Mother squirrel feeding babies

How Long Do Squirrels Nurse Their Young?

Updated September 30, 2021

By Adrianne Jerrett

Reviewed by: Sylvie Tremblay, M.Sc. Molecular Biology and Genetics

There are more than 200 species of squirrels (family Sciuridae) around the world. The smallest squirrel species, like the African pygmy squirrel (​Myosciurus pumilio​) weigh only half a pound and measure five inches long. The black giant squirrel (​Ratufa bicolour​) is the largest species, weighing up to four pounds and growing up to 36 inches long. Squirrels nurse in similar ways regardless of species, and baby squirrels eat an omnivorous diet after weaning off their mothers' milk.

Squirrel Mating

While female squirrels only mate two or three times a year, males can mate continuously. When trying to get the attention of a female, the male proceeds to slap trees with his paws and chatter loudly. After mating, the males leave the female alone to raise their babies, often called ​pups​. Once the young have left the nest, the male may try to mate with the same female again.

Squirrel Breeding

After mating, squirrel gestation is usually around 35 to 45 days. Most squirrels birth between two and eight babies per litter. A mother squirrel can have several litters per year. The mother will build her nest in a burrow or high up in a tree, depending on whether she is a ground or tree-dwelling squirrel. When they are first born, baby squirrels are blind and entirely reliant on their mothers to survive.

Female squirrels are very protective of their young. If an unprotected nest of baby squirrels is found, they should be left alone. Mothers will leave the nest at times to eat, but they will not go too far. If she hears her babies being disturbed, she will run back to the nest.

In the wild, North American red squirrels (​Tamiasciurus hudsonicus​) sometimes adopt the orphaned babies of close relatives. Whether or not she adopts a relative's babies depends on how many of her own she has. Adopting other babies can put her own at risk as there are more mouths to feed. For example, if she only has two of her own, she may adopt nieces and nephews if they are orphaned, but if she has three, she may only adopt grandchildren or siblings that she is more closely related to.

Mothers Nursing Baby Squirrels

Squirrels have up to ten mammary glands with parallel sets of nipples running down their chest. A lactating female is easily recognizable as her nipples elongate and she loses the hair around them. These body changes make it easier for her babies to latch onto a nipple when feeding. Squirrels feed their babies milk every two to four hours until they are weaned onto solid foods and are ready to leave the nest.

Once their eyes have opened and they are ready to start weaning to solid foods, they follow their mother around the nest site. If the population density in an area is low, the young females will build nests nearby to raise their young. If the population density is high, they will have to venture further once they leave their mother.

When Do Squirrels Leave the Nest?

The time it takes for a baby squirrel to become independent varies between species. For example, North American gray squirrels (​Sciurus carolinensis​) open their eyes at around four weeks old and are ready to leave their mothers by the time they are ten weeks old. Grey squirrels typically have two litters per year.

Prevost's squirrel (​Callosciurus prevostii​), native to Southeast Asia, generally has three litters per year and the young are fully independent at six weeks old.

Nursing Orphaned Baby Squirrels

Baby squirrels are best left with their mothers, but those that end up being hand-fed in captivity should be fed warm puppy formula with a syringe. Drinking formula gives them the best nutrition possible next to drinking their mother's milk. Baby squirrels also need to have their genitals massaged several times a day to stimulate them to urinate and defecate, something their mother would normally do.

By the time they are two to three months old, they should be eating a mostly solid diet of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Weaning from milk to solids should be done over several weeks as their digestive system needs time to adapt to solid foods. A highly nutritious diet is vital for healthy growth and development.

Baby Squirrels | The Wildlife Center of Virginia

Gray squirrels nest twice a year, in late winter and summer. They commonly have litters of three or four pups. Babies' eyes open at four weeks of age and the young are often starting to explore outside the nest at six weeks of age. They are typically weaned and ready to be on their own at 10 weeks of age.

