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How Long Can Squirrels Go Without Food?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner with a strong background in nutrition.

Squirrels are small mammals in the family Sciuridae. The squirrel family is a diverse group that includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs.

Squirrels have been the scourge of humanity since time began. Yet it shouldn't be that way. These furry little critters are known for their intelligence, agility, and speed.

Squirrels are resourceful too! They've developed specialized adaptations that enable them to survive in a wide variety of habitats. These bushy-tailed creatures have natural predators, so they must be smart to survive and have enough food to make it through periods when food is scarce.

Predators that threaten squirrels include dogs, cats, badgers, foxes, and some large birds of prey.

How Long Can Squirrels Survive Without Food?

Squirrels can survive around 8 days without food but, in some cases, they can survive up to 2 weeks. However, they can only survive 2 days without water.

Squirrels are skilled at finding food and storing it for the winter months, so they don’t have to forge for food as much when the weather is colder and natural sources of food are unavailable.

When the weather turns cold, squirrels do not hibernate like bears or groundhogs. Instead, they rely on their food stores to get them through the cold months.

To prepare for this prolonged period without food, squirrels gather acorns and other foods in late summer when they are plentiful and bury them underground at various depths to keep them safe from other animals that might want to steal them.

Squirrels Are Skilled at Hiding Food

The most usual places for squirrels to hide food include under the ground, in trees, and in other structures like houses or sheds. Squirrels like to hide their caches underground because they don't have to worry about other animals getting them.

To find the buried acorns again later, squirrels use their keen sense of smell to detect where they hid them by following their scent trail back to its source. They can find an acorn they buried earlier in the year, dig it up with their sharp claws, and eat it as a snack. They might also bring it home so other members of the family can enjoy it too.

Squirrels even store food by hanging it in trees. But if they cannot find a place to store their food, they will eat it right away. They don't believe in wasting food!

Beyond Nuts: They Love a Variety of Foods

Squirrels are known for their love of nuts, but they enjoy a wide variety of foods. The foods they hoard can include anything from acorns to pecans to corn kernels.

Squirrels enjoy a variety of tree nuts such as acorns, beechnuts, and hickory nuts, as well as other types of nuts and seeds including hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and almonds.

They also eat fruit including strawberries, apples, cherries, blackberries, and blueberries. Squirrels will occasionally eat insects such as caterpillars and crickets but only if there is nothing else to eat.

If a squirrel finds food to store, it may cache it in several locations so all is not lost if another animal discovers their concealed cache and steals it.

Squirrels Are Smart Survivalists

You may be surprised to learn that squirrels are not only smart but remarkably resourceful. This gives them a survival advantage. Their ability to locate and store food resources, like acorns, means they have a food supply that helps them stay alive during the winter months and when resources are low.

How long a squirrel survives also depends on how active it is. Squirrels are good climbers and swimmers. They can jump 5 feet straight up into the air from a standing position and jump 8 feet to the side without a running start! Their bodies require a lot of energy to do such intense movements. So, a reliable food supply is important.

Final Thoughts

Living in the wild can be hard, and squirrels must use many strategies to survive. How long can squirrels go without food? If they run out of food, they can live about 8 days but may survive longer under certain circumstances.

Squirrels are adaptable, resourceful, and resilient, so it's not surprising that they can weather harsh circumstances. Despite this ability, many still die of starvation. So, don't forget to be kind to squirrels and maybe share an acorn or two with them. Don't be surprised if they run off with it and hide it somewhere for later!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.