Squirrels don’t have an easy life because they deal with the constant threat of being preyed on by hawks, foxes, owls, and weasels. They’re also prone to diseases that can significantly reduce their lifespan. However, there is some good news here. Squirrels are very strong animals capable of dealing with all kinds of challenges. So how long do squirrels live? Read more to find out.
Life Expectancy of Squirrels
The infographic below shows the life expectancy of many different kinds of squirrels.
A Brief Explanation of Squirrel Lifespans
There are very few statistics on the lifespans of squirrels because they are a relatively poorly studied species. That’s not to say that scientists don’t recognize their importance – they do. Squirrels are incredibly versatile, and their lifestyles and behaviors vary widely, so it’s unlikely they have a single, consistent lifespan. , wild squirrels generally tend to have shorter lifespans than those in captivity.
Wild vs. Captivity
The lifespan of a squirrel in the wild can vary depending on the species, but generally speaking, they live anywhere from 2-10 years.
In captivity, however, their lifespan can be significantly increased, with some s living up to 20 years or more.
Problems Faced by Wild Squirrels
Wild squirrels generally tend to have shorter lifespans than those in captivity. One of the main reasons for this is that wild squirrels face many more dangers and stresses than those in captivity.
For example, they must constantly be on the lookout for predators, compete for food and shelter, and endure harsh weather conditions. These stresses take a toll on their health and shorten their lifespan.
In captivity, squirrels are protected from these dangers and stresses. They are provided with food and shelter and do not have to worry about predators or harsh weather. As a result, they tend to live longer than their wild counterparts.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Some wild squirrels live to a ripe old age, while some captive squirrels die young. Ultimately, the lifespan of a squirrel depends on several individual factors.
Let’s look at the life expectancy of various kinds of squirrels.
Lifespan of an Abert’s Squirrel
The Abert Squirrels do not have enough data to estimate the lifespan of living in the wild. However, in captivity (domesticated), one lived to be 7 years old.
An Abert’s squirrel is named after a man who wanted to map the entire United States. Colonel John James Abert was an American naturalist, and military officer who headed the Corps of Topographical Engineers, working from 1857-1874. Abert’s squirrel is a tree squirrel in the genus Sciurus that has been seen throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado. It lives primarily among mature ponderosa pine forests. They are identifiable by their tufted ears, gray color, and pale underparts with dark spots on the lower back.
How Long do Red Squirrels Live?
American Red Squirrel
The American Red Squirrel lives an estimated 1-3 years in the wild and 8-9 years in captivity (domesticated).
The American Red Squirrel is also known as the pine squirrel, chickaree, and Hudson Bay squirrel. This type of squirrel inhabits the northeastern United States and Canada. The species has been known to get confused with its Eurasian counterpart (Eurasian Red Squirrel), but these two animals are, in fact, quite different from one another, and their species do not overlap.
The Douglas Squirrel is a cousin to the American Red Squirrel.
The Lifespan of Eurasian Red Squirrels
The Eurasian Red Squirrel lives an estimated 3-7 years in the wild and 10 years in captivity (domesticated).
Red squirrels are always clad in a coat of red fur, but the shade can vary depending on where they live and what time of year.
In Great Britain, coats range from deep blood-red to light orange, while other countries like Russia have an abundance of black or grey shades.
The red squirrel changes its coat twice a year, switching from a thinner summer coat to the thicker, darker winter one.
It sheds its lighter hair and grows in dark fur with noticeably larger ear tufts (a prominent distinguishing feature of this species). The shedding happens from August until November, when it becomes white again for camouflage against the bark of pine trees as snow falls on them. This camouflage is how they stay hidden during hibernation season!
How Long do Chipmunks Live?
The Chipmunk lives an estimated 2-5 years in the wild and 8-10 years in captivity (domesticated).
The common name originally may have been spelled “chitmunk,” from the native Odawa (Ottawa) word jidmoonh, meaning “red squirrel” (cf. Ojibwe). The earliest form cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is “chipmonk”. Other early forms include chipmuck and chipminck, while in the 1830’s they were referred to as “Chip Squirrels,” probably referring to their signature sound around 1830.
There are many types of chipmunks, but the most common is the Agouti chipmunk. They have reddish-brown fur on their upper body and five dark brown stripes contrasting with light brown stripes along their back, ending in a dark tail. It has lighter fur on the lower part of its body.
A tawny stripe runs from its whiskers to below its ears, and light stripes over its eyes. This particular chipmunk (Agouti) has two fewer teeth than other chipmunks.
Chipmunks have five toes on their back paws and four fingers on their front paws. Young babies also have a fifth digit that is just a stub of thumb, which scientists believe has some purpose for them at birth, but they lose it as they age.
How Long do Douglas Squirrels Live?
The Douglas Squirrel lives an estimated 5-6 years in the wild, and there is insufficient data to estimate the captive (domesticated) lifespan.
The American Red Squirrel is a cousin to the Douglas Squirrel.
The Douglas Squirrel lives in the Pacific Northwest region of North America and on parts of Canada’s coastline; it has a range that extends from northern California to southern British Columbia.
