QUICK SUMMARY ↬ Where squirrels sleep depends on the type of squirrels we’re talking about. Tree squirrels and flying squirrels sleep in nests or dens that they create or find in trees while ground squirrels sleep in ground-level burrows.
When we think of squirrels, our mind immediately jumps to a little furry, hyperactive animal that runs back and forth to the trees in our yards! These common backyard visitors may pique our interest and lead us to ask questions like, “when and where do squirrels sleep?”
In this article, we’re going to layout the various sleeping and living habits of squirrels.
Where do squirrels sleep?
Where a squirrel sleeps depends on the type of squirrel, so it’s worth taking a moment to break down the various squirrel species that you might run across in your pretty backyard or hiding out in your home.
More than 200 squirrel species live all over the world, with the notable exception of Australia and Antarctica. However, all of them can be categorized into three primary types of squirrels:
- Flying squirrels
- Ground squirrels
- Tree squirrels
Let’s take a look at some more details for the different types of squirrels and where they nap and snooze.
Despite their name, flying squirrels do not actually fly. Not exactly.
But it can sometimes seem like it due to the web-like skin flaps on their sides. These flaps let these animals glide from one tree to the next, giving the appearance of flight.
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Flying squirrels live in tree dens. They build these homes in summer using bark, grass, leaves, small twigs, and moss. Sometimes, you may run across dens in treehouses or home attics, and it’s not uncommon to see a flying squirrel sleeping on a tree branch or a hollowed-out hole in a tree. They will sleep together during the winter in these nests to keep warm.
Gray, Red, and Fox squirrels are the most common types of tree squirrels. Red squirrels are predominantly found in Europe, while Gray and Fox’s squirrels are found here in America.
Gray squirrels have big eyes. Red squirrels have a coat made up of reddish-brown fur. Nevertheless, squirrels may change their color when they shed this coat during the summer. Therefore, a gray squirrel may have coats that appear gray, white, black, or brown.
Tree squirrels sleep in dreys. A drey is made using twigs, branches, leaves, and mosses. The squirrels strategically position the drey between tree branch forks. Dreys are sometimes found in attics or along the wall of a house.
Tree squirrels will sleep in this nest at night and during parts of the day when they are not out foraging for food.
Most of a ground squirrel’s time is spent—you guessed it—on the ground. These creatures sleep in ground-level burrows. In the northern states, where winters are frigid, ground squirrels hibernate throughout the winter. On the other end of the spectrum, ground squirrels that live in deserts and other extremely hot climates estivate (essentially hot-weather hibernating) during summer when the temperatures are hottest.
During estivation, a squirrel spends most of its time sleeping in an underground burrow that shields it from the hot sun above ground. Squirrels may estivate for up to seven months.
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What time do squirrels go to sleep?
Despite their energetic, playful-seeming behavior, most squirrels’ time is actually spent sleeping. A squirrel spends up to 60% of its day asleep, which means that an average squirrel sleeps for almost 15 hours each day.
So, how are squirrels getting that amazing-sounding almost 15 hours of sleep each day?
Squirrels are crepuscular—especially Gray squirrels—which means they’re only active at dusk and dawn in spring, summer, and fall but are active only during midday in winter. Some species, especially tree squirrels, love the sun and may remain out of their nests all day long during the summer.
When they’re not running around looking for and hoarding food—or mating—squirrels will be in their nests resting or sleeping. Since most of the animals that prey on squirrels here in the greater Austin area are nocturnal, you can bet that they try to avoid predators by staying in their nests at night.
Where do squirrels sleep when it rains?
Squirrels are small animals. They have a small body to surface area ratio, which makes them lose their body heat more rapidly than large animals. Therefore, it’s vital that their bodies don’t get soaked by rain, because when they do, the water makes it even harder for the little mammals to control their core body temperature.
How do squirrels keep from getting soaked from heavy, rainstorms?
They’ve got a couple of tricks. First, they use their bushy tails to shield themselves from the rain. They flip the tail over their body, using it as an umbrella of sorts. Though the tail may get soaked, the rest of the body remains relatively dry. Nevertheless, this works best as protection against light rain.
Squirrels escape heavy downpours by hiding in their nests. The nests are usually built and strategically positioned in such a way that they offer maximum protection against rain and cold. In this way, a squirrel can survive heavy downpours and thunderstorms.
Where do squirrels sleep in winter?
While most homeowners want a straightforward answer to this question, the truth is that it depends on the squirrel. An accurate response becomes even more complicated when we consider places like Central Texas where they rarely get cold weather.
Ground squirrels hibernate during winter. Flying and tree squirrels, on the other hand, do not hibernate. Squirrels that do not hibernate usually fortify their nests, thereby providing better insulation and protection against the cold winter weather. Flying squirrels also believe in safety in numbers and may live together in groups of 10 or more during colder months.
When ground squirrels hibernate, they go into their burrows and sleep. They conserve energy by drastically lowering their body’s metabolic processes and going into a state of prolonged sleep. Ground squirrels that are in hibernation may sleep for as long as five months. The sleep is not complete, though. During each week of hibernation, they might actually be awake for between 12 and 20 hours.
To wrap it up
As you can see, squirrels sleep in the nests that they create either through digging tunnels underground or building dens in hollowed-out cavities in trees.
In both cases, they prefer to build their nests near areas with plenty of food supply, so that they can return back to their nest as quickly as possible when the time is right.