There are nearly 300 species of squirrels, and the Eastern Grey squirrel alone has roughly two billion members in the US. That’s a lot of squirrels, so how come we never see one just randomly plummet to the ground? Do squirrels ever fall from trees?
Do Squirrels Fall From Trees
Squirrels do fall from trees. Younger squirrels are more likely to fall because they are just getting their fur and starting to explore outside of the nest. Once a squirrel reaches maturity, it will typically be able to use its long bushy tail to balance and stay up in the trees.
How Often Do Squirrels Fall From Trees
Although it would be impossible to know exactly how often squirrels fall from trees, it is safe to say they likely all fall from time to time.
It would be improbable for a branch hopping daredevil whose hands are often full not to make a mistake. Mistakes are part of learning.
Squirrels are incredibly light weight at just 1 to 1.5 pounds (0.45 to 0.68 kg), and they have two secret weapons for staying up in the trees.
First, their tails are actually skinny and bony underneath, like a rat’s tail. They are in the rodent family, after all. The long, thick fur makes them excellent for insulation, catching the wind, and balancing.
As PennLive points out, squirrels can lose their tail fur because of mange or other health conditions.
Likewise, a predator might bite the end off or pull a significant amount of fur out. When this happens, a squirrel is going to have a harder time balancing. Unbalanced creatures fall.
The second thing keeping squirrels in the trees is their claws. A squirrels’ back feet have unique bones. Instead of forward-facing, locked-in-place ankles, they have ball and socket joints above their tiny, clawed feet.
This gives a squirrel more range of motion when they are holding on to the bark. As a result, a squirrel is less likely to fall or break an ankle during its acrobatics.
How Far Can A Squirrel Fall From A Tree
Technically a squirrel can fall any distance from a tree. However, the distance a squirrel can fall safely from a tree is about a hundred feet. That’s an incredible plummet for most creatures.
Luckily, squirrels can use their fluffy tails like a parachute. They reduce their descent speed by catching the wind from their fall in the massive furry back end.
Doing this incredible trick means the squirrels slow down and would never reach terminal velocity. Even if they were to fall from the necessary 1,500 feet to achieve that speed, they’d be more likely to survive than most other creatures.
Do Squirrels Get Hurt When They Fall From Trees
Falling a hundred feet is nothing for an adult squirrel. They would have to be extraordinarily unlucky to take damage in such a fall.
That said, it’s not impossible for a squirrel to get hurt. For example, they could catch a stick or leaf in the eye. Likewise, a squirrel could land wrong and accidentally damage a joint or bone.
Though they more often than not land safely, it can happen.
Will A Fall From A Tree Kill A Squirrel
Falling from a tree could kill a squirrel, but it’s not likely to happen. These small and fluffy troublemakers could impale themselves on a stick or take a tough tumble on a rock in rare cases.
Mostly, squirrels stay close enough to the ground to avoid falling death.
The tallest tree in the world is known as Hyperion. This massive 380-foot-tall tree has certainly seen its share of squirrels standing in Californias’ Redwood National Park.
If a squirrel were to fall from even halfway up Hyperion, it would probably get hurt when it landed. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the fall would kill the lightweight squirrel.
Many trees like the Eastern White Pine can reach from a hundred and fifty to over two hundred feet tall.
Resultantly, there are numerous trees that a squirrel might fall from, which are high enough to damage the tiny creature. Mostly, their lack of aerodynamic properties is enough to save them the worst of it.
Why Do Baby Squirrels Fall Out Of Trees
A baby squirrel can fall out of a tree for numerous reasons. Below is a quick list of reasons baby squirrels land on the ground, including falling and other, more intentional yet involuntary flights.
- Most baby squirrels fall out of the tree due to weather. Their spring nests or drays aren’t as insulated and protective as a winter nest, so trees whipped by strong winds can toss a little squirrel to the ground. Likewise, a tough storm can break up the nest.
- A too-curious baby squirrel might try to leave home early out of curiosity. Though this is rare, some baby squirrels are more adventurous.
- If the mother squirrel dies, her babies will climb out of the nest when they get too hungry.
- Crows will wait until a new mother squirrel is done giving birth and going through an intense three-week feeding session with new kittens. When she leaves for the first time to get food or water, they will thrash the nest to pieces causing the little ones to fall before the mother can return.
What Do You Do When A Squirrel Falls Out Of A Tree
If the squirrel is grown when it falls out of the tree, then it is probably fine. These adults don’t need your help unless they’ve taken some serious accidental damage.
Baby squirrels are also frequently capable of self-help. They will call for their mother, who returns and carries them back to the nest.
Even when a nest is destroyed, mother squirrels have a plan. They build a backup nest before giving birth. This allows a squirrel mom to take her babies to safety in case of predators or other problems.
If the squirrel is truly injured or abandoned, then you should contact an animal rehabilitator. Squirrels are wild animals, and a rehab center can give them the care they need to heal or grow and then release them into the wild.
Helpful Tips To Know About Squirrels Falling From Trees
Even when you are an agile, acrobatic tree-dwelling rodent, gravity works on you. Just as birds can fall from trees, so can squirrels. Fortunately for the squirrel, it’s usually no big deal.
Here are some helpful tips to know about squirrels falling from trees.
- If you find a baby squirrel on the ground, it is perfectly acceptable to pick it up and put it back in its nest if you can reach it. The myth that smelling like a human will make animal mothers abandon their young is just that, untrue.
- Another smart way to help a young squirrel that has fallen from a tree is to protect it while it is calling for its mother. Making sure predators don’t grab the baby before its mother can stage a rescue is a great way to help.
- You can call the local Forestry Service, Fish and Wildlife, or Fish and Game department to ask who to contact for local squirrel rehabilitation. Although this varies from one city or county to the next, wildland services will almost always have that information or be able to put you on the right track. Failing that, try contacting local vets and animal hospitals.
Squirrels are incredibly resilient. Moreover, they are evolved for climbing, jumping, and even falling. While squirrels definitely do fall, they are well suited to surviving the impact.
Lightweight frames and dense, long fur helps slow their fall. In particular, squirrels can use their tails almost like a parachute when falling from greater heights.
A 100 foot fall is no problem for these perfectly evolved tree-dwellers.