Looking for Squirrel Nests? Check Out The Ultimate Guide

Looking for Squirrel Nests? Check Out The Ultimate Guide

Squirrels are complex creatures with a highly developed pecking order. You may have a hard time locating and identifying squirrel nests because they are often hidden. Squirrels like to build their nest high up in trees or behind walls, meaning that you may not see one unless you know where to look. To help you get to know squirrels even better, we’ve created this ultimate guide to their nests and the best ways to find them– read on for everything you need to know about squirrel nests!

Why Do Squirrels Build Nests in High Trees

Why do squirrels build nests in the first place? Well, they need shelter for themselves and to keep their babies warm and safe. Nests are built high in the trees to serve as protection from predators like coyotes and raccoons.

What Does A Squirrel Nest Look Like

Squirrel nests can be divided into two types: dreys and dens.


A drey looks a lot like a bird’s nest. You can tell two apart from bird nests because they are notably much larger than a typical bird nest. They are usually 20 feet (6 m) high up in a fork or nook of trees. The tree fork serves as a solid and supportive base so the squirrels are safe and secure while sleeping. In the wild, nests are built out of branches, twigs, dried leaves, bark strips, mosses, and grasses. Squirrels living in urban areas are known to take stuffing from items like outdoor furniture cushions, dog beds, and blankets.

squirrel nests - photo of a drey
nest/drey photo
courtesy of @sandy_grant777 on IG

Nest building is tedious work. A squirrel will gather materials then pile them all together with its mouth or paws and transport them to the nest.

The floor is built first by weaving sticks and twigs. They are careful not to leave large gaps in the foundation.

The inside of the leaf nest is about six to eight inches in diameter. Gray Squirrels sometimes have nests that are up to 2 feet wide (61 cm). They line the inside with more material, usually shredded bark, grass, moss, and leaves. Adding in layers of damp leaves and moss makes the floor soft for the babies.

Like an artist, they weave a sphere around the base to form the outer shell of the structure. Finally, the squirrel stuffs twigs, moss, and leaves on the exterior of the structure. The outer shell is made up of several different layers using a combination of all the building materials. The layers provide stability, like an architectural structure without windows! The drey is surprisingly sturdy.

The finished nest has a similar shape to a globe.

two squirrels hugging
Clara and Braveheart
courtesy of @CynthiaPeterson2015

on IG

Tree Cavities/Den

Squirrels are innovative and clever creatures. Tree cavities are favored over nests/dreys because they provide more protection from the elements, like the weather.

A tree cavity or den is often first created by a woodpecker, but then abandoned and claimed later by squirrels. Besides a woodpecker, a hole results from natural processes like Mother Nature (fire, floods, and storms).

squirrel nests - squirrel peeking head out of squirrel nest
Baby Squirrel in Den

Squirrels prefer a tree cavity or den. Baby squirrels that are born in leaf nests are at risk of falling, being eaten, or being orphaned. Leaf nests are very vulnerable to wind and rain. Weather can damage tree nests or send them tumbling to the ground.

squirrel nests - baby squirrel peeking head out of nest
Baby Squirrel in Den

Also, crows will tear apart the nest to steal the babies. Many of the babies end up on the ground before the momma squirrel can get back to the nest.

Squirrel Nesting Boxes

A nesting box is constructed from wood. The ideal nesting box should be placed at least 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground but ideally around 20-30 ft. Situate the entrance hole to face east or south, away from powerful winter winds.

Squirrels adapt pretty readily to nest boxes. A squirrel will be more likely to call it home if it is filled with plenty of dry leaves, stuffing, upholstery batting, or blankets.

When building or buying a nesting box, choose one that has an inside shelf that sits right under the entrance hole. The shelf serves as additional protection preventing cats, snakes, and raccoons from getting in.

squirrel nests - nesting box
Nesting Box courtesy of Back2NatureWood
squirrel nests - nesting box
Inside of Box courtesy of Back2NatureWood
nesting box
Nesting Box courtesy of Back2NatureWood

Avoid placing a nesting box in a dead tree because over time the tree could fall down and could cause harm to your squirrel family and destroy the nesting box.

Would you like a nesting box of your very own to offer a momma squirrel a safe and secure place to give birth and raise her babies? Back2NatureWood Creations on Etsy builds high-quality nesting boxes. The craftsmanship that goes into their products is superior. You will also find squirrel feeders, bird feeders, and houses.

Where Do Squirrels Go at Night?

During the evening, a squirrel’s sleeping habits are similar to ours. As a result, they are quite silent. The squirrels nap, sleep or tend to their young in their nests at night. Their nest is their sanctuary.

Do Squirrels Come Back to the Same Nest?

In most cases, yes. Squirrels tend to return to the same nest, or at least a similar one, over and over again. They typically build nests using twigs, leaves, and other materials that are easy to find. And as long as there is a food source nearby, they will keep returning to it.

Because they are so easily identifiable, it’s easy for squirrels to return to the same nest. They can use their keen sense of smell to locate the same place they built before and there is no need for them to waste energy looking for a new location.

People often mistake nests for homes and assume that squirrels settle down in one place and make it their permanent residence. But in fact, this is not the case. If a nest is disturbed, the squirrels will simply move on and find a new place to live. For squirrels, nests are not really places to settle down, but more like temporary accommodations.

Do Squirrels Sleep in the Same Nest Every Night?

While other mammals, such as mice and rats, are known to return to the same nest each night, it is not uncommon for a squirrel to sleep in a different location. Squirrels are very territorial, so they will look for new places to sleep if they know that it is safe.

