Baby Squirrel

Reading Time: 13 mins

Baby Squirrels Also Called Kits or Pups

Sure, you might call them cute, adorable, and tiny, but did you know that baby squirrels are also called 'kits'? It's a bit of a surprise, isn't it? These small and often playful creatures have a more official name than just 'baby squirrels'. The name 'kit' is believed to be derived from the word 'kitten'.


Babies Weigh One Ounce at Birth

Buckle up folks, it's time to embark on a fascinating journey through the life cycle of a squirrel. So, let's start at the beginning. After a gestation period that lasts around 44 days, squirrels are born. They're only about an inch long. And let me tell you, these little ones enter the world in the most vulnerable state. They are blind, have closed ears at birth, weigh about one ounce, and are nearly bald. Yep, you heard it right, the bushy-tailed acrobat we're all familiar with starts off as a bald little creature. The first few weeks in a kit's life are critical. Their eyes do not open until they are about 4-5 weeks old.


Baby Squirrels Grow Up Fast

One of the most interesting facts about these kits is their swift growth. They quickly develop a fur coat within a few weeks and start growing their teeth when they are around 2 weeks old. By the time they are 7 weeks old, they begin exploring outside their nest and practicing their acrobatic skills, preparing for the independent and adventurous life that awaits them.



What Do Baby Squirrels Eat?

What exactly is on the menu for baby squirrels? You might think nuts right off the bat, right? Well, hold onto your hats because it's a bit more complicated than that. For the first 6-7 weeks of their lives, these tiny creatures rely exclusively on their mother's milk for nourishment. But, once they hit the 6-7 week mark, things start to get a little more interesting. This is the time when they begin to explore solid food.

And when it comes to the menu, baby squirrels aren't particularly fussy. They're open to a wide variety of foods, including nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Acorns, walnuts, sunflower seeds, apples, carrots, you name it! However, their diet isn't just limited to plant-based foods. They also munch on insects and even small birds if the opportunity arises.


Independence Time for Baby Squirrels

Interestingly, the mother squirrel also knows when to let go. Once the young squirrels are about 10 weeks old, they're usually ready to live independently. At this point, the mother gradually starts to distance herself from them. This is a vital step for the young ones to become self-reliant and confident in their abilities to survive in the wild.


Sharp Little Claws

What's really interesting about baby squirrels is their sharp little claws. Even at a young age, these claws are already well-developed. They serve an important purpose: to help the pups grip and climb. So, don't be surprised if you see a young squirrel effortlessly scampering up a tree! It's a testament to their inborn acrobatic abilities.



Surprising Swimmers

You might not think it, but squirrels, including the young ones, are excellent swimmers. Although they don't typically seek out water, they are quite capable of swimming short distances if necessary. Their swimming style has even been compared to a dog's doggy paddle.


Instinctive Hoarders

Even baby squirrels show signs of the classic squirrel trait - hoarding. They learn from watching their mother and soon start to gather and stash away food of their own. By the time winter rolls around, they're already experts at securing a secret snack stash.


Growing Teeth

A baby squirrel's incisors start growing when they're about four weeks old. These teeth never stop growing throughout their life, which helps counter the wear and tear from gnawing on hard nuts and seeds.


Hardy Critters

Baby squirrels are surprisingly hardy and can survive a fall from a great height due to their light weight, fluffy tail, and flexible body.


Sensitive Whiskers

Just like cats, squirrels rely on their whiskers for sensory perception. Baby squirrels start to develop these sensitive hairs on their face and legs early in life, which helps them navigate their environment, especially in the dark.



Seeing in Vibrant Color

The world of animals often is not as colorful as ours. Many creatures live in a world of grayscale, but not squirrels! These furry acrobats are one of the few mammals that can see the world in full, vibrant color. That's right, just a few weeks after their eyes open, baby squirrels start to see the green of the leaves, the blue of the sky, and every other hue in between, just like we do. 


