Squirrels are amazing creatures! They are clever, adaptable, and surprisingly long-lived. Most people see squirrels on a daily basis yet know little about them. To learn more about these cute backyard critters, click here.
So… How Long Do Squirrels Live?
Astoundingly, squirrels have been known to live for up to 24 years!1 This makes them some of the longest-lived rodents in the world. As a point of reference, dogs can live for about 5 to 14 years, depending on the breed.2 This means that the squirrels you see running around in your backyard have the potential to live much longer than your favorite pet.
That being said, most squirrels don’t actually live to be 24 years old. This number comes from zoo records where animals are protected from things like famine, disease, and predators. Which leads us to…
How Long Do Squirrels Live in the Wild?
Sadly, most squirrels die within their first year.3 Those that live to adulthood rarely die of “old age”, instead falling prey to raccoons, automobiles, or one of the numerous other dangers that beset normal squirrel life. Wild squirrels that make it past the one-year mark usually don’t live longer than 6 years,4,5 while the maximum age that squirrels attain in the wild is around 12 years old.5,6
There are over 200 kinds of squirrels,7 and life span can vary dramatically between the different species.1 To find out how long the squirrels in your region can live, explore the interactive map below or click on the links beneath the map.
Who Lives Longer: Tree Squirrels or Ground Squirrels?
Tree squirrels are squirrels that live in trees and ground squirrels, like chipmunks and prairie dogs, are squirrels that live in the ground. As a general rule, tree squirrels have longer life spans than ground squirrels.1
Who Lives Longer: Male or Female Squirrels?
Female squirrels tend to live longer than male squirrels. In one study of a gray squirrel population, the oldest female squirrel lived to be 121/2 years old, while the oldest male squirrel was just shy of 9 years old when he died.5
Why Do Squirrels Live So Long?
Compared to similar-looking rodents like mice and rats, squirrels are incredibly long-lived. The evolution of long life is thought to occur in animal species with low levels of predation,1 and squirrels fit the bill. Since they live in trees and are very quick and agile, squirrels are hard for predators to catch. These defenses may be one reason that they’ve developed such a high capacity for long life. The infographic below shows just how much longer a squirrel’s life span is compared to that of a rat or a mouse.
Other Popular Questions
1 Gorbunova, V., Bozzella, M., and Seluanov, A. (2008). Rodents for comparative aging studies: from mice to beavers. American Aging Association, 30: 111-119. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2527635/
2 Patronek, G., Waters, D., & Glickman, L. (1997). Comparative longevity of pet dogs and humans: implications for gerontology research. Journal of Gerontology, 52A(3): B171-B178. Retrieved from http://biomedgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/52A/3/B171.long
3 Haupt, L. (2013). The urban bestiary: encountering the everyday wild. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
4 Reid, F. (2006). A field guide to mammals of North America (4th ed.). New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
5 Barkalow, F. & Soots, R. (1975). Life span and reproductive longevity of the gray squirrel, Sciurus c. carolinensis Gmelin. Journal of Mammalogy, 56(2): 522-524.
6 Jackson, T. (2006). The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of America. London: Lorenz Books.
7 Smithsonian National Zoological Park. (n.d.). Prevost’s Squirrel. Retrieved from https://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/SmallMammals/fact-prevost.cfm