Long after most of the birds are gone, you can still see squirrels frolicking on warm winter days. Squirrels sleep more during the winter, but they don’t hibernate and come out to forage for food during mild weather. Unlike some mammals, their body temperature doesn’t drop, but stays at a constant temperature all year long (homeotherms).
- Squirrels prepare for winter by bulking up. They spend a lot of time in the fall and early winter eating nuts, seeds, and berries. The extra fat on their bodies provides warmth and energy during the long winter months.
- Squirrels don’t eat every nut or seed they find. They bury food in shallow holes in the ground to dig up later. Of course, they don’t remember where they left every bit of food. Some of the nuts and seeds they bury will sprout into plants in the spring.
- Squirrels live in dens – usually hollows in trees. Several squirrels might live in the same den. Cuddled up together, they keep each other warm.
- Squirrels are experts at shivering, which helps their bodies keep warm.
- Mother squirrels often have babies between January and March. Baby squirrels are born without fur and are completely helpless. They stay in the den with their mother until April or May. By this time, they have fur and look like small adult squirrels.
- Taking care of the babies is hard work. By the time spring comes, the mothers have lost all their winter fat. They look almost as small as the babies!
- Homeotherm: a mammal that maintains a consistent body temperature all year long
- Sprout: when a seed splits and begins to grow into a plant
- Hollow: small holes or indentations
Questions and Answers
Question: Is it okay to feed squirrels in the winter?
Answer: In parts of the country with mild winters and ample food supplies (nut trees), you probably don’t need to feed the squirrels. In areas with harsh winters, you can feed the squirrels occasional foods, such as dried corn, nuts, chopped apples, or chopped greens. Squirrels also appreciate a bowl of water during dry, cold weather. Do not try to catch or pet squirrels.
Watch a video of adorable baby squirrels in their nest.