Do Squirrels Hibernate in the Winter: What Squirrels Typically Do During Wintertime

No, most squirrels do not hibernate in the winter. Instead, they go into a deep sleep with breaks in between. Their body temperature drops slightly, but they can survive harsh weather inside their nests. You may see them out and about during the colder months, but don’t be surprised if they are mostly inactive. 

Squirrels During the Winter

Winter Rest Versus Hibernation

Contrary to popular belief, most squirrels do not hibernate in the winter. Unlike other animals, squirrels only go into a state of winter rest to preserve their energy for the coming year. As previously mentioned, they go into a deep sleep, with breaks in between. 

When it’s cold outside, squirrels will move inside where it’s warm and safe. So when you see an animal that appears inactive – like a squirrel – it’s probably just taking its winter break!

However, some squirrel species do hibernate in the winter and enter a state of dormancy to prepare for the summer.

Where They Live in the Winter

As mentioned, during the winter months, squirrels retreat to a warm, dry place, such as inside a tree or under debris near their natural food sources. Squirrels usually live in the suburbs or rural areas of large cities but will occasionally be found in the suburbs or rural areas of small cities. 

While there is no need to worry if you don’t see any activity from these curious creatures – they’re just resting and preparing for the next season – it’s always a good idea to be aware of the squirrels around your property.

Each Squirrel Is Different

Ground Squirrels

Ground squirrels hibernate in the winter months to conserve energy. They bury their food for storage, so keeping trash cans closed when you’re not home is essential to prevent them from raiding your garbage. 

During hibernation, ground squirrels lose weight, and their heart rates slow down significantly. This is done to conserve energy for the summer season. When spring arrives, they slowly wake up and start rebuilding their energy stores. This process is called re-awakening.

Grey Squirrels

Grey squirrels are a common sight in the wintertime and do not hibernate. In the winter, they will typically hide in trees and dens. 

Red Squirrels

Like grey squirrels, red squirrels do not hibernate in the winter – they may go into a deep sleep to conserve energy. If you see a red squirrel around your property this winter, leave it alone! They are currently scavenging for food during their natural hunting season. 

Fox Squirrels

Fox squirrels do not hibernate in the winter! Instead, they increase their nesting time. As with red squirrels, If you see a fox squirrel around your property, don’t try to capture or catch it – leave it alone. That said, the fox squirrel is a common winter resident in the United States, so chances are you’ll see it at some point in the winter.

Flying Squirrels

Flying squirrels are squirrels that can generate their heat. This squirrel spends most of its time in trees and can generate enough heat during the winter, so it does not need to hibernate. 

What Squirrels Do in the Winter

Red squirrel in the winter in the forest close-up

Squirrels do a lot to prepare themselves for the winter. They will gather food and store it in their nests, which they build in tree cavities or on high branches. Squirrels also sleep during the winter to save energy. When spring arrives, squirrels will resume their daily routines.

In addition, squirrels may do a few things to adapt to winter conditions. For example, some squirrels hibernate to conserve energy and prepare for the following year’s food supply. They may also do it to avoid predators or harsh weather conditions. During hibernation, squirrels go into a state of deep sleep, conserving their body heat and preventing them from becoming hypothermic.

Build Nests

Where you live, squirrels may build their nests in trees, under eaves, or inside boxes. It’s important to know where squirrels are likely to build nests and make sure your home is squirrel-proofed so they can’t get in. 

If you find a squirrel’s nest, it’s essential to remove it before the squirrels inside are disturbed. Unfortunately, squirrels often reuse old nests yearly, so they must be proactive in removing them before they become a nuisance.

Keep an eye out for squirrels around your property during the winter – they might be looking for a cozy place to spend the cold season!

Collect Supplies

Squirrels stash away food before the winter arrives. During the winter, their bodies are rigid due to the cold weather, and they don’t need to eat as much as they do in the warmer months. 

Fatten Up

Rather than sleeping the entire winter through, squirrels merely slow down their metabolic rate to conserve energy. This means they’ll still be active and looking for food, but at a slower rate. 

Reduce Activity

Squirrels’ activity level drops significantly during the winter. Keep in mind that squirrels will be active and foraging during the colder months, but don’t be surprised if they stay inside their nests most of the time. When spring arrives, squirrels will resume their daily routines.