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Why Do Squirrels Growl?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

Why do squirrels growl? Squirrels are endearing rodents recognizable by their bushy tails and large eyes. You see them everywhere! Squirrels are common because they are adaptable animals. They can survive in almost any environment and eat just about anything. They can also travel long distances quickly and easily, helping them find new food sources.

If you take a nature walk, rather on a sidewalk or a nature trail, you’ll probably see more than a few bush-tailed squirrels running up trees or scurrying through the grass, some with nuts in their mouth.

Squirrels even have their own unique personalities. A study carried out by researchers at the University of California-Davis found that squirrel personalities can be friendly, shy, cautious, or aggressive, just like people.

Squirrels Make a Variety of Noises

But what about growling squirrels? Although squirrels aren’t known for being vocal, they make noise at times. If you’re on a walk or trail or sitting in your garden, your ears might perk up at the sounds that squirrels make.

These sounds vary from chirps to screeches to screams and even growls. When a dog or a bear growls, it’s usually a sign of aggression. However, squirrels are not typically aggressive creatures unless provoked or threatened. So, growling doesn’t mean a squirrel is poised to attack.

Why Squirrels Growl

Squirrels make sounds like growls, barks, and screams to protect themselves and their territory against danger. They sometimes make a hissing sound that some people mistake for a growl.

Squirrels growl because they are shy animals and prefer to stay away from humans. When humans enter their territory, invade their space, threaten their young or disturb them, it creates stress and they feel threatened.

The sound of a growling squirrel is like that made by a dog when they are upset or provoked. The timbre is low-pitched and may even have some squeaky undertones, but there may be an intensity level associated with it that makes most people uncomfortable when they hear it for the first time!

This type of growl is more of a warning sign than a threat, but it’s best not to provoke a stressed squirrel making growling or barking sounds. If one is making aggressive gestures (such as raising its tail high), slowly back away until there is enough distance between yourself and the squirrel.

Squirrels Are Typically Not Aggressive Towards Humans

Squirrels will normally resort to other modes of defense before clamping down on an attacker with their teeth. They’re quick and agile and usually run away before being aggressive. Another time a squirrel may growl is if it’s being threatened by another animal.

It’s only natural that a squirrel wants to defend itself. if you see a squirrel growling at you, it is likely because something is threatening about your actions—perhaps you are approaching too quickly or making loud noises near them. Other times, it could be because the animal feels cornered and needs space to escape.

You’re more likely to hear these sounds during the day when squirrels are most active and foraging for food. Keep your ears open and see what you hear!

Baby Squirrels Growl for Another Reason

Once baby squirrels reach a certain age, usually around three weeks, they may convey their hunger to mama squirrels through growling sounds. These are not growls of aggression but noises that indicate they’re ready to eat.

As they get older, growling to show hunger usually changes to screams. Hopefully, the squirrel mama listens to these sounds and keeps them well-nourished! Baby squirrels are typically weaned from the mother squirrel by 10 weeks of age.

Final Thoughts

If you are outdoors with squirrels and hear one growling, stay calm. It is unlikely the animal will attack you. It’s another one of the sounds squirrels make to protect themselves and their territory.

If you give squirrels enough space and respect their boundaries, you have little reason to worry about being bitten by a squirrel. They are not known to bite humans unless cornered, although there are accounts of humans who cornered a squirrel sustaining a bite.

But squirrels are usually shy and would rather run away than be aggressive. Still, avoid cornering or trying to pet or touch a squirrel. As cute as they are, they’re still wild animals and need their space. Respect their territory and you can admire their antics from afar!


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.