What Happens During Squirrel Hibernation?

By | January 19, 2024

Would you like to know more about squirrel hibernation habits? Learn about the fascinating world of squirrel slumber and whether these furry creatures really do hibernate. 

Squirrels have always fascinated us, those agile, acrobatic creatures that inhabit our backyards. A squirrel is a common sight throughout the world due to its fluffy tail and nimble movements. 

What is hibernation?

The state of hibernation occurs when animals undergo extended periods of sleep or inactivity during the winter, resulting in a significant decrease in metabolic rate and a lowered body temperature. This state of dormancy occurs when animals undergo an extended period of sleep or inactivity.

Animals prepare for hibernation by slowing their metabolisms, breathing rates, and energy consumption. This adaptive behavior helps them survive in environments where food is scarce and temperatures are extremely low.

The Fascinating Behavior of Torpid Squirrels

A squirrel’s body temperature may decline by at least 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit when it enters torpor. They are able to conserve energy as their metabolic rate slows down due to this temperature reduction. There are, however, a variety of factors that can influence the magnitude of this drop, including the species and severity of winter weather.

Types of Squirrel:

There are many types of squirrels found throughout the world. There are a number of differences between these species in terms of their size, appearance, habitat, and behavior. The following types of squirrels are notable:

1. Eastern Gray Squirrel

A common squirrel species in North America is the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). It has grayish-brown fur and a bushy tail with a white underbelly. Forests, parks, and urban areas are all suitable habitats for this species of squirrel, which is known for its adaptability.

2. Red Squirrel

Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) are native to parts of Europe and Asia. The reddish-brown fur of the animal is tufted, its ears are tufted, and it has a slender appearance. A red squirrel is commonly found in coniferous forests and is known for its agility and energy.

3. Fox Squirrel

Sciurus niger is one of the larger squirrel species. It is characterized by a variety of color variations, including reddish-brown, gray, and black. Sciurus nigers are commonly found throughout North America in deciduous forests.

4. Flying Squirrel

A flying squirrel will belong to at least two different genera, including Pteromyini and Glaucomys. The patagium on the tail of a fly squirrel allows it to glide through the air. The fly squirrel is nocturnal and has large eyes to aid its night vision.

5. Ground Squirrel

The Ground Squirrel, or Marmotini, is the largest species of squirrel in the world and is classified as a terrestrial species. Examples of this species include the prairie dog, California ground squirrel, and Columbian ground squirrel.

What happens during squirrel hibernation?

Torpor occurs when squirrels undergo physiological changes that enable them to conserve energy and endure the winter months, which is contrary to popular belief. Instead of hibernating, however, squirrels experience a milder form of dormancy.

A squirrel’s body temperature decreases in torpor, but not as much as it would in true hibernation. It can decrease by approximately 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit below their normal level. As a result of this reduction in body temperature, their metabolic rate slows down during this period, which allows them to conserve energy.

The squirrels experience reduced activity and enter a deep state of sleep when in torpor. When it becomes warmer, they periodically awaken from their slumber to search for food reserves that they have stored during the warmer months. Their behavior is in contrast to those of animals that hibernate, which rarely awaken during their dormant period.

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1. Do Squirrels Hibernate? 

The squirrel does not hibernate, contrary to popular belief. The behavior of bears during the winter months differs significantly from that of true hibernators, although periods of inactivity are experienced. 

The hibernation period is a period of dormancy during which the body temperature of an animal decreases significantly, and the rate of metabolism decreases as a way to conserve energy. A milder form of dormancy, known as torpor, is experienced by squirrels instead of entering this deep sleep-like state.

2. How long do squirrels stay in torpor?

A squirrel in a warmer climate does not typically hibernate. The creatures go into a deep slumber for a few days before awakening again to eat the food they have stored. They may last for a couple of hours or several days. The weather and the availability of food have a great deal to do with it.


Squirrels do not hibernate in the true sense of the word, however, their winter behavior is no less fascinating. Torpor is a form of adaptation to harsh winter conditions in which these resourceful creatures lower their body temperature and metabolic rate to cope with the harsh conditions. 

The squirrel can survive and thrive during the coldest months of the year due to its natural instinct for hoarding food and building nests. 

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