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Home » Blog » Where do the squirrels go in the winter? 

Where do the squirrels go in the winter? 


Is common sight Squirrels in different parts of the country, with their bushy tails and nimble movements making them a favorite among nature enthusiasts. However, as the winter months approach, these furry creatures seem to disappear, leaving many people wondering where they go. In this text, we will find the answer to where squirrels go in the winter and shed some light on their mysterious whereabouts.

During the winter months, squirrels undergo a significant behavior change. As the temperatures drop and food becomes scarce, they start their planification for the cold months. Squirrels are known for their ability to store food, and they spend much of the fall gathering and hoarding nuts, seeds, and other food items. They bury their stash in various locations, including underground burrows, tree hollows, and even in the eaves of buildings.

Despite their impressive food storage abilities, squirrels still need a cozy, safe, and warm spot to spend the winter. Unlike some other animals that hibernate, squirrels remain active throughout the winter months, but they do spend much of their time in their nests, which are often located in trees or other high places. These squirrel nest in winter, also known as dreys, are made mostly from leaves and twigs and are designed to provide insulation against the cold.

Squirrel Behavior in Winter and Why It is of Interest

Squirrel Behavior in Winter

Squirrels are active animals that are commonly seen during the warm months of the year. However, what happens with squirrel during winter? they seem to disappear. This raises the question, where do squirrels go in the winter? Understanding squirrel behavior in winter is of interest to many people, especially those who enjoy watching these furry creatures.

Do Squirrels Hibernate in the Winter?

Contrary to popular belief, squirrels do not hibernate in the winter. Instead, they enter a state of decreased activity called torpor. During torpor, their core temperature decreases, and their cardiac and respiratory rates decelerate. This allows them to preserve vitality and endure the unforgiving winter climate.

Squirrels also have the ability to adapt their behavior to the changing seasons. As an illustration, they can spend time in their nests during the cold days and come out only when necessary to conserve energy.

In conclusion, understanding squirrel behavior in winter is of great interest to many people. While squirrels do not hibernate, they have several adaptations that help them to sort out the difficulties related to winter. By storing food, maintaining their body temperature, and adapting their behavior, squirrels are able to thrive even in the coldest months of the year.

Various species of squirrels and their widespread presence

Squirrels are widely observed across numerous regions globally, with more than 200 squirrel species existing. They inhabit America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.. Each species of squirrel has its own unique characteristics and behaviors, but they all share some common traits.

One of the most common questions about squirrels is whether they hibernate in the winter. While many animals do hibernate during the winter months, squirrels do not. Instead, they spend the winter months gathering and storing food to survive the colder months.

Different species of squirrels have different ways of surviving the winter. To give an example, the gray squirrel, builds nests called dreys in the branches of trees. These dreys are made of leaves, twigs, and other materials and provide shelter for the squirrels during the winter months.

The red squirrel, which is found in Europe and Asia, also builds nests in trees. However, they prefer to build their nests in coniferous trees because the needles provide insulation and help keep them warm.

Ground squirrels, on the other hand, burrow underground to escape the cold. During the winter season, they depend on their accumulated body fat to sustain them until spring arrives.

Overall, squirrels are fascinating creatures that have adapted to survive in a variety of environments. The extensive distribution of squirrels across diverse regions serves as evidence of their resilience and capacity to adapt to varying environments.

Understanding Squirrels

Squirrels are a common sight in most parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. These small, agile, and furry creatures are known for their ability to climb trees and bushy tails. However, when winter comes, squirrels disappear from sight, leaving many people wondering where they go.

Different Types of Squirrels

Three primary categories of squirrels exist: arboreal squirrels, terrestrial squirrels, and gliding squirrels. Each category boasts distinctive traits and behaviors exclusive to their habitat and lifestyle.

1. Tree squirrels

Tree squirrels, as the name suggests, spend most of their time in trees. They are excellent climbers and can jump from branch to branch with ease. During the winter, tree squirrels build nests in trees to keep their distance from predators and have a warm place. 

2. Ground squirrels

Ground Squirrel

Ground squirrels, on the other hand, live in burrows underground. They are diurnal creatures, meaning they are active during the day, and they enter a state of hibernation throughout the winter season. Ground squirrels are known for their ability to store food in their burrows, which they rely on during the winter.

3. Flying squirrels

Despite their name, the flying squirrels do not fly. Instead, they glide from tree to tree using flaps of skin between their legs. Flying squirrels are nocturnal and build nests in trees during the winter.

General Squirrel Behavior

Squirrels are known for their cleverness and adaptability. They exhibit a diverse array of behaviors tailored to ensure their survival in various habitats and conditions.

1. Nesting habits

As mentioned earlier, squirrels build nests in trees or underground burrows to keep warm during the winter. These nests can be made using a lot of materials, including leaves, twigs, and grass.

2. Foraging patterns

Squirrels are opportunistic in their feeding habits, consuming a wide range of food items to sustain themselves,  including nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects. During the winter, when food is scarce, squirrels rely on their stored food or venture out to find new sources of food.

