year. A pregnancy can last between 25-45 days depending on the breed, and the usual seasons for giving birth are in the early spring and early autumn. While mothers are incredibly active looking after their young and getting them ready for independence, a baby squirrel should be fully weaned at 10 weeks and ready to leave the nest about 4 weeks later.
In total, from mating to kits leaving the nest, can be around 18-21 weeks, then it’s back to a solitary life for the adult sow.
Some Kits Can Glide
Despite their name, not even flying squirrels can actually fly. However, some can glide and at speeds of up to 10-30 mph! They are arboreal animals, and use the skill of gliding to move from tree to tree. They develop the features that allow them to do this from a very young age.
There are around 50 species of flying squirrel in the world, from two specific tribes called Pteromyini and Petauristini. Only squirrels from these families have the features that allow them to glide. The features that allows them to glide is a furry membrane called the patagium. This membrane is like a flap of skin and connects their wrists to their ankles. As they leap from a tree and open their limbs out wide, the patagium opens up like a square and acts like a hang glider.
If you ever wondered where the idea for the wingsuit for base jumping comes from, the flying squirrel surely gave inspiration to the idea. It is a feature still studied today, and replicated in wing tunnels to explore avenues to improve flight.
Baby Squirrel FAQS
How many squirrels are born in a litter?
Typically, between three and seven baby squirrels are born in a litter. However, some litters have as many as 9 babies, while others have as few as one. It all depends on the species of squirrel. For example, tree squirrels typically have larger litters than ground squirrels.
What do baby squirrels look like?
Baby squirrels are born without any fur or teeth, and with closed eyes and ears. But this doesn’t last for long. By week four their ears should start to open and by six weeks they will have a full coat of fur and even start sitting upright in familiar postures.
What do baby squirrels eat?
At first, baby squirrels drink their mother’s milk. After a few weeks, they begin to eat solid food, such as nuts, seeds, and insects. By the time they are ten weeks old, they are fully weaned and eating the same omnivorous diet as their parents.
How quick do baby squirrels grow?
Baby squirrels grow very quickly. They typically double in size within their first week of life. By the time they are two months old, they are almost fully grown. At this point, they begin to leave their nest and venture out on their own. Interestingly, young grey squirrels can be the same size as adult red squirrels.
Where Do Baby Squirrels Live?
Baby squirrels live in nests, which are made of twigs, leaves, and other materials. The nests are typically located high off the ground in trees. Mothers tend to build their nests close to the trunk, in holes or in branch forks, where they have some structural stability. Ground squirrels build their nests underground.
How much do baby squirrels weigh?
Baby squirrels typically weigh between 15-25 grams at birth. They grow quickly and typically weigh around 80-100 grams at four weeks and 250 grams or more by the time they are two months old.
How can you tell how old a baby squirrel is?
You can tell how old a baby squirrel is by its size. Baby squirrels typically double in size within their first week of life. Another way to tell the age of a baby squirrel is by its teeth. New born kits don’t have any teeth at birth, but soon grow milk teeth, which are replaced by permanent teeth at around three months old.
If a baby squirrel has closed eyes and ears it is under a month old, and if it still to develop fur on it’s belly or the tail is not yet bushy, it is probably between 4 – 6 weeks old.
Do baby squirrels carry rabies?
Yes, baby squirrels can carry rabies. Rabies is a deadly disease that can be transmitted to humans through bites or scratches. However, the risk of contracting rabies from a baby squirrel is very low.
What diseases can baby squirrels carry?
Squirrels can carry a variety of diseases, including rabies, typhus, and Tularemia. These diseases can be transmitted to humans through bites or scratches. However, the risk of contracting a disease from a squirrel is very low.
What is the lifespan of a squirrel?
The average lifespan of a squirrel is three to five years in the wild. However, some squirrels have been known to live up to ten years or more, it really does depend on the species and their environment. The longest-lived captive squirrel lived to be 24 years old.
Foods That Are Poisonous For Baby Squirrels:
Some pits and seeds can be toxic to squirrels and should not be fed especially to baby kits. They should always avoid dates or dried fruit of any kind. Pitted fruit like plums and prunes should also be avoided. While they love nuts, Cashews, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts can cause severe calcium loss and should be avoided.
What is the natural predators of a squirrel?
Squirrels have many natural predators, including snakes, owls, hawks, coyotes, raccoons and weasels. However, humans are also a major threat.
The biggest threat to the Red Squirrel however, is not a predator but the squirrel pox disease. This has decimated populations of the Red Squirrel in the UK. It can be carried by the competing Grey Squirrel with no harm to the host, but is responsible for more deaths of the Red Squirrel than anything else today.