Knowing a squirrel’s life span is helpful if you want a squirrel as a pet or just want to figure out how long your yard’s invaders will live.

All squirrel species are different, so they naturally possess different life spans. Squirrels in captivity also live much longer than outside wild animals. In fact, most squirrels do not live past their first year of life. 

What Is a Squirrel?

A squirrel is both a rodent and a mammal. They are mammals because they are covered in hair and have mammary glands to feed their children milk. They count as rodents because they gnaw on things with their powerful, over-sized incisors.

Squirrels can be found all over the world in places like North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. 

Did You Know

Squirrels’ front teeth never stop growing. They must gnaw on wood and food to keep them at the proper length.

There are currently over 200 different species on earth, each with its own diet and separate habitat. This article focuses on the most common squirrel species found in North America.

Where Do Squirrels Live?

There are three different types of squirrels: tree, ground, and flying

Tree squirrels live in burrows within trees or build nests between branches’ crooks. They are agile climbers and spend most of their time high up in the trees.

Ground squirrels and chipmunks naturally live in underground burrows they dig themselves. These burrows provide shelter and safety from predators. Ground squirrels emerge to forage and socialize during the day, then retreat to their burrows at night.

Flying squirrels are a special case. Some live in holes in trees, others build nests, and others live in a new place every night to avoid predators. Since they can glide from tree to tree using their parachute-like patagium “wings,” this is an excellent survival mechanism.

Does Diet Affect a Squirrel’s Life Span?

Squirrels are omnivores, which means they eat meat, vegetables, and usually anything they can get their paws on. Their favorite foods include fungi, seeds, nuts, and fruit, but they will also consume insects, eggs, small reptiles, and even snakes.

Squirrels bury a lot of food in preparation for winter, and it’s not uncommon for squirrels to steal from the storage spaces of others. This ensures they have adequate food reserves when other sources are scarce.

How Long Do Squirrels Live?

Squirrels in captivity – like in zoos – can live a whopping 24 years, which is longer than most dogs and cats. However, a regular squirrel faces many threats in its day-to-day life and doesn’t live long. As mentioned earlier, most chipmunks and squirrels don’t make it to their first year. When they do, they can live between six to 10 years.

Here are some of North America’s most common types of squirrels and their average life spans. 

American Red Squirrel

American red squirrels are some of the shortest in North America and tend to live in Canada or the far northeast of the United States. They thrive in coniferous forests and make their dens in the hollows of trees.

These squirrels can live to be eight years old, but most wild ones barely make it to two years. This species slightly differs from others in that males tend to live longer than females.

However, the amount is negligible and only longer by a few weeks. It’s also important to note that male squirrels tend to outlive the females. The American red squirrel is territorial and will defend its home range aggressively.

American red squirrel

Fox Squirrel

Fox squirrels are the most common in North America and have the typical rich, chestnut brown color people often associate with this mammal. They inhabit mixed forests with both deciduous and coniferous trees.

Fox squirrels are highly adaptable and can thrive in urban and suburban environments. They den in tree cavities or build large nests out of leaves. Fox squirrels have two annual breeding seasons, giving them high reproductive rates.

They can live to be 18, but the maximum ages discovered in wild squirrels have been eight years for males and 13 years for females.

Fox Squirrel

Southern Flying Squirrel

The southern flying squirrel is an outlier in the squirrel world. These unusual mammals only live between three to five years and are North America’s only flying squirrel species.

They have a loose patagium of skin that stretches between their wrists and ankles, allowing them to glide between trees. Southern flying squirrels are nocturnal and sleep together in aggregations during the day for warmth.

Southern Flying Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

This squirrel species is typically found throughout the Midwest and is what many people in the United States might think of when trying to imagine a typical squirrel.

It’s furry and adorable and can live between 12 to 24 years in the right environment. Eastern gray squirrels construct tree dens and leaf nests in mature forests and urban areas. They have round, fluffy tails and often display white fur around their eyes.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Black Squirrel

Sometimes, people might encounter an all-black squirrel, especially in the Midwest. They aren’t a separate species but occur from different melanin levels in the animal’s body.

They tend to be either eastern gray or fox squirrels with a different hair color. The black fur is a simple genetic mutation. Black squirrels have the same habits, diet, and life span as their normally colored counterparts. Most live to be about six years old in the wild or 18 years old in captivity.

Black Squirrel

Closing Thoughts On The Squirrel Life Span

Like most other animals, squirrels have drastically shorter life spans in the wild than in captivity. If you are worried about one bugging you forever, rest assured it will most likely perish within a year.

If you want the squirrel as a pet, the good news is that those who make it past the first year will be around for a long time. With proper care, squirrels can live over 20 years in human care.

While squirrel life span varies by species, knowing the general ranges helps provide useful context whether you love these furry critters or consider them pesky rodents. If you have a serious pest issue, consider the cost of hiring a professional pest control company versus the time and money you’ll spend employing DIY squirrel control yourself.

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FAQs About Squirrel Life Spans

How long do squirrels live as pets?

Pet squirrels can live over 20 years in captivity with proper care and diet. Some have reached 25 years old. Hand-raised squirrels make better pets than capturing wild adults.

What is the shortest-living squirrel?

The southern flying squirrel has the shortest life span at only three to five years in the wild. Other short-lived species are the American red squirrel at two to eight years and Merriam’s chipmunk at three years.

Do city squirrels live longer than rural ones?

Not necessarily. Urban squirrels face threats like cars and dogs, while rural ones are more prone to predators. Food availability plays a role, too. Both can live approximately eight to 10 years on average.

Why don't squirrels live very long in the wild?

Threats from predators, disease, harsh weather, and lack of food/shelter contribute to short wildlife spans. Most don’t make it past their first year. Those that do live, on average, six to 10 years. Captivity removes most mortality factors.

How long do squirrels live compared to other rodents?

Squirrels live longer than smaller rodents like mice at one to two years but don’t live as long as porcupines at 10 to 20 years or beavers at 10 to 25 years. Larger body size correlates to longer rodent life spans.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas

Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas is a globetrotting content writer hailing from the USA. With a passion for pest control, he brings a unique perspective to his writing from his early years working for one of the largest pest control companies in America. Throughout his early 20s, Jordan gained valuable experience and knowledge in the field, tackling pest infestations head-on and ensuring the well-being of countless homes.

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Amy DeYoung


Amy DeYoung has a passion for educating and motivating homeowners to improve their lives through home improvement projects and preventative measures. She is a content writer and editor specializing in pest control, moving, window, and lawn/gardening content for Today’s Homeowner. Amy utilizes her own experience within the pest control and real estate industry to educate readers. She studied business, communications, and writing at Arizona State University.

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