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Why Don't I Ever See Baby Squirrels?

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Tags: squirrel, baby animals, autumn, fall

Created: 11/27/2012      Updated: 8/10/2016

The simple answer is, baby squirrels don't leave the nest until they are fully furred and can survive on their own so, without seeing the mother right next to the babies, they all look about the same size. 

Most babies leave the nest in April or May.  At this point the babies are fluffy and fat but the parents have exhausted their winter fat and are beginning to shed their winter fur, so look relatively small.  A second litter of babies may leave the nest around September.  At this point the parents have begun putting on fat and winter fur, so the apparent size difference can be greater.  Because of this, it may be easier to identify babies born late in the year. 

Although baby squirrels have been recorded in almost every month of the year, these two litters, early spring and late summer, are the norm.  Typically the early spring babies have the highest survival rate, especially in areas where it snows, since a small squirrel has to expend more energy than a large one to stay warm and find food.

I managed to take a few pictures of a baby and a young adult male that were foraging near each other in the same park.  Unfortunately, tree squirrels aren’t very social so I couldn’t get any useful pictures of them near each other, but they found my pen interesting so there is some scale.  The pen is about 16cm long.

  • Baby grey squirrelA baby grey squirrel.

  • Adult greay squirrel

    An adult grey squirrel from the same population as the baby in the previous photograph.

  • Adult grey squirrel

    Another view of the adult.  Note the more “mature” features. 

Even with the specimens in-hand, assessing age can be somewhat qualitative but when the babies are very young, they are simply more cute than the rest of the population.

If you're a squirrel watcher, like me, I hope you take the time to record your observations at projectsquirrel.org . Your data, combined with that of others around the country, helps us understand more about squirrels and about the nature in your neighborhood!

Steve Sullivan, Senior Curator of Urban Ecology

No Comments

  • roy plotnick said (on 5/25/2013 )

    Steve:
    you may be right about the poison. Another dead squirrel down the alley this morning. I am about the work on closing off the access in my garage. I assume any babies are gone? Best- Roy

  • candy d said (on 5/28/2013 )

    One day walking home,I seen a fat and happy squirrel without a tail. I though he might of got hit or something and he was really slow. A few days ago I seen the same squirrel in a tree by my house and I was wondering if you had any tips for me to help him out and feed him. Thanks a lot I really appreciate it!

  • Debbie said (on 6/2/2013 )

    Liked ur info on our furry little friends. Have been feeding our squirrels for the last yr n today is first time seeing a real little squirrel.they eat peanuts n will take one from our hands n they apparently can hear the peanuts drop from a good distance cause they come runnin! Sooo neat. Now the baby looks to b bout 6" long from head to but n his tail only bout same length. so if he's only bout 11-12" long would he be b a spring baby? Should he hav any special food because he is a younger one?:)

  • Steve said (on 8/13/2013 )

    Stump tailed squirrels are usually boys that were a little too amorous. If the girls aren't ready to mate, they will often chase the boys away and may bite their tails or scratch their ears.

    Once baby squirrels leave the nest, they are ready to forage on their own. Both adults and babies need the same kind of food, high fat, high protein nuts. Unsalted peanuts work just fine. Even more preferred are hazelnuts and walnuts. Make sure you don't give them any added salt and try not to create health hazards (for humans of squirrels) t your feeding sites.

  • norma said (on 9/22/2013 )

    I live in Florida and I wanted to know when mother squirrels leave there young; or do they stay together and live like a family? We have a tree in front of my home n apparently 4 baby squirrels came down from the tree n actually 1 of the baby squirrels came at my feet and stood there; which was shocking cause squirrels tend to run away from you. Why would that happen ? Also; would it be okay to feed the little baby squirrels nuts at times just to help them out a little. Since there so young?

  • Dolores said (on 9/29/2013 )

    We have some squirrels in backyard. 3 black, 2grey/brown and a blonde one. I have been feeding them but the most friendly of them all was a young black female. I she will come to the front lawn if she sees us there or if she is in the backyard she will wait for us to get peanuts for her. She will come 2ft. From me for the nuts. The rest of the squirrels are afraid of us so she gets the most of the nuts. They have given us hrs. Of enjoyment. Plan on leaving nuts out in winter if we can, we do get a lot of snow here. Love your info on them, many thanks!

