How Long Do Squirrels Hibernate?

squirrel in some brush

Winter makes the resources of animals scarce. To make it through the winter, animals need to minimize their energy use. One way they do this is by slowing down their metabolism and entering hibernation. Hibernation allows most wild animals that live in very cold places to conserve energy and avoid starving during winter months when food is scarce.

The thing is, squirrels, tree squirrels, in particular, do not hibernate. They go into a deep sleep called torpor. Torpor is very similar to hibernation but it’s not as deep or as long. Squirrels usually enter torpor when the temperature outside becomes too cold for them to be active (usually below 50 degrees Fahrenheit).

They may seem like they’re hibernating because they enter a resting state where their heart rate and body temperature drop, but they can easily be awakened. The state of torpor along with other winter survival strategies is how squirrels make it through the cold months.

Do Squirrels Hibernate?

Common tree squirrels like the grey squirrel do not hibernate. However, they do have a few tricks up their sleeves. Although their bodies do not shut down just like other animals during the winter, they go into a state called torpor. This means that the squirrel’s metabolism slows down, and it doesn’t need to eat or drink as much. This way they can save on energy and make it through the winter.

They usually go to torpor from October to April but it varies depending on where they live. Squirrels spend less time foraging for food and more time resting in this state. If the temperature is too cold for them to be active, they will go into torpor. For example, if it’s below 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside, you’ll probably find a squirrel snoozing away.

Some places depending on their resources may not have a long hibernation period. Squirrels in the north and west of North America and Europe typically hibernate longer than ones from southern areas.

How Long Do Squirrels Hibernate?

Well, if we’re talking about true hibernation, where the animal’s body shuts down, tree squirrels don’t do that. However, they go into a state called torpor where their metabolism slows down and they don’t need to eat or drink as much. So depending on what you call hibernation, squirrels can “hibernate” from October to April.

The answer to how long they are in the state of torpor is, it depends on where they live and the resources available. Some places may only have a short hibernation period, while others can go longer than six months depending on their environment.

Torpor: What is it?

Unlike other animals in the winter, squirrels do not completely shut down. Their metabolism slows down, but they can still wake up and forage for food if they need to. If the weather is mild, they may even skip hibernation altogether!

Squirrels in warmer climates typically don’t hibernate. They go into torpor for a few days and then wake up again to eat food that they store. They can last anywhere from a couple of hours to days. It all depends on the weather and how much food there is available.

Why Don’t Tree Squirrels Hibernate?

Squirrel species do not hibernate because it is not necessary for their survival unlike other animals that live in severe cold conditions or harsher climates where resources are scarce. Their pre-winter activities allow them to store up enough food and energy to last through the winter. They hoard food in their dens and fatten up at the same time to get ready for the winter.

They also have a thick coat of fur that helps to keep them warm. The combination of hoarding and denning with other animals allows them to survive the winter.

What Does Squirrel Hibernation Look Like?

During torpor, a squirrel’s heart rate slows down and so does its breathing. They can go for weeks without needing to eat or drink! Their metabolism is so slow that they can go for a very long time without needing to wake up and eat. They will bury themselves in leaves or their nests, which is called a drey nest.

Hibernation vs. Torpor

Hibernation is a state of inactivity that occurs during winter. During this time, an animal’s body temperature and heart rate decrease to conserve energy. Torpor does not mean the same thing as hibernation. In torpor, animals’ metabolisms slow down but they can wake up if needed.

Hibernation has the advantage of being able to save energy for the entire winter. However, it also means that the animal is not able to move around and find food. If there is a prolonged winter, the animal could die.

Torpor has less of an energy savings because the animal is able to wake up and find food if needed. This has the advantage of the animal being alert to danger and able to find food. However, the disadvantage of torpor is that it does not last as long so their energy savings are less than hibernation.

What About Ground Squirrels?

