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Squirrels often live as cultural followers in city parks and gardens, where you can watch them busy foraging. Read more interesting facts about the cute rodent in our profile.

In a nutshell

  • tree-dwelling rodent widespread in Europe
  • primarily native of forests with mature trees, also in parks and gardens
  • characteristic is dense, reddish-brown fur and the full-length, bushy tail
  • lives solitary
  • does not hibernate and must therefore stock up

Facts at a glance

  • Scientific name: Sciurus vulgaris
  • Family: Squirrels (Sciuridae)
  • Order: Rodents (Rodentia)
  • Class: Mammals (Mammalia)
  • Distribution: Europe and Asia
  • Habitat: Deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests with mature trees, urban parks and large gardens
  • Size: between 20 and 25 centimeters
  • Weight: between 200 and 400 grams
  • Age: up to 10 years
  • Appearance: Dense, reddish to blackish fur, bushy tail up to 25 centimeters long, brush ears
  • Food: Omnivore, mainly nuts, seeds and fruits, but also insects, eggs and young birds
  • Enemies: birds of prey, smaller predators such as martens, weasels, domestic cats
  • Social behavior: loner
  • Critically endangered: no

Perfect adjustment

As tree dwellers, squirrels are perfectly adapted to their habitat - sometimes the busy animals seem to defy every law of nature when they nimbly rush up the trunks and headfirst down again. This is made possible by the disproportionately long and very muscular hind legs, which also enable the animals to jump from branch to branch. The front and rear paws also have long, flexible gripping toes with sharp claws, which the squirrels can use to climb up and down smooth trunks with ease.
Another species-typical adaptation concerns the body-long, bushy tail:

  • helps with jumping and climbing
  • important for balance
  • serves as a rudder when gliding from branch to branch
  • the animal can warm itself and its young with its tail

The color of their fur also helps the squirrels to adapt perfectly to their environment. Animals living in coniferous forests are often colored blackish instead of reddish brown. The winter fur is also darker than in summer.

Notice: Squirrels also use their tails to communicate with other species. For example, a sideways tail wag means that the animal is excited and nervous.

way of life

Squirrels are diurnal and eagerly forage for food during the day. At night, the rodents sleep in so-called 'kobeln', as their spherical nests, which are open at the bottom, are called. These are high up and well hidden in the crowns of old trees. A squirrel usually builds several of these rooks out of twigs and soft materials that are in different places and are changed from time to time. In this way, the animal wants to escape from enemies. Each Kobel has at least two entrances so that the squirrel can flee quickly in case of danger. Squirrels are extremely solitary creatures, only meeting with others of their kind during mating season.


Mating season begins very early in the year and is characterized by wild chases through the trees, often with multiple males chasing one female. When mating takes place also depends, among other things, on the severity of the winter and the amount of food available. In very cold winters and/or when there is little food, it can be delayed until summer, so that the first litter of young squirrels is not born until July or August. In good years, however, mating takes place as early as the end of January.

  • Gestation lasts about four weeks
  • two to six young per litter
  • are initially still naked and blind
  • Father not involved in rearing
  • Squirrel babies develop very quickly
  • only remain in the nest for around eight weeks
  • are then cared for by the mother outside the nest for a few weeks

There are often two litters per year - one in spring and another in summer - also because only about one in five young squirrels survive the first year of life. Many fall victim to nest robbers - for example pine martens, house cats or crows.

Notice: The squirrel mother builds a so-called throwing box, which has more space than her sleeping boxes, especially for raising the young.

Do squirrels hibernate?

Because squirrels don't hibernate, they need to stock up for the winter. For this purpose they bury and hide (e.g. in crevices or tree cavities) durable food such as nuts, seeds and also mushrooms. Contrary to popular belief, the animals do not remember their numerous hiding places, but find them again thanks to their excellent sense of smell. However, most of the hiding places are not found again, which is why the seeds buried in them germinate in the spring and new trees grow from them. This is why the squirrel is so important for forest health - without the busy little animal not enough trees would be able to grow back.

Notice: In fact, squirrels hibernate during which they sleep more. However, the animals wake up more frequently and go in search of food for one to two hours a day.

frequently asked Questions

Can squirrels also have gray fur?

If you see a gray squirrel, it's probably a gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). This species of squirrel, which is native to North America, has immigrated to us and is problematic because it displaces the native squirrels. For example, gray squirrels carry a virus that is harmless to them but deadly to squirrels.

What do I do when I find a young squirrel?

First of all, see if the mother is still around. You can take the squirrel baby in your hand, the mother will not be bothered by the human smell. If the mother cannot be found, cuddle the young animal in a fluffy towel or a soft sweater, even on a warm summer day. Then take it to a wildlife sanctuary or to a wildlife veterinarian.

Should you feed squirrels in winter?

In recent years, squirrels have increasingly been found in the vicinity of humans because they find food in parks and larger gardens. You can of course feed the animals in winter. You don't need your own feeding station for this, because squirrels also get sunflower and pumpkin seeds from the bird feeder. They also like to eat hazelnuts and walnuts.

Why do the squirrels sometimes get pushy in the summer?

Young squirrels sometimes approach people out of curiosity and sometimes even cling to your trouser leg. However, it is much more likely that the animals are thirsty on hot summer days and therefore go to people. Some of the rodents have already learned that we two-legged friends like to give them some food or water. You can set up a watering hole for the squirrels in summer, which you fill up regularly.

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