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?”
According to National Geographic, there are more than 200 recorded species of squirrels all over the world that are grouped under several major types. Most of these squirrels will sleep in tree nests or ground burrows, depending on their type.
If you’re curious about the answer, you’re in for a treat because today, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide to squirrels’ sleep habits!
Table of Contents
Factors That Affect Where and How Squirrels Sleep
The first thing you should know about squirrels is that they’re not all created equal. As previously mentioned, there are different types of squirrels that have completely different sleeping habits.
So, here’s a brief overview of the factors that may affect where squirrels would typically sleep.
We’ve already established that there are hundreds of squirrel species all over the globe. However, many of these squirrels are quite similar in almost all aspects of life, except for a few variations.
Among all these species, we can categorize all the squirrels into 3 main groups depending on their typical geographical habitat
- Ground squirrels: They mostly live on the ground and are relatively thinner with thin tails. They’re extremely nimble and quick on the ground but aren’t very quick when it comes to climbing. Ground squirrels usually dig their nests into the ground.
- Tree Squirrels: They typically live and dwell between trees, especially in coniferous forests rich in acorns and nuts. These squirrels typically have larger bodies with bushier tails. Most tree squirrels will claim a suitable spot in a tree and build their nest in which they sleep.
- Flying Squirrels: Despite the name, these squirrels can’t really fly. Instead, they using flaps of skin between their legs to help them glide when they jump. They typically belong to the tree squirrel group, so they build their nest in trees.
Since there are quite a few species of squirrels all over the world, it’s easy to assume that some of them sleep differently. Ideally, there are 5 common species of squirrel in North America.
In the United States, the most common species of squirrels are the eastern grey squirrel, which is pretty common from the East to the Midwest of the states, as well as in Canada.
The western grey squirrel is also pretty common on the other side of the continent and they both share the same whitish-grey fur.
Black squirrels are smaller in size than the previous species and have characteristic black fur. They’re known for their rarity and hostile attitude towards other squirrels, which causes them to live and sleep separately.
Fox squirrels and brownish squirrels with a bushy tail prefer open areas with large wooden trees where red squirrels are much smaller in size and have reddish fur.
The previous species are the most common in America and are all considered tree squirrels. The California Ground Squirrel, another American squirrel, is the most common ground-dwelling species.
When squirrels are newly born, they’re blind and unable to walk for several weeks. During that time, these squirrels will live exclusively in their nest, whether it be a tree nest or ground nest.
Once they reach maturity, which is typically around 18 months, they’ll leave to look for a new place to live where they build their new nest.
Time of the Year
One of the distinct sleeping patterns of animals around the world is hibernation and estivation. Many squirrels use these survival tactics to overcome the extremes of weather.
Patterns like hibernation and estivation will also affect where the squirrels sleep because they require a pretty safe spot where they can store enough food to survive through the season.
How to Spot a Squirrel Nest
Now that you know more about squirrels and their nests, here’s a brief description of the common shelter of different squirrel types and how to spot one.
Tree Squirrel Nests
The majority of common squirrels in North America are tree-dwelling ones. The nests that squirrels build in trees are called drays or dens. Squirrels usually search trees for pre-existing cavities and build their nest inside.
In most cases, these cavities are abandoned woodpecker holes but can also be from rot or other sources.
Squirrels usually line their nests with moss and leaves as bedding. The design of the squirrel dens offers them shelter and protection from wind and rain.
If squirrels aren’t capable of finding proper cavities to build their dens, plan B is to go for a dray, which is a nest made of leaves and tiny tree branches.
In some cases, squirrels will alternate between dens and drays depending on the weather, so you’ll mostly find dens in nearby trees in winter and drays on tree branches in the summer.
Ideally, you should avoid disturbing the nest because baby squirrels can be found inside the dens and drays. Admire from a distance.
Ground Squirrel Nest
Ground squirrels don’t build drays or low-profile dens in trees. Instead, these squirrels will dig a hole and create anywhere from a simple burrow to a large underground system to live in.
Ground squirrels are usually slimmer and more nimble than tree squirrels, which helps them move around the tunnels easily and retreat to their burrows when they’re spooked.
One of the things that makes a ground squirrel hole easy to spot is the small dirt pile that’s left next to the exit hole.
Ground squirrels may share several burrows together in favorable areas. In that case, you’ll spot plenty of holes next to one another, each with a small pile of dirt next to it.
When Do Squirrels Sleep?
Most squirrels have a similar sleep schedule to humans. They’re most active through the day and sleep during the night, which is why it’s pretty common to spot them going about their business in the mornings and afternoons.
Squirrels spend most of their days either building their burrows and dens or collecting food. They typically return back home as the sun goes down to feed their young and sleep for the night.
Some types of squirrels will experience energy-conserving tactics in specific seasons to sustain themselves.
These phenomena are known as hibernation and estivation and they depend on weather conditions. Both hibernation and estivation are more commonly associated with ground squirrels than tree squirrels.
Hibernation occurs during the winter when northern climates drop. During this state, ground squirrels will dig burrows into the ground where they sleep through the winter. Their heart rate, as well as breathing, decreases during that time.
In hot climates, ground squirrels will also go into estivation. This is more common in desert regions where the squirrel enters the same state of low activity as in hibernation that lasts for a few months.
This wraps it up for today’s guide that answers the curious question, “where do squirrels sleep?” 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.