  • Steve Sullivan said (on 9/30/2013 )

    Baby squirrels are born hairless and helpless, just like most other rodents, but they grow quickly on mother's very rich milk. Sometimes an individual will be extra active, exploring the nest and maybe even leave the nest. Usually mom will retrieve them but at some point they will be left mostly on their own. This can happen at any time of year, especially in the southern parts of their range.

    Very young squirrels can seem pretty fearless and are sometimes easy to pick up. You should resist the temptation to interact too much though, for several reasons.
    1) Squirrels can carry fleas. You don't want their fleas or other parasites.
    2) Youngsters are at that in-between stage where they still have the urge to nurse but have teeth for opening hard nut shells. These mandibular chisels can draw a lot of blood if a squirrel tries to nurse your hand. Their claws are also made for walking straight up trees so will easily, if unintentionally, slice your skin.
    3) Perhaps the most important reason to leave the squirrel alone is that if it becomes habituated to humans, it will become a dangerous pest as it ages.
    If you are worried that it can't fend for itself yet, you can leave some nice nuts out for it (not corn or birdseed)but don't feed it by hand, make sure there are no free-roaming cats in the neighborhood,and if necessary contact a licensed rehabber in your state.

  • J. Fprd said (on 8/11/2014 )

    I recently took some pictures of one of the squirrels that comes over my fence every day and eats bread and peanuts in my yard.
    In two or three of the pictures I see what seems to look kind of strange.
    You have to bring the picture in very close to the screen to see what I mean.
    It appears to be a head, face, of a very teeny tiny little something, squirrel baby??
    This little face seems to be on the squirrel's belly.
    I'm not nuts and I have been an amateur photographer for 60 years and a nature lover. I take thousands of pictures each year. I don't believe I have ever seen anything like this.
    What can it be???

  • SYLVIA said (on 11/11/2014 )

    THANKS FOR ALL YOUR INFORMATIVE INFO. VERY INTERESTING AND EDUCATIONAL.
    MY HUSBAND BOUGHT A SQUIRREL FEEDER AND ONLY FOR SQUIRRELS, NOTHING ELSE CAN GET INTO THE FEEDER. WE REALLY ENJOY WATCHING THEM. THEY COME RIGHT ONTO OUR DECK AND WE GIVE THEM PEANUTS, CUS USUALLY THERE WILL BE A SQUIRREL IN THE FEEDER, SO THAT MEANS WE NEED TO FEED THE OTHER ONES AS THE FEEDER IS OCCUPIED. WHAT WITH FEEDING THE PHEASANT. MORNING DOVES, VARIOUS BIRDS WE ARE IN OUR GLORY. THE BLUE JAYS STAY RIGHT ON THE RAILING OF THE DECK WHILST I STAND THERE. THANKS SO MUCH. BYE FOR NOW SYLVIA

  • Kayla Knight said (on 12/5/2014 )

    I was wondering what season squirrels are born in. Could you tell me? One of my friends has a job as a tree logger and I made him promise to quit his job when the squirrels are born so they wouldn't lose their home to him.

  • Krystina Rangel said (on 1/28/2015 )

    Hi, i raised a squirrel after it fell from a tree and the mother never came to get her. I decided to help her because if I didn't my dogs wld kill her so after getting her to the age where she cld take care of herself, I let her go in the woods behind my home. I was so happy to see that she wld come to see me everyday and I wld feed and play with her but as she got older she wld come to see me every other day and its been this way for three months after letting her go. Its now January and she hasn't come to see me in two weeks even after I leave food for her. I have noticed a month before she stopped visiting me she was getting fat so I thought maybe she was pregnant so I figured that's why she hasn't been around. So my question is, how often does the mother leave the nest to eat after giving birth to her babies and if she does leave how far does she leave away from the nest? And how long will she stay with the babies before she starts to come back to see me...or should I be concerned that she hasn't come back? I just want to know if she is OK....pls any help with my questions will be great bcz I'm a nervous wreck. Thank you so much

  • Tom kohls said (on 2/4/2015 )

    In the winter I can see the squirrel nests in our neighborhood. I noticed that while it seems like we have an abundance of squirrels,I see only a few nests and 4are in one smaller tree with one in a large Maple,then you have to go for blocks b4 seeing more. This is in the city of Minneapolis. Why not more and why not more in the large stronger trees?