Native Americans called this little creature “Pilllllooeet” after hearing its distinctive alarm call.
The Douglas Squirrel is the cousin to the American Red Squirrel. Sometimes they are known as the chickaree or pine squirrel, although these names are also used for the American red squirrel.
They have distinctive white eye-rings and are covered with brown fur during this season. But what about when it turns to summer?
In contrast to their dark coat of hair in the fall months, these creatures turn greyish or almost green on their backs while retaining that orange coloration around their belly. Their ear hair also appears more tufted in the winter.
How Long do Gray Squirrels Live?
The Eastern Gray Squirrel lives an estimated 6-12 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity (domesticated).
Grey squirrels are larger than red squirrels and have grey/black coats with a white underbelly. They are native to Great Britain, Ireland, and continental Europe and are very adaptable creatures that have thrived across the globe.
The gray squirrel has been widely introduced into Europe and elsewhere; this species has been considered invasive by some organizations since 2016. This implies that this species cannot be imported, bred, transported, commercialized, or intentionally released into the environment in Europe.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel is a cousin to the Fox Squirrel.
How Long do Flying Squirrels Live?
The Flying Squirrel lives an estimated 2-3 years in the wild and 5 years in captivity (domesticated).
Flying squirrels are fascinating creatures. They are nocturnal creatures with a reputation for being cute but extremely noisy. They have been known to wake people up in the middle of the night with their crazy squealing. Flying squirrels are native to the northern parts of the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They are nocturnal and herbivorous creatures that are more likely to eat bark and leaves than their ground-dwelling cousins.
They can’t in the same way as birds or bats, but they have a patagium, a furry parachute-like membrane stretching from wrist to ankle, which allows them to glide from one tree to another. Their long tails provide stability while flying.
Originating from 18–20 million years ago, most are nocturnal creatures that eat fruit, seeds, buds, flowers, and insects such as spiders or beetles. The young are born with no hair, but by 5 weeks old, they’re practicing their gliding skills. At 10 weeks, they are ready to leave the nest.
How Long Do Fox Squirrels Live?
The Fox Squirrel lives an estimated 8-13 years in the wild and 18 years in captivity (domesticated).
The Fox Squirrel is a cousin to the Eastern Gray Squirrel.
The fox squirrel (also known as an Eastern Fox Squirrel) has been given many names throughout history, including “Bryant’s Fox Squirrel.” French settlers first observed it at Port Royal Island in Nova Scotia around the 1730s-1740s.
One of the most exciting and vibrant species is called the fox squirrel. My rehabber friend told me they are nicknamed the “gentle giants” because they are bigger and friendlier than most tree squirrels.
They are sometimes mistaken for American red squirrels or eastern gray squirrels. They have a beautiful coat that ranges from brown to black with a brownish-orange underside, with their tail often spanning shades of yellowish orange on one end and dark chocolate at its other tip.
How Long Do Ground Squirrels Live?
The Ground Squirrel lives an estimated 7-12 years in the wild, and there is not enough data for an estimate in captivity (domesticated).
The ground squirrel is a fascinating animal inhabiting all sorts of dry and uninviting habitats. They are medium-sized animals with bushy tails which have been seen everywhere, from the desert to urban parks.
Ground squirrels are very common rodents whose habitats cover many areas of North America, Europe, and Asia.
They are herbivores that feed almost exclusively on plant matter, although they can survive on a diet of insects and small reptiles when necessary.
Ground squirrels can be aggressive and are known for their ability to bite and seemingly endless vocalizations.
How Long Do Western Gray Squirrels Live?
The Western Gray Squirrel lives an estimated 7-8 years in the wild and 15 years in captivity (domesticated).
The Western Gray squirrel is found on the Western Coast of the United States and Mexico. It’s also known as the Silver Gray Squirrel, California Gray Squirrel, Oregon Grey Squirrel, Columbian Gray Squirrel, and Banner-Tailed Squirrel.
The Western Gray Squirrel is the largest tree squirrel in the Sierra Nevada and Central California range.
The squirrel has silvery-gray fur on its backside, an all-white belly, and a beautiful bushy blackish-grey tail lined with pure white hair.
In 1818, George Ord described the western gray squirrel based on notes from Lewis and Clark’s travels. The first sighting was in Oregon in a region called Dalles, where they observed bushy tail-less pelts of varying colors emerge from tree branches to feed on pine nuts during the winter months.
They inhabit pine forests on mountain slopes and oak woodlands near streams or rivers at higher elevations up to 8,000 feet.
The Western Gray Squirrel is active during the day and is secretive and mysterious, choosing to stay away from humans. However, they are hit by cars often because of their inexperience with human behavior. Western Greys typically live in oak or conifer forests traveling through interconnected tree canopies where their favorite treat seems to be pinecones.
The Western grey squirrel has steadily disappeared from various ecosystems due to competition with other squirrel species in recent years.
As you can see now, the answer to “How Long Do Squirrels Live” is not so straightforward. Like other wild animals, squirrels have a shorter lifespan than in captivity (domesticated). The factors that influence a short life in the wild are due to water and food supply, weather, and predators. If you want more information on squirrels, check out this article about squirrel hibernation.