Where Do Squirrels Live? Essential Nesting Habits

Where Do Squirrels Live? Essential Nesting Habits

Spotting a squirrel scurrying up a tree or playing in your backyard can be a delightful sight. But have you ever wondered about their nesting habits and where squirrels live? In this article, we’re going to explore the different types of squirrels, where they make their nests, how to identify them, and how different squirrel species hibernate, as well as preventative measures to take if squirrels become a pest issue.

Which Type of Squirrel am I Encountering?

Before diving into where squirrels build their nests, it’s essential to know the different types of squirrels you may encounter. There are three primary types: tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels.

Tree Squirrels

Tree squirrels are the most common type of squirrel and include species such as gray squirrels, fox squirrels, and red squirrels. As the name suggests, tree squirrels live in trees and can be found scampering up tree trunks, jumping from branch to branch, and chattering from the treetops.

Ground Squirrels

Ground squirrels are a diverse group, including species like the California ground squirrel and the Richardson’s ground squirrel. These squirrels live in burrows or dens underground and are commonly found in open grasslands, wooded areas, or even close to human dwellings.

Flying Squirrels

Flying squirrels are different from tree squirrels and ground squirrels, as they have specialized flaps of skin on either side of their bodies that allow them to glide from tree to tree in search of food. Southern flying squirrels and Northern flying squirrels are two examples of this type of squirrel.

Where Do Squirrels Build Their Nests?

High Up in Trees: Squirrels Live in Trees Called ‘Dreys’

Tree squirrels and flying squirrels typically build nests, known as dreys, high up in trees. Dreys are made of twigs, tree bark, leaves, and even acorns. They provide a snug and warm place for squirrels to sleep, raise their young, and escape predators. Squirrels usually nest in forked tree branches, which offers support and stability for the structure.

Within Tree Cavities: Home Sweet Home for Red Squirrels

Red squirrels and grey squirrels often prefer tree cavities, which provide better insulation and shelter from the elements. These cavities are formed by decaying wood, storm damage, or holes made by woodpeckers. Squirrels will line the cavity with leaves, moss, and other soft materials to make a cozy home.

Burrowing Underground: The Life of Ground Squirrels

As the name suggests, ground squirrels live and nest underground in burrows or dens. They dig these tunnels in soil and generally construct a series of interconnected chambers for nesting, food storage, and waste disposal. The entrance to a ground squirrel burrow is usually inconspicuous, with dirt mounds or stones disguising it.

How Do I Identify a Squirrel Nest?

Nests Made of Twigs, Tree Bark, and Acorns

Dreys are relatively easy to spot because they are usually a tangled mass of twigs, tree bark, and sometimes acorns. Look for these nests high in tree branches, where tree squirrels and flying squirrels make their homes. The large size and visible building materials help differentiate dreys from bird nests which are often smaller and made of finer materials.

Tree Cavity Nests Versus Leaf and Twig Dreys

While dreys are easier to spot, tree cavity nests may be more challenging to identify. One telltale sign is squirrel activity around the opening of the cavity. Listen for the chattering or movement in the area, and you may notice red or grey squirrels entering or exiting the cavity.

Burrow Entrances: Signs of Ground Squirrel Habitats

To identify ground squirrel burrows, look for presence of ground squirrel in your vicinity. Ground squirrels may be seen scurrying in and out of their burrows, especially during the morning and evening when they are more active. You can also spot burrow entrances by looking for small, circular holes in the ground, usually with a little mound of earth or stones around them.

Do Squirrels Sleep All Winter? Understand Their Hibernation Patterns

Hibernation Habits of Tree Squirrels

Most tree squirrels, such as gray squirrels and fox squirrels, do not truly hibernate. Instead, they have a period of decreased activity during the coldest months, and they may sleep longer and venture out less often. During this time, tree squirrels rely on stored food caches to survive.

Ground Squirrels and True Hibernation

Many species of ground squirrels hibernate, curling up in their underground burrows and entering a state of true hibernation. During this period, their heart rate, body temperature, and metabolic rate drop significantly. Hibernation helps these squirrels conserve energy and survive the harsh winter when food is scarce.

Do Flying Squirrels Hibernate?

Flying squirrels, like many tree squirrels, do not hibernate. However, they will become less active during the colder months and rely on stored food supplies, such as nuts and seeds, to survive the winter.

Are Squirrels a Pest Issue? Preventative Measures to Take

Keep Squirrels Out of Your Chimney and Attic

Squirrels may be cute, but they can also cause damage to your home by chewing through wires, insulation, and wood. To prevent squirrels from entering your chimney and attic, install caps or screens over chimneys and ventilators, and trim tree branches that provide easy access to your roof.

Deterring Squirrels from Raiding Your Garden

To protect your garden from squirrels, consider using squirrel-proof bird feeders, installing fences, or using squirrel repellants. Providing natural food sources, such as nut-producing trees, can also discourage squirrels from raiding your garden.

Pest Control: When to Call in Professional Help

If squirrels become a persistent problem around your home, it may be necessary to call in professional pest control services. Pest control experts can help safely and humanely remove squirrels and provide recommendations on how to prevent future infestations.

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