  • Jennifer S said (on 3/23/2015 )

    We just bought a house and have a squirrel nest in my boat lift motor. She has babies that are just coming out and exploring andI dont want to evict them until after the babies can take care of themselves. Any idea of when they leave the nest and I can safely remove the nest from the motor? Thanks

  • Connie said (on 4/7/2015 )

    Hi

    Live in Hyde Park, (Chicago).

    Haven't seen any squirrels at all, since fall.

    Would anyone know where the squirrels are...?

    Winter was sort of cold at one point, would that have had anything to do with it.

    Had "regulars" around my apartment building, but whole blocks are bare.

    Thanks for any insight(s). :)

  • ronny said (on 4/8/2015 )

    I just saw a new born squirrel looked alot like a kitten maybe 2 or 3 days old. I have a question if squireel is sick,will mother abandon the baby?

  • Laurie said (on 4/11/2015 )

    Just curious...sadly found a dead, very young baby animal in the driveway yesterday morning. Quite distressing. I couldn't id, but wondered if it could be a baby squirrel that fell or blew out of a tree nest? We have a number of mature pine trees along the drive, and numerous squirrels in the neighborhood. It was about 3-4" long, pale tummy and dark, barely furred back. Curled in a fetal position. :(

    Thanks! Laurie

  • Nena said (on 4/22/2015 )

    I would re-iterate K. Rangel's post (Jan 27/15 : ), "..my question is, how often does the mother leave the nest to eat after giving birth to her babies and if she does leave how far does she leave away from the nest? And how long will she stay with the babies before she starts to come back .." I also have become concerned about a beautiful healthy squirrel that I saw daily, (in SE British Columbia, Canada). I did learn that litters can be born in April, and I am hopeful this was the case.. I wonder too, will mom-squirrel reappear? Is she simply staying real close to the babies for the time being? ..Her presence is sorely missed, I must say.. and I wish to see sight of her again, very much.

  • attic pests said (on 5/9/2015 )

    As a animal lover I have lived the negative side too.
    Squirrels have nested above my bedroom. No sleep and my nerves are shot. Scratch all night long. My fault. I fed the mom by hand in my lap when she was a baby and now several years later we absolutely have major damage to our house. . I cannot function nor rake it any more. Bird feeder is not squrell proof. As advertised. . God help me.
    I was the kid who brought home 5 species in my shorts
    But no sleep = 😠

  • Joanne said (on 6/9/2015 )

    We have a squirrel nest on the 3rd floor of our porch. The baby can be seen from a window in the nest, moving about but still fairly small. They have made a mess of the boxes and stuff on the porch, for their nest. We need to clean off the porch but the adult squirrels will not let us. The parents are standing guard trying to keep us away from the nest. They are use warning noises, and have been on the attack. We do not want to hurt them. We need to know how long it takes the baby mature so that we can get to the stuff on the porch before they are ready for their next litter.

    We need to know how long it takes for baby to mature

  • Jennee said (on 6/17/2015 )

    Thought I'd share my set of squirrel photos from Flickr. I have a new one near the bottom of the list, a video of two squirrels, one of which I think is a parent grooming a large adolescent.

    I'm a huge supporter of squirrel studies.

    Oh and the Project squirrel site isn't coming up. Is it down?

  • Alan Robinson said (on 7/29/2015 )

    Our mother squirrel appears to have only one baby which is inquisitive. Both it and its mother are not scared of us - the baby keeps falling out of its nest above our porch and its mother keeps coming down to rescue it.

    She rescues her baby by making the baby curl up into a ball and then she carries it off in her mouth.

