Squirrels are small to medium-sized rodents belonging to the family Sciuridae. This family includes both tree and ground squirrels, flying, red, brown, fox and even grey squirrels among a few other rodents.
While most people especially those in farms consider some of these small rodents as pests that destroy crops, there are others that keep them as house pets.
If you want to keep one at home as a pet, it is important to know the lifespan of the squirrel, at least on average in order to estimate how long your pet will live.
- Not all squirrels have the same average life span.
- Some have a short life expectancy than others.
- In addition to this general fact, how long they live may also depend on the environment as will be seen below.
Despite having a generally brief lifespan (comparatively for most squirrels), their population in the world is increasing. As a result, the rodents have been listed as a least concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in recent years.
Before knowing the general lifespans of different types of squirrels, it is important you know these facts concerning these animals. This may also aid you in choosing the right one for a pet.
- The smallest squirrel in the world: The African pygmy squirrel. It is only 70mm long.
- Gestation period: between 28 and 44 days depending on the species.
- They are generally omnivorous.
With this, let us move on to the life expectancies of different squirrels.
Average lifespan of a squirrel
On average, a squirrel’s mean life expectancy is between 10 and 18 years. This may however not be true for all species. There are some that live longer than others.
The figures also depend on various factors. For instance, the region and habitat are major factors that have been found to affect the lifespans of different species. These directly affect important survival considerations of the small mammals.
The lifespan in captivity may vary compared to that in the wild. Squirrels roaming in the wild may have relatively shorter lifespans compared to those in captivity.
Grey squirrel lifespan – 12 to 20 years
The Eastern grey squirrel lives on trees and is commonly native to Eastern North America. When found in Europe, it is generally considered an invasive rodent.
The mean life expectancy of gray squirrels is 1 to 2 years. Although this is very brief, adult ones can live up to 6 years. It has however been recorded that its lifespan is 12 years when living in the wild and 20 years when in captivity. [Source – The Adrondak Ecological Center]
Fox squirrel – 18 years
This is a tree squirrel and is known to be the most populous in their native North America. They are generally different in size and color when compared to their gray and red counterparts.
How long do fox squirrels live? Up to 18 years in captivity. However, in the wild, most of them die before growing into adults due to overhunting, extreme weather in winter and the mange mite infestation.
On average, their life expectancy is 8.6 years for males and 12.6 years for females.
Red squirrel – 3 to 5 years
Also known as the American red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), or the brown squirrel, this tree rodent is said to have a high mortality rate. About 78 percent die before one year of age. However, survival rates increase among the 22% increases to the age of 3 years.
The maximum lifespan is 8 years for females according to Wikipedia. On average, red/brown squirrels can live for up to 5 years when roaming in the wild.
|Serbian chipmunk||6 to 10 years|
|Eastern chipmunk||3 years|
|Japanese dwarf flying squirrel||4 to 5 years|
|Alpine marmot||13 to 18 years|
|Indian giant squirrel||20 years|
|Indian palm squirrel||5.5 years|
|African ground squirrel||11.5 years|
Factors affecting survival
Both tree and ground squirrels are good at feeding and surviving in their habitats. Whether captive or free in the wild, there are many factors that affect how long they live.
The first major factor is a harsh climate often experienced during the winter months. There is increased competition for food and shelter during the cold months. This can worsen their survival rates especially with the fact that 25% of them die before the age of 1.
The second factor is the threat of predators and the cutting down of forests – their main habitat. Hawks, red foxes, weasels and grey wolves are known to be some of their biggest predator threats.
Third and last, diseases and pests have been found to pose threat and reduce the life expectancy and lifespans of these rodents. For example, squirrel pox is a major threat to the population of red squirrels. Another threat to the lifespan of squirrels is the adenovirus disease that mainly affects wild populations causing a major reduction in their numbers.