Do you have a lot of squirrels running around your yard? Or do you have one of these furry creatures as your pet? They seem to be everywhere! Either way, you are probably a little curious about them. One particular question in your mind might be about their life span. So, how long do squirrels live?
The answer is that it varies. There are many different species of squirrels and the lifespan may be different for most of them. Amongst others, a factor that plays into their lifespan is their habitat. So let’s learn some more about squirrels and their lifespan.
How Long Do All the Different Types of Squirrels Live?
As we mentioned already, the lifespan will vary for different species.
They have a life expectancy of 5 years. However, less than a quarter of their population survives beyond a year. The longest lifespan of a red squirrel that was recorded is 10 years. The female ones live for a shorter span than male squirrels. Captive red squirrels can live till they are 8 years old.
Southern Flying Squirrels
The ones that live in the wild could survive anywhere between 3 to 5 years. Their lifespan is longer when they are in captivity. Captive squirrels could live up to 10 years.
Squirrels of this species living in the wild have a short life expectancy of 2 to 4 years. Females in the wild could make it to 4 years while males usually live only for 2 years.
Eastern Grey Squirrels
The squirrels living in the wild can survive up to 12 years. When they live in captivity they can live longer for about 18 years. The longest lifespan recorded amongst this species is 20 years.
Black squirrels belong to this species and the high melanin content in their body changes their hair color. These live up to the age of 6 years in the wild. They are not commonly found in the United States.
Eastern Fox Squirrels
Squirrels that live in the wild may survive anywhere between 8 to 18 years. These squirrels usually don’t make it to maturity. The females live longer till an average age of 13 years than the male squirrels which usually live till they turn 8. When they are kept in captivity, this species can make it till they turn 18. This is a very long lifespan when compared to most other animals.
How Many Kinds of Squirrels are There?
Squirrels are considered mammals as well as rodents. Their furry bodies and mammary glands fit them into the category of mammals. But they are called rodents because they used their powerful front teeth to gnaw through most things.
Surprisingly, there are more than 200 different species of squirrels in the world. They are naturally found in large numbers in most countries with the exception of Australia and Antarctica.
Since they prefer wooded regions, Antarctica does not have the kind of environment they would thrive in. In Australia, the native possums would be competition for these creatures.
Some types of squirrels include tree squirrels, flying squirrels, and ground squirrels.
The tree squirrels live in woodlands as well as city areas. Since they are good climbers, they like being on trees. They come down to look for food like acorns or berries. Some tree squirrels eat tree sap and bark too.
Flying squirrels don’t actually fly but they can coast from one tree to another by extending their legs and arms. They have flaps of skin that connect their body to their limbs and this gives them a winglike attachment. It makes it look like they are flying across the sky. These species like living in tree holes or nests.
Ground squirrels are small mammals and prefer staying in groups for safety. They like eating roots, leaves, plants, and seeds. These creatures also eat small animals like caterpillars and insects.
Does Diet Affect Their Lifespan?
Squirrels will usually eat anything they can get. They are omnivores and this means that they eat everything from vegetables to meat. If you observe squirrels near you, you will notice that their favorite foods include nuts, seeds, fruit, and fungi. However, they can also be seen eating eggs, insects, etc.
There isn’t enough data to determine whether their food habits affect their lifespan. But squirrels tend to eat healthy foods most of the time and the variation in their diet is likely to work in their favor. Unlike humans, squirrels are not likely to die of heart attacks!
So, How Can They Survive So Long?
If you compare the life expectancy of certain types of squirrels to other animals, you can see that they live quite long. The level of predation is one factor that affects their life span. They are more susceptible to being preyed upon in the wild. But they also have great eyesight and quick reflexes while being excellent climbers. This is how they escape most attacks.
When they live in captivity, it is much easier for them to survive since they are protected from predators and also given a steady source of food. They don’t have to fight for their territory or for mating.
Other Factors Affecting Squirrels’ Life Span
Diseases are one cause of death for squirrels since they are prone to catching squirrel pox and such viral diseases. These creatures also become hosts for parasites adult flesh flies. Fleas and ticks are not lethal for them but can affect their health.
One major problem that can be an issue for squirrels is tooth loss. Their strong incisors are very important to them. These front teeth keep growing through their lives and it helps them catch and consume food. If their teeth break or if they suffer tooth loss, it could be a cause of starvation. It is difficult for a squirrel without teeth to survive.
Loss of vision is a problem that some squirrels encounter when they get older. Eye infections or cataracts make it difficult for squirrels to forage for food.
The Bottom Line
A squirrel’s lifespan is determined by many different things. However, these creatures are quite hardy and survive longer than most other rodents. If you want your pet squirrel or those living in your backyard to live longer, you could provide a squirrel feeder like this Pennington Cedar one or set up a nesting box for them. This way, you can help them live a long and peaceful life.