Ankles with a Twist

Here's a mind-boggling fact for you - squirrels can rotate their ankles a whopping 180 degrees! Now, that might sound like something straight out of a horror movie, but for these agile critters, it's an everyday skill. This rotational ability allows them to descend trees headfirst without losing grip. Can you imagine that? While we're carefully climbing down ladders or trees, squirrels are just casually sauntering down tree trunks like they're strolling in a park.


Leaps and Bounds

Speaking of amazing squirrel acrobatics, did you know baby squirrels can leap up to 20 feet? That's right, these little fellas can take a flying leap of faith almost 10 times their body length. It's like a human kid jumping over a bus! 


The Art of Playing Dead

It's so impressive to think that even from such a young age, these little creatures understand danger and know how to react. Playing dead is their go-to strategy when they sense a threat. They become still, blending in with the surroundings, tricking predators into thinking they're not worth the trouble.

But let's dive a little deeper into this fascinating survival strategy. Why playing dead, you may ask? Well, many predators are attracted to movement. A small, scurrying baby squirrel is like a beacon saying, "Hey, over here, easy meal!" By staying motionless, they can often fool the predators into thinking they're just part of the scenery. 



Front and Rear Feet Features

It's fascinating to know that squirrels have four toes on their front feet, right? These toes are super sharp and give the squirrel a strong grip. This is their secret weapon for climbing tree trunks and branches so swiftly and with such grace. Imagine how hard it would be to run vertically up a tree without these specialized tools. 

Now, for the rear feet, things get even more interesting. Squirrels have five toes on their back legs. You might think, "Why the difference?" Well, these extra toes provide additional balance and control, especially while descending a tree, which squirrels typically do headfirst. Think about it, if you were walking a tightrope, you'd want as much balance as you can get, right? It's pretty much the same principle.


Common Predators

Let's start with the most direct threats - predators. Unfortunately, baby squirrels' small size and lack of defensive skills make them a prime target. The list of predators is a long one. Birds of prey, such as hawks and owls, have a keen eye for baby squirrels. They swoop down silently from above and snatch the unsuspecting little creatures off branches.

Four-legged predators are equally dangerous. Foxes, coyotes, weasels, and domestic cats are all adept hunters, always on the lookout for an easy meal. Even snakes pose a significant threat, especially to those squirrels nesting closer to the ground. They can slither into the nest, making meal of the defenseless pups.



What to do If You Find a Baby Squirrel

We've all been there. You're enjoying a sunny day in the park or maybe just going about your day when suddenly, you come across a baby squirrel. It looks alone, possibly lost or abandoned. Your heart breaks, and the desire to help becomes almost unbearable. But should you? And if so, how? 

First off, it's important to understand that not all solitary baby squirrels are lost or abandoned. Squirrel mothers often leave their young alone while they search for food. So, if you see a baby squirrel, don't rush into action. Observe from a distance to see if the mother returns.

If the squirrel appears injured, ill, or hasn't moved for a long time, intervention might be necessary. If you're unsure, contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center. They're equipped with the knowledge and skills to provide the right assistance.

If immediate help is required, remember that your safety comes first. Wear thick gloves to protect yourself from bites and scratches. Gently place the baby squirrel in a box lined with a soft cloth. You can provide warmth by placing a hot water bottle wrapped in a cloth at one side of the box, allowing the squirrel to move away from the heat if it gets too warm.



Babies' Forgetfulness May Serve a Good Purpose

Let's talk about the role of baby squirrels in seed dispersal. They're like nature's most effective gardeners. In their quest for food, these little acrobats scamper from tree to tree, gathering and burying nuts. Now here's the funny thing. They sometimes forget where they've hidden their stash. That forgotten acorn? It eventually grows into a mighty oak tree. Without realizing it, squirrels play a crucial part in tree regeneration.

Interestingly, squirrels also contribute to soil health. Their forgotten nut stashes not only lead to new trees but as these nuts decompose, they enrich the soil with vital nutrients. It's like nature's compost, courtesy of squirrels.


Frequently Asked Questions

When do squirrels have babies?
Squirrels generally have two breeding periods per year, one in mid-summer and another in early spring. Of course, this varies slightly depending on the species and the region they inhabit. In each breeding season, the female squirrel will give birth after a gestation period that typically lasts 44 days for most species.