3. Reproductive cycles

Squirrels have a breeding season in the spring and summer, giving birth to litters of 2-8 young. These young are born in nests and stay with their mother for various months before leaving the nest.

In conclusion, squirrels are fascinating creatures that have adapted to survive in a variety of environments. During the winter, they use their cleverness and adaptability to stay warm and find food. Understanding squirrel behavior can help us appreciate these creatures and the important part that they play in our lives.

Preparing for Winter

Squirrels are well-known for their ability to survive harsh winter conditions. They have a range of adaptations that allow them to endure the cold, including behavioral, physiological, and morphological changes. In this section, we will explore how squirrels prepare for winter, focusing on their food gathering and storage habits, as well as their nest preparation.

Food Gathering and Storage

Food Gathering and Storage

1. Foraging increases before winter

As winter approaches, squirrels increase their foraging activity to gather as much food as possible. They will eat a variety of foods, including nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects. Squirrels possess a sharp sense of smell, aiding them in pinpointing food sources. They will climb trees, dig in the ground, and search through leaf litter to find food.

2. Caching behavior and scatter hoarding

Squirrels are known for their caching behavior, which involves storing food in various locations for later use. They will often scatter hoard food, which means they will bury it in different locations rather than storing it all in one place. This reduces the risk of losing all their food if a predator finds one of their caches. Squirrels will also use existing holes in trees or the ground to store food.

3. Role of memory in relocating caches

Squirrels have an impressive memory that allows them to relocate their caches when food becomes scarce. They use landmarks and other cues to find their caches, and they can remember the locations of hundreds of caches. This skill to remember the place of their caches is very important for their survival during the winter months.

Nest Preparation

Nest Preparation

1. The construction of dreys and burrows

Squirrels build nests, also called “dreys”, high in trees to provide shelter during the winter. They construct dreys using twigs, leaves, and other materials. Some squirrels will also use burrows in the ground for shelter. Burrows provide better insulation than dreys, but they are more vulnerable to flooding.

2. Insulation and materials used

Squirrels use a variety of materials to insulate their nests, including leaves, moss, and fur. They will line their nests with these materials to provide additional warmth. Some squirrels will also use communal nests, where several squirrels will share a single nest to conserve body heat.

3. Location and its importance

The location of a squirrel's nest is crucial for its survival during the winter. Dreys should be located in a sheltered area, away from the wind and rain. Burrows should be located on high ground to avoid flooding. Squirrels will also build their nests near a food source to reduce the amount of time they need to spend outside during the winter.

In conclusion, squirrels have a range of adaptations that allow them to survive the harsh winter conditions. The capacity to gather, store food, and prepare nests are vital aspects of squirrels' survival strategies. 

Squirrels In Winter: Myths vs. Reality

Hibernation Myths

  1. Clarifying which species hibernate Squirrels are often thought to hibernate during the winter months, but this is not entirely true. While some species of squirrels do hibernate, others do not. Ground squirrels are true hibernators, meaning they enter a state of deep sleep and remain inactive for several months. Tree squirrels are one example of squirrels that do not hibernate in winter. They remain active throughout the winter, but they do store food and spend more time in their nests to conserve energy.
  2. The confusion with ground squirrels and tree squirrels: The confusion between ground squirrels and tree squirrels is understandable. While both belong to the squirrel family, their behaviors diverge significantly in terms of winter survival strategies. Ground squirrels live in burrows underground and hibernate during the winter. Tree squirrels, on the other hand, live in trees and do not hibernate.

The Reality of Squirrel Hibernation

  1. True hibernators among squirrel species: Of the 285 species of squirrels, only a few are true hibernators. These include ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and marmots. When they are in hibernation-mode, they drop their temperature body, and their heart rate slows down significantly.
  2. Torpor vs. hibernation: While tree squirrels do not hibernate, they use a similar method called torpor. During this phase, their body temperature drops, and their metabolism slows down to conserve energy. However, torpor only lasts for a few hours at a time, and the squirrels wake up periodically to eat and move around.

In conclusion, while some species of squirrels do hibernate during the winter, others do not. It is very important to know the differences between ground squirrels and tree squirrels, as well as the distinction between hibernation and torpor. By understanding this, we can have a better picture of the amazing adaptations that squirrels have developed to survive the winter months.

Adaptive Behaviors in Winter

Squirrels have developed various adaptive behaviors to survive the harsh winter months. These behaviors include energy conservation and adjustments to their social behavior.

Energy Conservation

  1. Reduced activity and its advantages: Squirrels tend to reduce their activity during the cold months to save energy. This means that they spend less time foraging, moving, and playing. By reducing their activity level, squirrels can lower their metabolic rate and conserve energy.
  2. Physical adaptations to withstand cold: Squirrels have physical adaptations that help them withstand the cold. For example, they have thick fur that keeps them warm and helps them retain body heat. Additionally, squirrels have the ability to shiver, which generates heat and helps them maintain a good temperature.