    This has happened the last 2 nights just before dusk - we are in S Miami in Pinecrest

  • Madmom said (on 9/27/2015 )

    My husband found a baby about 5 weeks old according to research. He was extremely lethargic and cool to the touch. I was reluctant but he was clearly in distress and would have died without intervention. First thing I did was bath in warm water and used a natural soap,to rid the fleas and attempt to raise his body temp. Dried him and put him in a box with a heating pad set on low. Put a towel on the heating pad. Let him warm for a bit then introduced water mixed with sugar and salt. Basically followed instructions found at http://www.squirreltales.org,
    First , let me be clear.. I do not intend to keep this squirrel as a pet , I will release him back to the yard.. When he is much stronger. So here is the big question. Since I live in Michigan when should I do this and what to feed in the meantime.. Clearly mom is going to feed what she can from natural environment, which in this case is a suburban neighborhood, so how exactly do I feed this baby. After getting him warm and hydrated i introduced formula, which he is taking readily enough,but I'm certain he is old enough for solids.

  • Mikelyn said (on 10/5/2015 )

    I live in Merritt Island FL and yesterday we had a baby squirrel on the side of hour house. It finally went to a near by tree and to my amazement there were 2 babies. The are fully developed but my guess is that they are September born. My questions is will they leave, they slept in the crotch of the tree overnite and are still here this morning. I have not fed them but have tried getting them to move and they just look at me. I did see an adult squirrel and figured it was one of the parents I could see it's belly for nipples so not sure if it was Mom or Dad. Just need to know if they will move on by themselves (driving my Jack Russell crazy) or if I should call someone to relocate. Also worried that because they are by my front door the parents may get upset if they are still around with us going directly by them when leaving the house. Thanks for any feedback!

  • Leslie Stachowski said (on 10/20/2015 )

    I have been feeding a squirrel since last fall. I realized she was a nursing mother a few months ago. She came 2 times each day to eat the sunflower seeds I leave for her. I noticed a huge red blister/sore on her right front paw last week and tried to trap her but she wouldn't go in the trap. The paw looked better 3 days later. She hasn't been here for 2 days to eat and I'm worried. The babies left the nest a few weeks ago and I noticed them back in the tree yesterday. They must have come back to the area. Did she leave because they came back? I really need to know that she is ok.

  • Camille said (on 1/10/2016 )

    We have a 3 legged adorable girl squirrel that comes almost daily to eat, here in So ID. I think she's a Fox squirrel from your pictures. Any idea what may have happened to her other front paw and forearm? Just discovered your great site, thanks! I love squirrels, and often wonder why no one has yet made a documentary or movie about their little lives, habits, romances, trials, etc! Hollywood is missing the boat! They are not the same at all as chipmunks , so Chip and Dale don't count!

  • Tom said (on 1/17/2016 )

    I have a pregnant squirrel that climbs up on the screen of my porch when I am there. She waits for me to get up and will jump to the ground and wait. When I fill a cup with nuts she then runs to the bowl that I put them in. I do not entice her to eat from my hand, but will, at times, put food on the walk at my feet. She will come to it while I am standing there. I have not seen her for two days, and suspect she has given birth. We have many around but she is the only one playing this feeding game. I do hold off feeding them for a day or two to make sure they forage on their own and get a variety of food. We enjoy watching them.

  • Ellie kahn said (on 3/15/2016 )

    A neighbor knocked a nest from a tree here in Van Nuys over the weekend and there were 2 furry babies in it. With instructions from a local rehabber, he left the babies in a box near the tree. The mother did come and get them -- I'm curious about how she carried the baby... hoping it didn't get injured - neighbor shot very short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3n1yiEPLhA

  • Mrs Janet Rayner said (on 3/21/2016 )

    I have just discovered a squirrel nest in my shed. March 21 2016 and want to know how soon I can safely block up the holes where the parents
    get in. I don't like them in my shed but I can't resort to killing them.

  • Val said (on 4/18/2016 )

    We have 3 generations of squirrels at our park. We feed them every day. The last litter only 2 of the babies surrivived. Mama is one of the oldest in the park. She has had 3 litters since we have been here and is on her 4th. We love our squirrels here.