How many babies do squirrels have?
On average, a female squirrel will give birth to 2 to 4 kits at a time. However, this number can vary between species and individual health. Larger species, like the Eastern Gray Squirrel, can have up to 8 kits in a single litter, while smaller species, like the American Red Squirrel, usually have fewer.

What is a baby squirrel called?
A baby squirrel is referred to as a 'kit'. It's a cute name for even cuter little creatures, isn't it? These kits are born blind and hairless but quickly grow and develop over their first few weeks.

What to feed a baby squirrel?
If you find yourself taking care of a baby squirrel, you'll quickly realize that feeding them isn't as straightforward as other animals. These creatures need a specific diet to thrive. Initially, a kit will need a milk replacer formula that's high in protein and fat. As they grow older, their diet will slowly transition to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Remember, though, wild animals are best cared for by professionals, so if you find a baby squirrel in need, reach out to a local wildlife rehabilitator.

When do baby squirrels leave the nest?
The timeline for baby squirrels to leave the nest varies depending on their species, but generally, it happens around 10-12 weeks of age. During this time, they will have learned essential skills like foraging for food and avoiding predators from their mother. It's a big, wide world out there, and our little friends are well-equipped to start exploring it!



How often do squirrels have babies?
Believe it or not, most species of squirrels have two breeding periods in a year. That's right, twice! However, the exact number can vary depending on the species, age, and health of the squirrel. Still, generally speaking, our furry friends are quite productive!

What time of year do squirrels have babies?
Squirrels usually mate in late winter, leading to a spring birthing season. Then, they have a second round of mating in the summer, leading to an autumn birthing season. It's a cycle that keeps the squirrel population robust and healthy throughout the year.

When are baby squirrels born?
Baby squirrels, also known as kits, are typically born in the spring and autumn. The timing can vary slightly depending on the species and the climate of their habitat. However, you can usually expect to start seeing these little bundles of joy in their nests from March onwards and then again from August.

How many babies does a squirrel have?
Well, this can vary quite a bit. Generally, a squirrel will give birth to 2-4 kits at a time. However, in some cases, a healthy and well-fed squirrel can have up to eight babies in a single litter. Talk about a handful!

How to take care of a baby squirrel?
If you ever come across a baby squirrel that seems in need, remember that it's best to contact a professional wildlife rehabilitator. However, if you need to provide immediate care, keep the baby warm, hydrated, and safe. A heating pad set on low and a small box can make a good temporary home. Feed them a puppy milk replacer until you can get them to a professional. But remember, it's important not to overfeed them, as this can lead to health issues.

How long can baby squirrels live without their mother?
Newborn squirrels are pretty helpless; they're born blind, hairless, and rely entirely on their mother for warmth, food, and protection. Without the mother, a baby squirrel's survival rate drops dramatically. A baby squirrel can't survive more than a few hours to a day without their mother's care, especially if they're just a few weeks old. That's why it's crucial to contact a wildlife rehabilitator if you encounter an orphaned baby squirrel.



How many babies do squirrels have at a time?
As I've mentioned earlier, the number can vary, but on average, squirrels typically have between 2 to 4 babies in a single litter. However, in the best conditions, a healthy squirrel might surprise you by having up to eight kits at once!

Do baby squirrels carry diseases?
Squirrels, including babies, can indeed carry diseases, such as rabies or leptospirosis, though it's relatively rare. More commonly, they might carry ticks or fleas, which can transmit other diseases. So, while they might look cute, it's always best to admire baby squirrels from a safe distance unless you're trained in wildlife handling.

How long do baby squirrels stay in the nest?
Baby squirrels usually stay in the nest for around 10 to 12 weeks. During this time, their mom will take care of them and teach them everything they need to know about being a squirrel, from finding food to escaping predators. Only once they've mastered these skills will they venture out and start living independently.


Sources:


“Squirrel Reproduction.” Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
“Squirrels.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society.
Thorington, R. W., and R. S. Hoffmann. 2005. Family Sciuridae. pp. 754–818 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

No comments:

Post a Comment