A baby squirrel has the best chance of survival when it is cared for by its mother. Sometimes healthy young squirrels are found on the ground by themselves are not orphans -- they simply need help reuniting with their mothers. Often, mother squirrels will "rescue" their fallen or displaced healthy babies by carrying them by the scruff back to the nest.

Do any of the following apply to the squirrel?

  • It is bleeding, has an open wound, or has a broken bone.
  • It's been in a cat's or dog's mouth.
  • It's covered in fly eggs [these look like small grains of rice].
  • It's cold, wet, or crying nonstop.
    • If YES, the squirrel is likely injured or orphaned. Take it to the nearest wildlife veterinarian or rehabilitator. 
    • If NO, the next step is to identify its age to determine if intervention is needed. 

Does the squirrel ... 

  • Have a fluffed-out tail [like a bottle brush]?
  • Have a body longer than 6" [not including the tail]?
  • Approach humans or pets?
    • If YES, this is likely a juvenile squirrel. You do not need to intervene. Even at the young age of 10 to 12 weeks, the squirrel is independent. If the squirrel is approaching humans or pets, try to scare it by making loud noises when it comes near.
    • If NO, this is an infant squirrel. You will need to guide the healthy baby back to its mother:
      • Place uncooked rice or bird seed in a sock and warm in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Wrap the sock in a soft towel and place it with the baby in an open container [e.g., a box]. Remember, do not give the baby food or water!
      • Return the squirrel to its nesting tree -- this should be a tree in the immediate area where the squirrel was found. If you don't know which tree the squirrel's nest is in, or if the nest was destroyed, then choose a tree closest to where the squirrel was found. Squirrel nests can either be in tree cavities, or in "dreys" -- the big balls of dried leaves at the tops of trees. 
      • If the baby's eyes are open, place the baby on the tree trunk to encourage it to climb. If it does not climb, place the squirrel in the container and attach the open container to the tree. If the baby's eyes are closed, attach the open container to the tree. Keep children, dogs, and cats out of the area. Click here for more ideas on re-nesting containers.

Observe the baby squirrel for the next six to eight hours of daylight. Reheat the rice/birdseed bag every two hours. Has the mother returned to retrieve her baby?

  • If YES ... congratulations!  You helped reunite a baby with its mother. This is best for the squirrel!
  • If NO, take the squirrel to the nearest permitted small mammal rehabilitator.

NOTE: Each animal's nutritional, housing, and handling requirements are very specific and must be met if the animal has any chance of survival. Cow's milk and human milk replacers will make wild animals sick. Raising a wild animal in captivity is illegal in Virginia unless you have a state permit. For information on how you can become a permitted wildlife rehabilitator, contact the Wildlife Center of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, or your state's wildlife agency.

Is it possible to pick up a squirrel in the forest? Is it possible to release baby squirrels that were fed by people into the wild? |

All news

The Ministry of Defense for the first time published footage with Putin at the headquarters of the special operation: NVO news for December 17

“The whole city is sick. What did you want”: Volgograd residents complain about the lack of antibiotics in pharmacies

“I don’t want to return to that body”: what a girl looks like after losing 200 kilos (before and after photos) exhibition dedicated to animals at the front

Thinner and blooming: Kabaeva appeared at the opening of the Academy of Gymnastics - the media noted that she had changed a lot

He worked for six years: a famous restaurant on the Alley of Heroes closed in Volgograd apartments

New Year's dress for three million: showing the most expensive holiday outfits

A traveler who disappeared without a trace was found near Volgograd

"It turned out she dated both of us. " The story of a guy whose first relationship turned into hell

“We have been waiting for repairs for half a year”: since mid-December, Volgograd residents have been forced to walk along flooded streets

A video about the increase in the term of military service is circulating on the Web. It's true? We called the author of the application

You’ll break your head: 10 logical tasks that you can’t cope with

There was even a Christmas tree-Z: an exhibition of Christmas trees was held in Volgograd

The Ministry of Health named four signs that indicate a worsening of SARS

“This is how depression begins”: a Volgograd doctor spoke about the first sign of a dead immune system

