Squirrels are one of the most common rodents in North America. They are bushy-tailed creatures known for their playful antics and their cute appearance. Squirrels are typically active during the day but can also be active at night. It depends on the species, too; some are diurnal, and others are nocturnal.
Squirrels have fascinating padded feet, which they use to cushion jumps to as high as 20 feet. They’re also excellent swimmers! Having mentioned these exciting facts about squirrels, do you know when they mate? Let’s find out!
Squirrels Mating Season
While other animals mate only once a year, squirrels are different. They breed twice a year. The season falls from late December to February and from late June through August. There can be some variation depending on the specific species of squirrel too. For instance, fox squirrels mate 10 days to 2 weeks earlier than gray squirrels.
The Mating Process of Squirrels
Squirrels have interesting mating habits. It starts with a strong scent given off by female squirrels when they’re in heat. This smell serves as a go signal for the male squirrels that they are already fertile. Once males notice, they will start to follow the female and do a “chase display.”
The chase display may seem like a normal game of tag they do at times. But mostly, it indicates that their flirting and the squirrel mating season is already underway. You may spot not just two squirrels in your yard but several in these cases.
During the mating season, the males will also try to impress the female squirrels by making loud noises and performing acrobatic feats. If the female is interested, she will allow the male to mate with her.
After mating, the female squirrel will go off on her own to build a nest where she will have her babies. The gestation period for squirrels is around 38 to 45 days. The female will give birth to two to eight offspring at a time, depending on the squirrel species.
Male Squirrels Mate With Multiple Females
During the breeding season, it’s not unusual for a male squirrel to mate with several females. This ensures that he will father as many offspring as possible.
Male squirrels compete for the chance to mate with a female. The competition can be tough and sometimes even result in fighting. This can include attacking and biting their opponents. The victor will then get to mate with the female and will guard her against other males until she’s no longer in heat. Some males will also wait within the female territories to mate with them as soon as they come out.
Male Squirrels Are More Likely To Fight In Mating Season
It’s not uncommon for males to fight over females. They will fight by wrestling with each other or by chasing each other up and down trees. The winner of these fights gets to mate with the female.
There is an order of male dominance in a territory. But, the dominant male in a certain territory is not the same dominant male in another territory. That is why younger squirrels mostly wait in the female’s territory avoiding the more dominant male squirrel. This helps them avoid injuries and losing the fight.
How many babies do squirrels have?
After female squirrels mate, they can have as many as 8 baby squirrels at a time, with the average litter being 4. They are kept safe in the mother’s nest for 10 weeks until they are old enough to be on their own. After 10 weeks, they spend a few more weeks with their mother to learn how to forage for food and build their nests before becoming completely independent.
These babies reach adulthood at 9 months, but sexual maturity can take a bit longer. Females typically reach sexual maturity at 15 months, while males usually at 12 months.
Male Squirrels Do Not Raise Their Young
After mating, the males will throw away any involvement with the female and their young. They will nurse them, clean them, and remove droppings. The female carries the responsibility alone. The female will spend most of her time in her nest to take care of her young and will only leave to forage for food.
This cycle happens for the next six weeks. After that, the young squirrels do not yet leave the territory. They will still stay for fewer weeks.
Mating Frequency And Season Variation by Species
In general, most squirrel species mate twice a year. They have their first litter in the spring and their second litter in the fall. But, there can be a variety depending on the specific squirrel species.
Western gray squirrels mate from late December to early February. Eastern gray squirrels mates a bit later than the western gray, from mid-January to early March. For red squirrels, the mating season is also in mid-January but extends until early April. And for the fox squirrel, the mating season is from late December to early March.
When it comes to flying squirrels, the occurrence of the mating season varies per species. The Northern Flying Squirrels mate only once, occurring from December to February. At the same time, the Southern Flying Squirrels mate twice, from January until early April.
Where Squirrels Mostly Build Their Nest
Birds are not the only animals who build nests; squirrels do too. In fact, they can have two types of nests, tree cavity dens, and leaf nests.
Tree cavity dens are made in the holes of trees. The entrance is small so that predators cannot get in. And it is lined with leaves to keep the squirrels warm. This is an ideal nesting site, too, since it keeps them safe from winter, rain, and extreme heat.
On the other hand, leaf nests are made out of twigs, leaves, and bark. They are situated on higher tree cavities, or usually the forks of trees. This is similar to bird nests, except these are much larger.
Other appropriate nesting sites include stumps, trees, logs, and even abandoned bird nests. But, most commonly, they build their nests high up in the tree branches.
Squirrel Nesting Behavior
Squirrels are not territorial creatures, but they exhibit defensive nesting habits. Once they find a suitable nesting site, they will fiercely defend it from other squirrels. They will do this by chasing away intruders, making loud noises, and even physically fighting them.
The tree squirrel and the flying squirrel both build nests on trees. These nests are called “dreys” and are made of leaves, twigs, strips of bark, and other materials. This is helpful for squirrels during the winter months.
Ground squirrels, on the other hand, dig burrows in the ground. There, they will nurse their young and store food. The holes can be as deep as 6 feet and have several entrances and exits.
Female squirrels will usually build a series of nests within a reachable location. They will move on to a new nest place if they no longer feel safe.
Have A Squirrel Infestation Problem? Call Us Today!
Squirrels are pretty sneaky. They can get into your attic without you ever knowing. And once they’re in, they can do a lot of damage. If you think you have a squirrel infestation problem, give AAAC Wildlife Removal a call today. We’ll be happy to help you get rid of those pesky critters!
The squirrel mating season happens twice yearly, from late December to February and late June to August. The process starts as female squirrels release a strong scent, inviting multiple males to fight and pursue her. But, despite the male’s aggressive behavior, they only accompany female squirrels during the mating process. They leave no responsibility for child-rearing.
Now that you know when squirrels mate, keep an eye out for them the next time you’re outdoors! Learning when squirrels mate can help you know when they are most active. It can also help you understand their behavior a bit better.