  • Mark Joseph said (on 4/26/2016 )

    Oh dear :( We found a lactating mother killed in the road on the way home from school just now. Still warm. Took her home to bury, but so worried there are babies somewhere waiting for her. Looking at the dates I feel it might be likely that they are weaned and maybe even independent. Is that very likely? Please be aware that we are in the UK and these were introduced 100+ years ago. They do not hibernate here as its too warm in winter. We also had an exceptionally mild winter with next to no frost, even light frost, so hoping they bred early. Kind regards. Mark

  • Dave said (on 6/2/2016 )

    Lots of luck feeding them. I got them in attic. Not fun to get rid of. They keep chewing through wooden facia. Had to put one way trap and fill in hole. He came back and chewed new hole. Have had to put 2 foot small wire fencing along facia. Hope this works. Ongoing battle for four months.

  • susie monroe said (on 6/16/2016 )

    I have quite a few sguirrels in my yard I have 2 sizes of babies. We call them juniors. 2 are about 8 Inches not including tail. The newest baby is only about 4 inches and has the whtest belly reminds of a chipmunk and as fast as speedy Gonzális so much fin to watch. But they can certainly cause trouble. I've been a squirel watcher all my life
    .

  • Diana said (on 8/14/2016 )

    Hi I raised a baby squirrel I was at a gas station and some guy had a pocket full of pinkies about 2 days old he was going to feed them to his snake I begged him for them so I could take to the forest ranger but he would only give me one I kept her on a heat pad and feed her kitten milk she grew big she had free run of house she would get into dog food bag and not let them eat their food. They are quiet stingy. She was very sweet she would be outside and run up the legs of anyone that knocked on the door. Good watch dog no one got out of the car. I slowly would not let her in and feed her outside She was treated badly by other squirrels I could call her in. But finally she paired up with a male if I called her and she came he would call her back and should her hardly eventually she stayed with him and lived happily I never called her again. I have so many funny stories about her and I loved every one of them. They are really something special

  • Hélène Cossette said (on 9/12/2016 )

    We found a squirrel nest under our balcony and want to take out the Soffite to undo the nest, but there are 3 babies in it. They are almost the same size as their mother. but they don't leave the nest yet. So, we want to know how to proceed without harming the babies nor the mother..

  • Chris Paulson said (on 10/22/2016 )

    I fed a squirrel when I was young on my deck. It came every day, I watched through a window and one day I went out and he didn't run away. every now and then i slowly got closer, about a year later I could touch him! I called him Chubby. I was inches away from him, feeding him corn and nuts. This happened until my dog. Shredded him, the squirrel lived, but he never came close to me again. Every now and then I see him. But now I grown and never saw him again.

  • Murray Simon said (on 11/2/2016 )

    I've seen black squirrels at 2 different locations around Chicago over a period that exceeds 10 years. Is their population growing as it does in other parts of the world (as stated in WIkipedia)? Are pictures of them available at your museum or are you interested in getting images of them?
    Thanks,
    Murray

  • Sarah Poindexter said (on 3/2/2017 )

    Squirrel and nest in our attic. We see the entrance but can't reach it. Fear that babies have been born - wildlife expert comes March 8. Squirrel has done lots of structural damage to attic. I don't want to evict her if babies are there or coming soon. A one-way door swung can be installed but then mom won't be able to get back in. VSuggestions?

  • mary said (on 3/5/2017 )

    found a baby about 5 in' long half dead and in shock in back yard. He is ok now 3 days later. when can i release him ? i am in SPRING HILL FL.

  • Mark Roberts said (on 4/6/2017 )

    Built a squirrel nesting box last year. Finally saw an inhabitant on March 21 of this year. (2017).
    I watch for them a lot but it is infrequent that I see one enter the box. I'm wondering if they would go into the box if not pregnant?

  • Terry Hayes said (on 5/11/2017 )

    I have a squirrel who chewed through a soffit into my bedroom wall and had her first pair of babies last spring. A neighbor helped me put up a barrier but she chewed through that and had another pair of babies this spring. The babies must nbe a couple months old and have started peeking over the edge of the soffit. They don't venture out yet. The mother spends a lot of time foraging and giving my cats dirty looks. I see her climb back into the nest every night around sundown.

    There's a hole on my bedroom wall that I covered with the plastic dome of a rotisserie chicken container. I can hear the babies squeak at night and see them playing sometimes. Squirrels and mice will destroy my house if the wet basement doesn't do it, but I think I have a couple years before that happens. The house was built in 1885 and has seen better days.

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