What about garlic? Doctors explained what would happen if you eat lemons and garlic every day

Kota traveled around: near Volgograd, three people were injured after a collision with a tree

“Heavy luxury is in the past”: why Russian women are left without mink coats and are offered to wear green eco-fur coats

The EU imposed sanctions against a State Duma deputy and the ruins of a factory in Volgograd

They are not afraid of anyone and run for nuts: a Volgograd man discovered wild animals in the Komsomol garden

Volgograd City Hall demanded to collect dozens of signatures in order to open a memorial plaque to the hero who died in Ukraine

Will remote work be banned? How those who have gone abroad will be able to work

“Welcome back to a brighter future”: a peasant from Volgograd spoke about the return of the deficit0003

A window to Europe: now how to buy a new iPhone and Nike sneakers through parallel imports

I had to open the door: a rotten corpse of a man was found in Volgograd photo

A 14-year-old teenager went missing near Volgograd

The Federal Antimonopoly Service revealed a cartel conspiracy in the purchase of video recording cameras in Volgograd

The Central Bank spoke about the shortage of labor in Russia due to mobilization: news about the SVO for December 16

“Three toddlers were left without a dad”: in Volgograd they said goodbye to a 31-year-old mobilized worker of a poultry farm

Wanted to keep warm: a fire in Volgograd claimed the life of an 84-year-old man get rid of a protruding belly

A three-year-old boy with a shovel went out to dig out a bus stuck in the snow — watch the cutest video of this year

“There is a choice, no need to persuade anyone. ” Who pays for sex and why women choose this job - honest monologues

Volgograd residents are invited to a pajama party at a skating rink in the city center

Officials of the Volgograd region confirmed the fall of an unidentified military flying object

"The sounds were very scary": everything that is known about the fall of unidentified flying objects near Volgograd

More news

More news

a little bit and the video will load

Squirrels drink milk formula from a bottle

Video: Dmitry Emelyanov / E1.RU

An unexpected addition to the Elovikov family from Berezovsky, Sverdlovsk region: they have two babies at once. These are tiny squirrels that dad found at the edge of the forest. We visited foster parents and found out how troublesome it is to feed red foundlings. nine0089

Olga is a mother of many children. She and her husband have three children: two daughters and a son. It turns out that squirrel motherhood is not much different from human. For example, babies need to be bottle fed every two hours. Snack - even at night. Baby food is not suitable for them, but they liked the special milk formula for kittens.

— It's like I'm on maternity leave again, honestly, — says Olga. As long as they live in a box. Here we put a warm bottle of water, it's like a heating pad. They feel like their mother is there. After eating, be sure to massage the tummy so that they go to the toilet regularly. nine0003

Milk formula should be at room temperature – not cold, but not hot either


Baby squirrels sleep sweetly after eating


The head of the family picked up the little squirrels. He works at the pumping station of the city Vodokanal, which is located next to the forest. Anton noticed the little ones while walking around the territory. nine0089

- He was walking and looking: little squirrels. He looked like that, there was no mother squirrel, so he went. And they follow him - just like kittens. Don't leave them there! I had to take it,” says Olga. - One was very lethargic, now came to life. And the second was immediately active.

The family showed the baby squirrels to specialists. They were told that the babies were about 40 days old. The sex of the animals is not yet known, but so far they have come up with female names: Squirrel and Strelka. In order not to leave the kids unattended, Olga has to take them with her to work. nine0089

— I work as a sales manager. When I brought them for the first time, everyone laughed, of course. But it’s impossible to make long intervals between feedings, so you have to take them with you everywhere, says the foster mother of the squirrels.

Children love new pets


Very tame squirrels


just look at the baby! nine0003


In the evenings, children help babysit the animals. They love their new pets. A real petting zoo on the couch, mom jokes.

“It's very interesting to watch them,” says nine-year-old Katya. - When they sleep, one lies quietly, and the second wakes up and starts climbing on another. And they puff funny in a dream. Like hedgehogs.

