9 Facts On Do Squirrels Hibernate In Winter? Why,When,Where

Piyali Das

9 Facts On Do Squirrels Hibernate In Winter? Why,When,Where

Squirrels are one of the most common medium sized rodents found all over the world (except Antarctica). Here, we are going to find out if squirrels hibernate in winter or not.

Squirrels hibernate in winter because it helps them to conserve energy by slowing down metabolic process up to 1% of a regular level, decreasing heart rate and body temperature near to freezing. During this time, they do not eat or drink and dive into long sleep to bypass the adverse climatic change in winter.

During hibernation, squirrels purify their blood by removing electrolytes and storing them in another body part, probably in their bladder. In this way, they control their body fluid concentration which is responsible for making them thirsty.

Do all squirrels hibernate in winter?

All squirrels do not hibernate in winter. There are more than 200 species of squirrels, and most of them including tree squirrels and flying squirrels do not hibernate in winter.

What types of squirrels hibernate in winter?

Some ground squirrel species such as Arctic ground squirrel, Thirteen-lined ground squirrels, and Golden-mantled ground squirrels hibernate in winter.

Due to extreme cold and scarcity of food when winter arrives the ground squirrels nests deep in their underground burrows and go into hibernation. This way they store their body temperature. When the surrounding environment becomes suitable and warmer they wake up.

Type of squirrels   Do they Hibernate or do they not hibernate in winter?The reason behind hibernating or do not hibernating during winter 
1. Ground squirrels Ground squirrels hibernate in wintersGround squirrels live in underground burrows and can not make warm dreys like other squirrels. Hence, to survive in extreme cold they undergo hibernation.
2. Tree squirrels Tree squirrels do not hibernate in winter Tree squirrels prepare their warm dreys in tree holes before winter arrive, where they can stay warm, also store enough food, so that they don’t have to come out in the cold.
3. Flying squirrels Flying squirrels do not hibernate in winter Flying squirrels also survive in winter by making warm dreys and store enough food for them so that they don’t come out in the cold.
Types of squirrels hibernate in winter


Image credit: Arctic Ground Squirrel by Alan Vernon licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

Where do squirrels hibernate?

Hibernation is a process through which squirrels undergo a state of dormancy for a long time. Let us find out where squirrels hibernate during winter.

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Squirrels mostly hibernate in underground burrows. As ground squirrels are the only type of squirrels that undergo hibernation to survive in winter, they mostly make their nestle underground. When winter arrives, they go into the deep underground burrows and wake up when the surroundings become suitable for them

How long does squirrel hibernate?

Squirrels hibernate only during the winter season to survive from the extreme cold and food scarcity outside. Let us find out how long squirrels go for hibernation in winter.

Squirrels undergo hibernation for about 5 months to 8 months of time. When winter arrives they dive into a deep sleep and wake up only when the warm spring air reaches their burrows. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels undergo hibernation for a long period of about six months. 

Why do squirrels hibernate?

Hibernation helps ground squirrels to survive the harsh cold of winter. Let us know why squirrels hibernate.

Ground squirrels hibernate to survive in the winter season. During this time, extreme cold and food scarcity make the surroundings adverse for them. So ground squirrels go deep down into their burrows and dive into a long sleep. In this way, they store their body’s energy in the winter season. 

Do squirrels feel cold in winter?

Squirrels feel cold in winter. Squirrels are homeothermic mammals and they maintain a constant temperature throughout the year. That is why when the temperature of the surroundings drops significantly they feel cold and hence most of the squirrels become less active during this time and some undergo hibernation.

How do squirrels stay warm in the winter?

Squirrels are small mammals and face lots of difficulties during the winter season. Let us know how squirrels stay warm in the winter.

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Most squirrels (Tree squirrels, flying squirrels) make a safe and warm den for themselves so that they can stay warm. They make their den in high tree holes with twigs and store enough food in that place. In extreme cold, squirrels sometimes share their den with others and mass their bodies together to stay warm.

Ground squirrels undergo hibernation to store their body temperature and when the environment becomes suitable for them, they wake up.

What temperature is too cold for squirrels?

Squirrels are found across all the continents (except Antarctica) and adapt themselves differently to a certain environment. Let us know what temperature is too cold for squirrels.

Most types of squirrel start to feel cold when the temperature drops below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. They tend to stay in their dens most of the time. Whereas Arctic Squirrels remain outside the burrow at this temperature.

Arctic ground squirrels can withstand temperatures as low as -26 °C (-14.8 °F) without waking up from hibernation. Hibernating squirrels have the ability to withstand extreme cold during hibernation. During hibernation, the somatosensory neurons of them express cold insensitive TRPM8 in their body making them cold resistant.

Do squirrels come out in the winter?

Squirrels are mostly seen during the summer days and become less active when winter arrives because of the cold. Let us find out if squirrels come out or not in the time of winter.

Squirrels do not tend to come out from their dens and burrows in the winter. Non-hibernating squirrels make their dens stay warm and full of food so that they do not have to come out in the cold. Hibernating squirrels during winter undergo hibernation in their burrows and only come out when winter is gone.

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Non-hibernating squirrels also sleep for a long during winters, sometimes for a few days also in their dens. Before winter some squirrels tend to eat a lot to build an extra fat layer and in absence of food, they survive by burning that extra mass. 


Squirrels are one of the most significant rodents in our ecosystem. They play a major role in spreading of seeds and shaping plant compositions. Here we discuss some amazing facts related to squirrels’ hibernation.

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