If you have ever searched for an answer to the question ‘how long do squirrels live?’ you can check it out here. Surprisingly enough, these little critters can live quite long lives if cared for properly. While they may not be customarily kept as pets, some people prefer their energetic nature.
There are many different species of squirrels, so you should expect them to be different when it comes to their lifespan, too. Learning more about them will help you figure out which ones are the most indicated to be kept as pets.
A surprising fact
Since squirrels look pretty much as if they’re closely related to other rodents, you might be tempted to believe that they can’t live that much longer than a hamster or a guinea pig. However, you may be surprised to learn that, actually, some squirrels can have a lifespan as long as 24 years.
They are, as a fact, the rodents with the most extended lifespan you can meet anywhere in the world. And, in case you want one as a pet, you will be impressed with the fact that a squirrel can live much longer than a dog or a cat.
However, you need to remember that a squirrel would reach that sort of venerable age only if he or she is cared for, and protected from natural factors, such as famine or disease, as well as natural predators.
How long do they survive in the wild?
There is quite a big difference between the living conditions of a squirrel in captivity and one in the wild. According to statistics, squirrels do not normally reach their first year of life in the wild. When they get to live a bit longer, the average at best for so-called senior squirrels is 6 years. As for records, 12 years is the maximum a squirrel has ever lived.
Bear in mind that what species they belong to matters, too. However, as a general rule, if you ever become interested in having a squirrel as a pet, you should know that he or she might just outlive your other beloved favorite animals.
Do female squirrels live longer than male squirrels?
When kept in captivity, both females and males enjoy long healthy lives, but if you are interested in an accurate answer to this question, a look at statistics will give you the right one. While the squirrel to live the longest in the wild was female (12 years old), the male with the longest lifespan, also in the wild, was almost 9 years old when he passed away.
Why do squirrels enjoy such longevity?
As already mentioned, squirrels live the longest among all rodents, so, the natural question is: why does this happen? What makes them stand apart from their close siblings, such as mice or rats? The answer lies with their particular biology and evolution.
For instance, mice live around 4 years old, while rats around 5 years old. Squirrels are, as it seems, some of the most intelligent rodents, and therefore, also the ones that get to live longer. Because they got used to living in trees, higher than the ground where there are hoards of predators waiting to eat them, the evolution created the biological conditions for them to live longer, as well.
Also, they are particularly agile, as you may well know, so they can escape, on most occasions, from getting eaten. This is one explanation offered by biologists, and that may also point out why tree squirrels are more likely to live longer than those who live on the ground, where more dangers are present.
Does it matter what they eat?
Humans are well used to the idea that they are what they eat, and that eating the wrong foods can have a severe impact on their health. But is that true for squirrels, too? In case you plan to get a squirrel as a pet, you might feel quite tempted to believe that you must pay really close attention to what foods you’re giving him or her.
Squirrels can eat almost anything. Of course, they prefer nuts, as you may well know, but they also like vegetables and can eat eggs and even small snakes. According to the studies carried on so far, it is unclear if a healthy diet would help a squirrel live longer. However, you would not be off the mark if you decided to feed your pet with varied and healthy foods.
Any pet owner thinking that hamburgers and sweet foods would make a good diet for a squirrel will, of course, have to face the same issues that such meals would trigger in a human, such as severe digestive problems and heart conditions.
Nonetheless, if the squirrel fed with such foods lives in the wild, eating unhealthy would be the least of his or her problems, as the chances are a truck driven at full speed is more likely to be the cause of death rather than fat foods, filled with cholesterol.
Learning about various species
Now that you learned all the generalities about this topic, it is the right time to take a closer look at the species of squirrels that can be found predominantly in the northern hemisphere.
- Grey squirrels
If you have ever noticed a squirrel visiting your backyard, the highest chances are that it was a grey squirrel. This species is the most widespread, and they are easy to entice with feeders if you place a few on your property.
They are quite hardy, and they can live up to 20 years if they’re kept in captivity. Of course, that’s the highest number on record, and the average is about 13 years when they live in the wild. Keep in mind that these are the highest numbers. Like most squirrels, at birth, such animals are expected to live up to 1-2 years. Adults might live up to 6 years, on average.
Because they have their fair share of predators, they are not expected to live a lot when in the wild. So, if you plan to keep a squirrel indoors, with limited access to the outside, you can expect him or her to live up to 20 years.
- American red squirrels
These cute little animals have, unfortunately, a lot of predators in the wild. The studies show that about 22% of all the babies born in this species are expected to die within the first year of life. The hopes for adults are not that high, either, when compared to other species of squirrels.
At best, they could live up to 8 years old, and it appears that males have a better survival rate than females, but only marginally.
- Fox squirrels
Although they are tress squirrels, just like the others mentioned so far, fox squirrels like to spend quite a bit of time on the ground, by comparison. They have two litters yearly, one in winter, and one in summer. You can expect them to be quite resilient, seeing how their babies may see the light of day for the first time in winter.
If kept as pets or at zoos, these squirrels can live to be up to 18 years old. In the wild, they can live up to 8 years old and even more, but, as is the case with most squirrels, their babies don’t reach their first year of life in large numbers.
Females appear to live longer, and there are cases of specimens in the wild to live up to 12.5 years old. The males, on the other hand, do not go beyond 8.5 years of age.
- Southern flying squirrels
In the wild, these cute creatures can live to be up to 5-6 years old. They take care of their young for more than three months, and, at one year of age, they become adults. However, baby squirrels don’t have high hopes of reaching adulthood, so this species is no different from the other types mentioned until now.
For southern flying squirrels, the chances of survival in captivity are naturally better. If kept away from diseases, predators, and accidents, they can live to be up to 10 years old.
Squirrels are not ideal pets, as they are very energetic and need plenty of space to move around. However, if you plan on helping a few survive for a longer time, by placing feeders in your backyard, you should know that they can live longer than other rodents. And, if you get one as a pet, you can expect it to live longer than your cat or dog.