Across the road from the house is a forest where squirrels live. There the family planned to release kids


But zoologists are sure: these baby squirrels will not survive in the wild




At first, the family planned to transport them to the forest as soon as the squirrels got stronger, but experts do not advise doing this. Animals fed in captivity, releasing into the wild is like sending them to certain death. nine0089

“The squirrel mother brings them up, teaches them how to survive in the wild, how to beware of predators, how to look for food,” says Anna Postovalova, head of the scientific and educational department of the Yekaterinburg Zoo. - And the likelihood that such domestic squirrels in autumn and winter will find a secluded place for themselves, cope with all the difficulties, is low.

Yasha the cat does not understand why they hide the box with “food” from him


But he will have to get used to the new tenants


The Yelovikovs are not against leaving the kids for permanent residence. They have already decided that they will buy a spacious cage. The only problem is to explain to two house cats that new family members live in a cardboard box, and not their potential prey.

Also watch our video about how sleepy hedgehogs attack the Ecopark.


  • September 11, 2022, 5:00 pm

    “These are not animals, but wild people”: showing how 13 meerkats live in an ordinary apartment . The owner of a raccoon family spoke about her pets 70 thousand”: how a family with seven children lives, which does not receive benefits from the state

    Read all comments

    What can I do if I log in?

    Media news2

    Media news2

    Squirrel, how come? The mother threw the red babies out of the nest

    Komsomolskaya Pravda


    Anastasia SAMARTSEVA

    May 31, 2019 10:05

    Residents of Novosibirsk save baby squirrels, who are not even a month old 900. Photo: Elena ERMAKOVA.

    Siberian Yelena Ermakova rescues two baby squirrels abandoned by her mother. The dramatic story took place in front of passers-by. nine0003

    Siberian women rescued little baby squirrels that were thrown out of the nest by their mother

    — Squirrel threw all her baby squirrels out of the nest. They fell from a great height in different directions, - says eyewitness Victoria. “My sister caught one of the survivors right in the umbrella. The squirrel was inadequate. My sister and I took the babies to work with us.

    And then the girls gave the kids to someone who knows a lot about squirrels. Elena Ermakova has been keeping a tame squirrel in her apartment for several years, named her Sonya and even started a page on Instagram for her pet. nine0003

    - One squirrel only got a bruise, the second one was softened by an umbrella. All is well with them now. We feed the kids, take care of them. By the way, this is a girl and a boy,” says Elena.

    The squirrels have no contact with the hostess's favorite, the squirrel Sonya. There is a possibility that the crumbs born in the wild have fleas. While the cubs only sleep and feed on milk. Although one of them is already showing his character:

    Babies are now being fed from a syringe. Photo:

    “When you feed him with a syringe, he is picky and refuses,” says the Siberian woman.

    Social media users were inspired by the cubs' story. Many were surprised by their mother's behavior:

    — It's strange that this happens in nature. Such little ones, commentators write.

    — This is how they get rid of sick or bad-smelling babies. Some kind of built-in instinct. But when loving people nurse such “miscarriages”, healthy squirrels grow out of them and often become tame. nine0003

    - Poor kids! It's good that they have such wonderful saviors, and finally an adequate mom has appeared!

    Recall that recently Elena Ermakova nursed another squirrel, which also fell out of the nest. Now he is in Tomsk, with a new family, it is interesting that the baby made friends with domestic cats.

    Read also

    Age category of the site 18+

    The online publication (website) is registered by Roskomnadzor, certificate El No. FS77-80505 dated March 15, 2021




    Messages and comments from site readers are posted without preliminary editing. The editors reserve the right to remove them from the site or edit them if the specified messages and comments are an abuse of freedom mass media or violation of other requirements of the law. nine0003

    Novosibirsk branch of JSC Publishing House Komsomolskaya Pravda Address: zip code 630091, Novosibirsk, st. Sovetskaya, house 64, 10th floor, Contact phone +7 (383) 289-91-00, 289-91-06, e-mail: kp.

    Learn more