Hundreds of species of squirrels exist throughout the world, and about 60 of them are found in the United States. These creatures are commonly seen running along the ground, climbing trees, and eating at bird feeders. Yet, they mostly seem to disappear at night. Discover the three most common places that squirrels go at night! Learn why you won’t see most species around when the sun goes down!
Are Squirrels Nocturnal or Diurnal?
Understanding where squirrels go at night requires learning about their behavior. Given that there are so many species of squirrels in the world, it’s safe to say that squirrels can be diurnal, nocturnal, and crepuscular depending on their species.
Many species of squirrels are diurnal, meaning that they are most active during the day and sleep at night. Yet, many other species of squirrels are nocturnal. For example, flying squirrels from the genus Pteromyini look for their food at night. Still, some species are crepuscular, and they are most active in the early morning or early evening. Crepuscular and nocturnal squirrels mostly sleep during the day.
Each type of squirrel gets a certain benefit from its waking and sleeping hours. For example, squirrels that are awake during the day rest at night to avoid predators. The most common predators of squirrels include snakes, predatory birds, and domestic cats. All of these animals are great at hunting during the nighttime, so squirrels must avoid activity at that time. The exceptions are flying squirrels that have better vision at nighttime and the ability to glide.
What Are the 3 Most Common Places Squirrels Go at Night?
The three most common places that squirrels go at night include a nest in a tree, a nest in the ground, or out into their habitat to find food. In any case, humans are less likely to encounter squirrels at night no matter what. Even the squirrels hunting at night would be using stealth and speed to find prey. Those factors would make them hard to spot.
Most squirrels go to sleep at night or at the very least stay in a safe place. They go to their nests because many species have very poor vision at night. For example, the eastern gray squirrel can see just fine during the day, but it would not be able to locate food and avoid predators at night.
The threat of predation is another thing that keeps many squirrels in a safe place at night. These small mammals would stand no chance against an owl that is patrolling the skies, looking for a quick meal. Take a look at each of the places where squirrels prefer to go at night.
1. Asleep in a Nest in a Tree
Over 100 species of squirrels live in trees. These so-called tree squirrels are found on almost every continent in the world. For example, the eastern gray squirrel is a tree squirrel that nests high in trees. Their nests are called dreys, and they are usually located about 30 feet up in a tree. They build their nests between strong branches or inside a tree cavity. The latter is especially common during the cold winter months.
Squirrels climb into these nests because many of their common predators have a hard time finding them. The nests themselves are often made from leaves, twigs, tree bark, and other natural materials. The nest is not just a place where they sleep. The area also serves as storage for them. Squirrels will find food and place it in their nest for when they need it.
This is one of the most common places squirrels go at night. It’s a safe place where they can stay warm and secure.
2. Asleep in a Nest Beneath the Ground
The term ‘ground squirrels’ refers to about 60 species of rodents all of which live on the ground. They usually dig their own burrows in which to nest. However, they may also take over abandoned burrows of other animals. Some of the most common ground squirrels in the United States are prairie dogs, groundhogs, and chipmunks.
The majority of these animals are diurnal. They are aware during the day and rest at night for the same reasons as tree squirrels. Their eyes are not attuned to the darkness, and many of their most potent predators are active at night. Thus, it is wise for them to stay in their underground burrows and nests to wait for daytime.
Some species of ground squirrels are very social. For example, prairie dogs live in colonies that can stretch over hundreds of acres. They have a unique social structure that enables them to care for their young and keep watch for predators and other dangers.
3. On the Prowl for Food
Another place that squirrels go at night is foraging for food. Specifically, flying squirrels comprise 43 species of animals that spend most of the nighttime looking for food. These creatures have better eyesight that helps them see in the dark. Moreover, their physiology helps them hunt other creatures at night.
Flying squirrels get their name from the patagium, skin folds, which allow them to glide from one location to another. If the creatures find something that they want to eat, they can glide to it. They see very well at night. Also, their gliding ability helps flying squirrels escape from would-be predators better than normal tree squirrels.
Flying squirrels usually nest high in trees, often above 50 feet. They avoid predators by going higher than most of them are willing to climb. That doesn’t always help them against all predators, though. Still, these creatures look for insects, carrion, nuts, and other foods throughout the night. They sleep during the day.
Knowing the three most common places squirrels go at night, the most likely place to find them is in their nests. However, flying squirrels are active at night, finding their meals under the cover of darkness and with the aid of their gliding skills. So, the next time that you wonder where squirrels are at night, they’re probably in their nests sleeping. That way, they can wake up and explore the world when predators don’t have such an edge.
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