Wild squirrels are seemingly everywhere: in forests, in cities, in suburbs. They are native to every continent except Antarctica and Australia. Cameroon’s African pygmy squirrel is the smallest squirrel species, with a body as tiny as 2.3 inches (6 centimeters) long.
The largest squirrel is the Indian or Malabar giant squirrel, which can grow up to 3.3 feet (1 meter) long. There are even flying squirrels that glow pink under UV light. Chipmunks are actually little stripy squirrels.
All that is to say there are a lot of squirrel species out there, and a squirrel’s life expectancy depends on several factors. But is there an average life span for squirrels?
How Long Do Squirrels Live in the Wild?
In North America, we most often see Eastern gray squirrels, tree squirrels and red squirrels, which all have white bellies and bushy tails. But have you ever wondered how long these ubiquitous squirrels live?
Are you seeing a new crop of fluffy birdseed thieves every year, or are you seeing the same clever squirrels growing old and telling tales of their sunflower hauls to their baby squirrels?
Gray squirrels live an average of six years, so yes, you are likely seeing many of the same squirrels in your yard year after year. It’s not unheard of for gray squirrels to live up to 12 years as wild animals.
Red squirrels are similar, and have an average life span of five years and a top-end life expectancy of about 10 years. The male red squirrels tend to live longer than female squirrels, and only about 20 percent of young squirrels live to become adult red squirrels.
Fox squirrels live about eight to 18 years in the wild. Female fox squirrels usually live, on average, 13 years, while males tend to live about eight years. Most fox squirrels die before maturity; predators like hawks and owls kill squirrels, and newborn squirrels can be eaten by small snakes.
Do Wild Squirrels Live Longer Than Pet Squirrels?
Wild squirrels can live up to 18 years, depending on their species, environment and a handful other factors. In North America, we most often see Eastern gray squirrels, tree squirrels and red squirrels, which all have white bellies and bushy tails but slightly different average life spans. They fall into three basic types: tree squirrels, ground squirrels and flying squirrels.
All squirrels are part of the rodent family, and as is the case for many mammals, the larger the species of squirrel, the longer its average life span.
But what about pet squirrels? Do squirrels in captivity tend to live longer than wild squirrels live? Sometimes. Red squirrels can live up to eight years in captivity compared to about five years in the wild.
The average life span of a gray squirrel in captivity keeps increasing. They can live as long as 20 years as a pet compared to six years in the wild.
Fox squirrels also live longer as pets. In captivity they can live up to 18 years; that’s almost double their average life span in the wild.
Of course, not everybody loves squirrels; they really are everywhere, and they really do eat everything. But next time you see a squirrel getting into your garden or trying to eat your birdseed, remember the furry little guy is just doing normal squirrel things.