How Long Do Squirrels Live And Why?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on September 30th, 2023

If you’ve ever looked out your window and watched squirrels frolicking in the yard, you’ve likely wondered about their lifestyle and how long they live. Understanding the life expectancy of squirrels isn’t just intriguing; it provides valuable insights into the species’ survival strategies and adaptations. In this detailed guide, we’ll explore how long squirrels live in the wild and captivity, what influences their lifespan, and how different species have varying life expectancies.

Squirrel Behavior: A Brief Overview

Squirrels are known for their affinity for nuts and fruits, often heard making distinctive “chip-chip-chip” sounds, especially when alarmed. They are incredibly adaptable and can easily be tamed to accept food from humans. Interestingly, they display high levels of energy, with a noticeable increase during their mating season.

When it comes to guarding food, they’re very territorial. They often protect their food sources from other animals, including birds and other squirrels. In appearance, palm squirrels closely resemble large chipmunks, sporting bushy tails that are slightly shorter than their bodies. They possess cream-colored bellies and striking long black and white hair on their tails.

selective focus photography of squirrel eating walnut on tree brunbch

Their ears have a unique trapezoidal shape, and you’ll notice that juvenile squirrels have a lighter color, which gradually darkens as they age.

Squirrel Life Expectancy: Variation Across Species

Red Squirrel

The life expectancy of red squirrels in the wild ranges up to 5 years. Surprisingly, their mortality rate is quite high, with only about a quarter living past their first year. Those who do survive mature between 2 to 4 years of age. The longest-lived red squirrel in the wild was recorded at ten years, and interestingly, male red squirrels tend to outlive females, a trait uncommon in most squirrel species. In captivity, their life expectancy can extend to 8 years.

Eastern Fox Squirrel

Eastern fox squirrels have a more extended life expectancy in the wild, averaging between 8 to 18 years. Most of them, unfortunately, don’t survive into adulthood. Females can live for up to 13 years on average, whereas males average about 8 years. In captivity, some have been known to live up to 18 years.

Southern Flying Squirrel

In the wild, southern flying squirrels live for approximately 3 to 5 years. Interestingly, their lifespan is shorter compared to their non-flying relatives. However, they can live up to 10 years in captivity, with some recorded to reach an age of 19 years.

Eastern Grey Squirrel

Eastern grey squirrels can live up to 12 years in their natural habitat. This lifespan significantly increases when they are in captivity, reaching up to 20 years.

Black Squirrel

Often mistaken for a unique species, black squirrels are essentially fox or eastern grey squirrels with different melanin levels. They live up to 6 years in the wild but can survive up to 18 years in a captive setting.

Ground Squirrel

Ground squirrels like the Richardson ground squirrel usually live between 2 to 4 years in the wild, with males often living up to 2 years and females up to 4 years. In captivity, their lifespan can extend to 7 years.

Squirrels in the Wild vs. Captivity

Squirrels usually have a more extended lifespan in captivity due to the absence of natural predators. However, it’s crucial to note that life in captivity isn’t always better; if the conditions are not ideal, squirrels may experience shorter lives.

In the wild, squirrels have to contend with a wide range of predators and environmental challenges. Those who survive past their first year can live between 6 to 12 years, thanks to their adaptability and keen survival instincts.

The Lifespan of Squirrels Depending on Their Species

Squirrel SpeciesIn the WildIn Captivity
Red Squirrels5 years8 years
Ground Squirrels2-4 years7 years
Black Squirrels6 years18 years
Southern Flying Squirrels3-5 years10 years
Eastern Fox Squirrels8 years18 years
Western Gray Squirrels12 years20 years
Abert’s Squirrels3-4 years7-8 years

Factors Influencing Squirrel Lifespan

Living Conditions

Living conditions play a significant role in a squirrel’s lifespan. Access to food and a safe environment can positively impact their lives. Urban squirrels adapt well to human surroundings and have fewer predators compared to their wild counterparts.


Squirrels face a variety of predators in the wild, including but not limited to red-tailed hawks, red foxes, and weasels. Young squirrels are particularly vulnerable to rattlesnakes and black snakes. High predation rates contribute to their shorter lifespans in the wild.

Health Conditions

While pet squirrels receive veterinary care, wild squirrels aren’t so fortunate. They are susceptible to various diseases like squirrel pox, Tularemia, and leptospirosis. Parasites like fleas, ticks, and nematodes also affect their health.

Physical Health

A squirrel’s physical health can directly impact its lifespan. Dental health is crucial; a squirrel that loses its teeth is likely to starve. Similarly, loss of vision can make a squirrel’s life challenging, leading to starvation or making it easier prey for predators.


Contrary to rodents like mice and rats, squirrels generally have a longer lifespan, attributed to their exceptional mobility and strategic adaptations for evading predators. Whether in the bustling city or the open wilderness, these fascinating creatures continue to captivate us, revealing that their lives are influenced by a multitude of factors, from predators and environment to their own physical health.

By understanding these elements, we don’t just satisfy our curiosity; we gain a more profound respect for these agile and resilient members of the animal kingdom.


Editorial Staff

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