Squirrel Social Behavior During Winter

  1. Solitary vs. communal living: Some squirrel species are solitary during the winter, while others live in communal dens. Solitary squirrels tend to be more territorial and defend their food and shelter. Communal squirrels, on the other hand, share resources and huddle together to conserve heat.
  2. Sharing dens to conserve heat: Communal squirrels often share dens to conserve heat. They may also build larger nests or dens to accommodate multiple squirrels. Sharing dens can help squirrels survive the winter.


Key Findings about Where Squirrels Go in the Winter and Their Survival Strategies

Throughout the winter, squirrels have a variety of survival strategies to cope with the harsh weather. Some squirrels hibernate, while others remain active and rely on their food caches to survive. It is important to note that some squirrels do not hibernate in the traditional sense, but, as we explained before, they can enter a state called torpor, a very similar hibernation state.

Additionally, squirrels have a remarkable ability to adapt to their environment. They build nests, or dreys, in trees and use their bushy tails as insulation to keep warm. They also can store food in various locations, such as underground, in tree hollows, or even in the attic of your house, to ensure they have enough to eat throughout the winter.

If in winter you hear squirrels in your attic, it is important to take action to remove them before they cause damage to your property. Critter Stop is a professional wildlife removal company that can safely and humanely remove squirrels from your home. Contact us at (214) 234-2616 today to schedule a free estimate and protect your property from further damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do squirrels survive the cold season?

Squirrels are able to survive the cold season by adapting to the changing environment. They grow thicker fur to keep warm and build nests to protect themselves from the cold winds. They also collect and store food during weeks to ensure they have enough to eat during the cold months. 

Where do squirrels live during winter?

Squirrels live in a variety of places during the winter, including nests in trees, burrows in the ground, and even in attics or sheds. 

Do all species of squirrels hibernate?

No, not all species of squirrels hibernate during the winter. Some, such as the gray squirrel, enter a state of torpor, while others, such as the red squirrel, remain active throughout the winter months.

What is the typical behavior of squirrels in winter?

During the winter months, squirrels spend much of their time foraging for food and staying warm in their nests or burrows. They might also exhibit social behaviors, like communicating with fellow squirrels through vocalizations and body gestures.

How do squirrels survive in winter?

Squirrels are able to survive in winter by adapting to the changing environment. They develop denser fur, construct nests, hoard food, and undergo torpor to conserve energy. By doing so, they are able to survive the cold weather and emerge in the spring ready to start a new season.

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Lee Gorman
Lee Gorman
13:50 21 Nov 22
I’d give a 10 star review if I could! We had a great experience with Critter Stop. Everyone I dealt was friendly, professional, and reassuring. Phillip was very helpful and knowledgeable about the work he was doing. He walked me around the entire house to make sure I saw and understood the services he provided. He was also really nice and answered all my questions — he is exactly the type of person that should be interacting with customers.I love the fact that they will come back for up to 1 year after installation if any problems occur — this shows me they stand behind their work.The owner was great too, he personally came to my house and walked me through their offering. I recommend critter stop to anyone and everyone!
Susan Casey
Susan Casey
14:53 15 Nov 22
Critter Stop is a fantastic business! Everyone involved is extremely professional and very easy to communicate with. Chisam, the owner, did a great job of explaining the process to get the squirrels out of my attic during the initial free estimate. The exclusion crew who did all of the initial work was fabulous. The crew consisted of Phillip, Nick and Corey who arrived promptly when they said they would. They are happy, positive employees. Everyone is very polite and patient in explaining their work and answering questions. They came back several times to check the traps and finish it off with the fogging. Lester was very good about following up to schedule each trap check with me, and the office staff who took care of the billing was very efficient. Critter Stop is a well run company with honest, trustworthy employees! Thank you to all of you who worked hard to make my attic critter free and for the peace of mind that you guarantee your work. Great to know I can call them if for some reason a squirrel figures out a way to get back in!
Karen Eckholdt
Karen Eckholdt
14:54 22 Sep 22
Critter Stop has made this project easy and extremely professional from start to finish! They are very detailed and competent from start to finish and know so much about their business. They made a problem easy for us and at a reasonable cost. We would be happy to recommend this company and their owners and staff to anyone.
Aaron Echols
Aaron Echols
13:51 03 Aug 22
The guys at Critter Stop responded quickly, were very friendly, and gave us an honest estimate of what we might need. They explained why some items on other quotes were or were not necessary. They communicated well to get us scheduled, and did the work well and quickly. Great service at a fair and competitive price.
Jacob Scribner
Jacob Scribner
19:23 27 Jul 22
Brandon and his other coworker Gavin came to install insulation in my attic. I am very grateful for the hard work and professionalism. My house feels a lot better with the insulation installed. 5 star review. Cory Leach was also very nice and helpful. He came to my house to do another job and was very attentive and professional. Thank you Corey and thank you Critter Stop for helping me.The owner very polite and helpful, I’m glad I found this company to help me.
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