Unlike tree squirrels, ground squirrels hibernate in the winter. They go into a deep sleep for about six months and their heart rate and breathing slow way down. When they wake up, they have to eat everything that they’ve missed while they were sleeping!

They hibernate around September and wake up in March. Ground squirrels live in burrows underground where it is warm and moist. This helps them to conserve their energy throughout the winter.

Squirrels’ Preparation For Winter

It’s really interesting to learn about how animals survive by finding food when it is scarce, during winter times! Common squirrels like the eastern gray squirrel usually start their preparations in the summer so they are ready for the cold winter months. They start by stocking up on food, usually in late summer and early fall.

They gather mostly nuts, but also acorns, seeds, and berries. Squirrels also bury their food in the ground so they can have a source of food when winter comes. They also start to fatten up before hibernation, getting as much fat as possible on their bodies. This will help them through the winter when they’re not able to move around and find food.

Where Do Squirrels Live in the Winter?

Tree squirrels live in nests called dreys, which are usually small holes in tree trunks or branches. They will line the nests with leaves and grass to help keep them warm during wintertime.

Some squirrels will also live with people during the winter. They are often seen living in attics, garages, and even roofs! They will usually find a place that is warm and has access to food like bird feeders, trash cans, and pet food so they can survive the winter.

How Long Do Squirrels Stay In Their Dens During Winter?

Squirrels stay in their dens for different amounts of time during the winter. In the regions where they do not have extremely cold weather, they can stay in their dens for a couple of days. In colder areas, squirrels may be in hibernation from three months up to five months! This really depends on how long and severe the winter is each year.

Squirrels like to eat nuts and seeds during summer and fall. They store these food items in their dens so that they can have something to eat during winter when there are fewer options available for them to find food.

Squirrels also try to stock up on as much fat as possible before hibernation because this will help them through the cold months where they don’t have anything else to eat except what they’ve stored.

Other Squirrel Survival Strategies

After hoarding their food, squirrels go looking for a place to spend the winter. They usually find an abandoned animal den or another hole, like under your house! They make their nests out of leaves and grass in these spots so they are ready when winter comes.

Squirrels also live with other squirrels in their area, which can help them survive because they can share warmth. This allows them to spend less energy keeping warm and more on looking for food. Their thick and warm coat of fur also helps to keep them warm. They will sleep during the winter in their nests for weeks at a time, only waking up every couple of days or so.

It’s pretty incredible that squirrels can sleep through the winter, but they have very good strategies to survive! They start getting ready in late summer so they are prepared when the weather gets cold. These small animals store a lot of food and pack their nests with leaves or grass so that they are ready when winter comes. They also live in groups with other squirrels to help them survive the winter months.

When Do Squirrels Come Out Of Hibernation?

Squirrels come out of hibernation at different times depending on the type of squirrel and where they live. Ground squirrels and flying squirrels usually come out earlier than red or tree squirrels. Gray squirrels usually come out in late February or early March, while the other types of squirrels come out in April or May.

Grey squirrels may also come out of torpor early to breed during their winter breeding season which happens in January and February. It’s pretty interesting to think about squirrels sleeping through the winter, but they have some very clever strategies! They start getting ready in late summer so that when it gets cold out they are prepared for hibernation.

The earliest time a ground squirrel can come out is in February, while the latest time for a flying squirrel is in April. Squirrels usually come out of hibernation when they sense that the temperature outside has gotten warmer and there’s more food for them to eat!


It’s interesting to think about how animals have adapted over time to survive in different environments. Squirrels are a great example of this! They may not hibernate for as long as other animals, but they have still found a way to make it through the winter without food.

So, that’s a little bit about how squirrels hibernate! Amazingly, they can survive the winter by going into torpor for short periods. And it’s interesting to see how their habits change depending on where they live.

If you’re having trouble with squirrels once the Winter concludes, AAAC Wildlife Removal’s wildlife technicians are some of the best squirrel trappers in the United States.

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