Squirrels belong to the family Sciuridae. This family contains small and medium-sized rodents. There are more types of squirrels. Obviously, each of them has different characteristics. Some are very small and some are quite large. Most popular squirrels are tree squirrels and when someone says squirrels, tree squirrels will pop in your mind. As their name suggests, they live in trees.
As for ground squirrels, their name also suggests their environment. They are larger than tree squirrels and they live on, or in the ground. There are some larger ground squirrels, but they go by a different name such as marmots, which is really just a group of large ground squirrels. There are 15 species of marmots squirrels. There are also prairie dogs that are also very large for squirrels and you can find 5 species of prairie dogs only in North America.
On the contrary, there are chipmunks. They are very small and they are very popular among people because of that. You can also recognize this species because of its stripes. You can find them mostly in North America, but there is also Siberian chipmunk which can be found in Asia.
Flying squirrels are also quite popular. There are fifty species of flying squirrels. However, they don’t exactly “fly” like other animals. It’s more similar to gliding. They have a very long tail and a membrane that looks like a parachute from ankle to wrist. As you can probably guess, they use these “wings” to go from tree to tree and they obviously spend more time in trees than in the air.
Squirrels are generally very small and a very large number of them die in the first year of their life, while their lifespan is usually 5-10 years, but some species have a lifespan of 10-20 years. They also have a very good vision which can be extremely helpful for finding food or noticing a predator, and it’s especially helpful for species that dwell in trees.
Predators Of Squirrels
Many predators hunt squirrels, and it’s mostly because they don’t have a strong defensive mechanism. One of their biggest threats is definitely a hawk. Hawk is a very intimidating predator and very successful. There are not many species that find it easy to escape from a hawk and squirrels are definitely not one of them. One of the main problems is the speed of the hawk, because it’s significantly faster than a squirrel, especially if it’s a flying squirrel in the middle of a leap. Trees are also not very safe, but they are definitely safer than the sky. Also, hawks have a very good vision, so it might be too late for a squirrel once it notices a hawk. The ground is also not safe for squirrels but not mainly because of hawks.
The owl is very similar to a hawk as it comes to squirrels. A squirrel will rarely be faster than an owl and escaping is rarely an option. Also, there are some species of squirrels that are nocturnal as well as owls and those are mostly flying squirrels. As already said, flying is not something these squirrels are really good at, so they are extremely unlikely to escape from this predator of squirrels if they are in the middle of a jump.
Considering that squirrels are living in almost every habitat, so one can guess that they will run into a fox. Fox is a very dangerous predator for smaller animals which is why people think that a fox is very cunning. Obviously, foxes mostly prey on ground squirrels, except if some flying or tree squirrel decides it’s a good idea to pick something up from the ground. Overall, you can definitely see how foxes are a big problem for squirrels. Also, going in a group is not too helpful for squirrels because it’s very unlikely to be enough squirrels for a fox to be scared.
Coyotes are main predators of squirrels and they are not very likely to survive an encounter with a coyote. Coyotes mostly eat small animals such as squirrels or rabbits Coyotes are also a very big threat for squirrels, especially for ground squirrels. They can be very fast with no chance of a squirrel outrunning them, so coyotes hunt on squirrels is successful quite often. Coyotes also hunt in a small pack sometimes, but it’s rarely the case if their prey is a small animal such as a squirrel, so in that case, they usually hunt alone. First, they stalk the prey and then they attack at the right moment.
Weasels are very adaptive predators. They hunt during the daytime and the nighttime. They are also very good at climbing so they are even dangerous for squirrels in trees. They are also very patient and they are likely to trap prey in a small space and then hunt it down.
Wildcats might also be a big threat to squirrels even though not as often as birds of prey or foxes. Cats mostly hunt patiently with their head low and strike its prey after a while. They finish their prey off with a bite to the spinal cord.
Some people might find this one a bit strange. Strangely enough, some ground squirrels are even resistant to the venom of a snake. However, snakes really enjoy feeding on baby ground squirrels that are only a few months old. However, there are some encounters where a squirrel fought of a snake.
As already mentioned, squirrels are prey for a lot of animals. A lot of animals would die of hunger if there weren’t that many squirrels around. Also, it’s not only animals that hunt them. Squirrels are actually the most hunted animals in the USA according to some researches. The reason is mainly because of their fur, but some people eat squirrels, even though most people don’t consider them edible because of their similarity to rats. Also, you need to be aware that squirrel meat can transmit some diseases, especially if not cleaned and prepared properly.
I hope that this article on squirrel predators was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!