Did you know some species of squirrel can detect food that’s covered by up to a foot of snow? There’s no doubt these rodents are intelligent and resourceful but, like all living things, their bodies need energy from food to survive and thrive.
Squirrels can last for 5 to 8 days without food, so a little dry spell is no big deal. However, if a squirrel can’t find drinking water, it will usually die within two days.
Fortunately, this is rare. Squirrels are much more likely to die of predation or traffic accidents than starvation. They’re exceptional diggers and climbers so whether their food is buried in the ground or hanging from the top of a tree, they’ll find a way to get to it.
In this article, I’m going to talk about how often squirrels eat and drink and whether they are as hungry as they look.
How Long Will A Squirrel Live Without Food or Water
While it’s still unusual for squirrels to die from starvation, and death by dehydration is even more uncommon, global warming could change things.
As temperatures increase across the planet, biodiversity decreases. Our environments are becoming inhospitable and trees and other plants are producing fewer fruits and seeds as a result.
In time, this could create big problems for squirrels and other common mammals such as badgers, moles, shrews, weasels and more. So, it’s worth getting to know the critters in your garden and learning when and how to help.
There were some very skinny squirrels in my backyard during the winter, but they didn’t stay skinny for long. Most species of squirrel can last five days without eating and bounce back quickly from the drought.
Any longer and their energy levels and coordination can become seriously impaired, but they will still last around eight days before starving to death.
Squirrels can last a maximum of two days without suitable drinking water. A lot of the concern for wild animals, particularly foragers like squirrels, relates to cold weather conditions.
Ice and snow make foraging tougher, it’s true, but extremely hot temperatures can be just as challenging. Drought states like Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado are fast becoming water-free zones for small foragers.
How Long Can A Baby Squirrel Live Without Food and Water
Hand-rearing a squirrel should be a last resort. It’s difficult to do and there’s a low chance of success. If you do find yourself in this situation, know that baby squirrels need to be fed formula every 2 to 3 hours.
Small, regular feedings are essential for keeping a baby squirrel alive.
You don’t need to worry about water until the baby is no longer drinking formula. Before weaning, formula fulfills all of the squirrel’s food and hydration needs.
After weaning at around eight or nine weeks, ensure the baby squirrel has constant access to clean drinking water.
How Long Does It Take A Squirrel To Starve
It takes anywhere between 5 and 8 days for a squirrel to starve. A lot depends on the environment and climate.
Undernourished squirrels in cold, icy conditions will endure longer because hot weather adds dehydration as a complicating factor.
It also depends on what circumstances the hungry squirrel is in and why it’s starving in the first place. A squirrel in a trap may starve faster because they’re likely to expend a lot of energy trying to escape.
The physical stress compounds the malnutrition, the animal grows lethargic, and its blood pressure slows. Without any food, it might starve within as little as three or four days.
How Often Do Squirrels Need Food
There’s variation among the different species but most squirrels eat a diet that’s 95% nuts and seeds. Some favorites include acorns, beechnuts and hickory nuts. Squirrels can and do consume insects, but they make up less than 2% of their daily diet.
On average, adult squirrels eat just over a quarter pound of food per day. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s a big haul for these little guys and they spend most of their day foraging and stashing it.
In the wild, squirrels are almost always looking for food or hiding food for later. They eat small amounts near constantly.
If you want to feed the squirrels in your backyard, it’s best to leave food out every other day unless you’ve got evidence the animals are struggling to eat. Supplying food every day encourages them to be lazy.
They become over-dependent on the easy supply and begin to lose some of their natural skills. Then, when winter comes, they’re no longer the excellent explorers they once were and may become emaciated and weak.
Do Squirrels Need Food and Water Every Day
Feeding the squirrels in your backyard once or twice doesn’t need to be an overly cautious process. But regular feeding requires more thought. The goal should always be to support an animal’s natural behaviors altering them only if they require lifesaving care.
To truly support and nurture wild squirrel populations, you’ve got to enhance their natural environment as opposed to substituting for it.
Leave nuts and seeds out every other day but leave drinking water out as often as possible. This is especially important if you live in a hot climate because squirrels need a lot of water to stay hydrated.
They must drink a minimum of two times per day and preferably more often. The minimum amount of water they require per day is around three teaspoons.
In the wild, they source their water from streams, rivers and the undersides of leaves. If they encounter a bird feeder or dog bowl, they’ll happily drink from it provided the environment seems safe and free of predators.
How Long Does It Take A Squirrel To Die Without Water
It depends on the environment but it’s very rare for a squirrel to survive more than two days without drinking water. Some die of dehydration after just one day.
The only exceptions are the few species that hibernate during the winter such as the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. The majority of squirrels are not winter hibernators and cannot tolerate a lack of water for long.
One of the most important things I’ve learned from watching the squirrels in my garden is the importance of safe water sources.
Like most people, I assumed food was the most urgent requirement and would diligently leave nuts out on the patio every 2 to 3 days.
Now I know these curious creatures can find food in the unlikeliest of places. They are rarely starving for long and have a much greater need for clean water.
Helpful Tips To Know About A Squirrel Eating and Drinking
There are some things to be aware of when feeding wild squirrels so that you don’t have a negative impact on their ecosystem.
These tips will help you work alongside nature and avoid inadvertently harming the wildlife.
- Leave water out for the squirrels as often as you can. Their need for safe water is usually greater than their need for food.
- Always leave out natural unprocessed foods like nuts, seeds and fresh fruits. Avoid giving squirrels fatty or salty foods. Peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, apples and carrots are all good choices.
- Replace the food regularly. Don’t leave old food sitting around in your yard for too long because it might attract unwanted pests. It could also make the squirrels sick. If food stays uneaten, remove and replace it after a day.
- Unless you have reason to believe the squirrels are at risk of starvation, leave food every other day. This will reduce their dependence on you and encourage them to continue foraging in the wild.
I hope you get the opportunity to put my squirrel nurturing advice into action this year. These common garden visitors are often maligned as pests and invaders, but I think these opinions derive from misunderstandings about squirrel behaviors.