It is also normal for squirrels to change their sleeping locations when the weather starts to turn cold, as they will want to find a place that is sheltered from the elements.

How Far Do Squirrels Roam from Their Nest?

Squirrels are intelligent and remember where they live and nest. They normally move around 2 miles in a zig-zag pattern daily. Despite this, most squirrels can move up to 10 miles away from their nest. It is exceedingly rare for squirrels to go beyond 10 miles away.

It is hard for squirrels to travel beyond ten miles and find their territory again. Every now and then, some squirrels are able to find their way back to their former nesting habitat, which is up to fifteen miles away. When the young squirrels leave the nest, they stay within two miles of home.

squirrel nests - Pez the squirrel in the window
Pez the Squirrel courtesy of @radarwabbit on IG

Do Squirrels Build a New Nest Every Year?

Squirrels do not need to build a new nest every year. They can use the same nest for many years if it is in a safe place. However, if the nest is damaged by bad weather or other animals, they will need to find a new one.

Do Squirrels Have More Than One Nest

Generally, they build multiple nests so that they can move their babies in an emergency if the nest is threatened by a predator. Another reason for re-location is if the nest becomes infested with fleas. The backup nests serve as storage for extra food and also a place to take naps. They will also reuse nests they previously built.

How Many Squirrels Live in One Nest?

Although adult tree squirrels live independently during the breeding season, a male and female squirrel may share the same nest. However, pregnant females live alone. If the temperature drops or during a severe cold snap, tree squirrels nest together to keep warm. When grouped together, squirrels form a “scurry.”

What Keeps that Pile of Leaves that Squirrels call a Nest from Just Blowing Away with the First Strong Breeze?

When selecting a location to build their nest, squirrels favor spots where they can use natural supports, like vines that have become knotted into nests, or junctions where several branches meet the trunk.

After weaving several sticks together to form a platform, the squirrel will collect a variety of soft materials, such as leaves and moss, to form a cushion. The squirrel then builds a twig skeleton around the mound of leaves after this.

As the nest ages, the twigs dry out and harden, leaving a very sturdy home.

The dried twigs are also difficult for predators to break into, making the nest even safer for the growing babies.

How Do Squirrels Build their Nests to Resist High Winds Hail and Freezing Rain?

Squirrels build their nests in many different ways. Often, the squirrel will build a new nest each year as some birds do.

In addition to building the actual nest, it will also add leaves and twigs to the area surrounding the nest to create a sort of fort around it. This helps to protect it from high winds, hail, and freezing rain. This can also help to protect against predators.

It is important to note that squirrels are typically solitary creatures and will only make nests when they are breeding. Other times of the year, they will be found living alone or in pairs. They will typically build their nests in trees or on high ground so that they are out of reach of predators. These nests can range in size and complexity depending on the needs of the squirrels building them.

Where Do Squirrels Go When it Rains?

During a downpour, squirrels seek refuge in their nests or dreys to avoid getting wet. When the winds are strong, they usually seek refuge in a hollow tree to avoid being thrown out of their home and getting injured. During a light shower, the squirrel’s bushy tail can be flipped over the body and serve as an umbrella. Even though the tail may get soaked, the rest of the squirrel remains dry.

Squirrels Are Important to Our Forest Ecosystem

Forest Regeneration

Yes, squirrels are vital to our planet. The most important role of squirrels in the ecosystem is forest regeneration. They are huge contributors to shaping plant composition due to their eating and food-saving/cache habits.

Their behavior help with plant and tree growth through seed collecting. They collect the seeds to eat later, but squirrels tend to forget where they bury all of their nuts. Thankfully for their forgetfulness, their buried nuts and seeds eventually sprout and grow into new plant life. Over time, this growth leads to the expansion of the forest.

Miss Rio the squirrel
Miss Rio, a Resident Here at Kitty City Squirrels

Help Truffles Grow

Truffles are fungi and a great source of Vitamin D, our sunshine vitamin. Truffles grow underground unlike mushrooms that grow above ground. Squirrels spread truffle spores which help growth.

truffles in the forest

As the fungi grow, they produce strong odors that attract squirrels and other small animals. Squirrels eat the truffles and any of the spores that aren’t digested, pass onto the forest floor through their poop. Hopefully, landing near the roots of trees.

Sounds like the squirrel is the “middle-man” in the symbiotic relationship of fungi and trees.

Here are a few more important details:

  • When squirrels dig for food, they aerate the soil, which promotes better vegetation growth.
  • Other animals eat the nuts and seeds forgotten by the squirrels.
  • Squirrels help keep our yards in pristine condition by eating insects that destroy lawns like tree-infesting beetles and grubs.
  • Their unused nests, especially those in tree cavities, are almost always reused by other squirrels or animals.

Final Thoughts

Squirrels are fascinating to watch and they never fail to entertain us. In fact, for many people, a squirrel may be the only wild animal they see every day. Take the time to look up today. How many squirrel nests have you seen around your yard? Have you ever noticed them before? Now that you know what to look for, you’ll be surprised at how many you will find!

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or would like to share a squirrel experience with us, Kitty City Squirrels would be happy to hear from you. Please use our contact page to get in touch.

For more squirrel facts, check out the Kitty City Squirrels blog. You can also subscribe to become a FREE VIP to our Squirrel Tails Magazine and be the first in line to access member-only exclusive content!

2 thoughts on “Looking for Squirrel Nests? Check Out The Ultimate Guide”

  1. Great content and well put together! It’s hard for me to believe that Clara is all grown up and a mama herself in the same tree where this picture was taken.


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