Squirrel Gestation Period: How Long Are Squirrels Pregnant?
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Squirrels are curious, hardworking little creatures that never seem to sit still. Whether they're running from branch to branch or chasing away a poor dog, they always have a mission to accomplish. They are so cute that some people even tame them and keep them as pets. But just like any other animal, one of their most important tasks is to reproduce as many offspring as possible. So, how many baby squirrels can a squirrel give birth to at one time? Are Squirrels Good Parents? How long are squirrels pregnant? Read on to learn all about these rodents and how they reproduce!
types of squirrels
Squirrels are small to medium-sized rodents belonging to the family Sciuridae . There are about 200 species of squirrels in the world. Scientists typically divide these species into tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels.
Tree squirrels are the most popular, and this includes squirrels that spend most of their time in trees. Examples are:
- red squirrel
- fox squirrel
- eastern gray squirrel
Ground squirrels spend most of their time above or below ground. This group includes chipmunks, groundhogs, and prairie dogs. Other examples are:
- arctic ground squirrel
- black tailed marmot
- yellow-bellied marmot
Flying squirrels have a patagium, a specialized membrane of skin that connects the wrists and ankles. This enables them to glide from tree to tree, mimicking flight. Examples are:
- Northern flying squirrel
- Humboldt's flying squirrel
- Palawan flying squirrel
Squirrel Appearance and Size
Squirrels are agile, slender animals with long, bushy tails. They have excellent eyesight and their eyes appear larger than their faces. Their claws are very dexterous, and each claw has four or five appendages. Squirrels have short, soft fur that comes in a variety of colors, including white, gray, brown, gold, red, and black. Squirrels have teeth that never stop growing, including four incisors, that must be constantly chewed to wear them down.
Squirrels vary in height. One of the most common squirrels, the eastern gray, is 9-12 inches long. The smallest squirrel in the world is the African pygmy squirrel, measuring only 5 inches from nose to tail. The largest squirrel in the world is the red and white flying squirrel. This rodent mammoth can grow up to 3.9 feet long, including the tail, and weigh up to 9.5 pounds!
Squirrel Diet and Predators
Squirrels are omnivores and carefully store food in multiple locations during the lean winter months. On the vegetarian side, they eat nuts, seeds, fungi, fruits, vegetables, and other plants. When these food sources are insufficient, they also turn to protein sources such as eggs, insects, amphibians, other rodents, young birds, and snakes.
Squirrels face many predators in the wild. Cats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, weasels, bobcats and badgers all prey on squirrels. In addition to this, they must always be on the lookout for birds of prey such as hawks, owls, falcons and falcons.
Squirrels are native to every continent except Australia and Antarctica. While Antarctica has no squirrels at all, Australia is home to two exotic species: the American gray squirrel and the northern palm squirrel. These species are considered invasive.
Unsurprisingly, tree squirrels prefer to live in the forest, making their homes in dens or hollow tree stumps. They are most likely to live in coniferous or mixed forests. Ground squirrels choose grasslands as their habitat, burrowing deep underground. They usually live in parks, pastures, fields and meadows. Flying squirrels make their home in deciduous, coniferous or mixed forests. They build nests and dig burrows, sometimes requisitioning abandoned nests or holes.
Squirrels are friendly and curious animals and often allow humans to hand feed them. Among them, most species are communal and form hierarchies within their groups. Males tend to be dominant unless young are present; females guard their territories carefully. Certain species of squirrels, such as the eastern gray squirrel, are solitary unless mated.
Squirrels can be very noisy, such as chattering, barking, squeaking and snoring. They communicate to warn each other of danger or to signal readiness to mate. For example, male eastern gray squirrels sneeze when they chase females in heat, and females often "moan" to attract males.
Squirrel Breeding and Lifespan
Squirrels usually only breed once or twice a year. Mid-December or early January is the prime time for breeding, and some squirrels mate again in June. Males chase females through the woods and mate when they catch her. This chase is accompanied by a lot of noise.
Females usually reach sexual maturity around 1 year of age. Males can mate by month 11 unless they live with an older, dominant male. They may then take 2 or more years to reach sexual maturity. Females may mate or attempt to mate with several males over the course of several days. Since they only come into heat twice a year, they have to make the most of this opportunity.
Squirrels typically live 5 to 10 years in the wild, although this varies by species. Eastern gray squirrels can live up to 18 years. Some captive squirrels live up to 24 years.
How long are squirrels pregnant?
Most squirrels are pregnant for 4-6 weeks before giving birth. There are considerable differences between species. For example, the gestation period of the eastern gray squirrel is about 44 days. On the other hand, most chipmunks have a gestation period between 28-35 days.
How do you know if a squirrel is pregnant?
There are several ways to identify a pregnant squirrel. First, pregnant females increase their food and water intake in response to growing pups (baby squirrels) inside. She will also begin gathering materials such as twigs and leaves to build her nest. When she's ready to give birth, she may build more than one nest. Keen observers may notice that her nipples become more prominent as she prepares to feed. Her belly will continue to grow the longer she's pregnant.
Pregnant squirrels may become more territorial and aggressive than usual. If you notice this behavior, stay away.
How Often Can Squirrels Get Pregnant?
Squirrels can have 2 litters a year, but one-year-old females can only give birth once. Nests usually arrive in spring and summer. Females only go into estrus twice a year, one at a time, so the window of opportunity is limited.
Squirrel Litter Size
Kit animals or baby squirrels are usually 3-5 per litter. However, a litter may have as many as nine or as few as one. Newborn pups do not open their eyes until 4 weeks later. Weaning usually occurs at 10 weeks of age, but pups may explore outside the nest at 6 weeks of age. The mother will be very protective of her young and may move the nest if she thinks it is in danger. Unlike many other rodents, squirrels rarely eat their young.
As cute as they may look, squirrels are best left to their own devices while they are mating and giving birth.
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