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Do Grey Squirrels Hibernate?

Written by Lex Basu
Updated: September 29, 2022
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Key Points

  • The Grey Squirrels are a native to North America, however, in the 19th century they were brought in to the UK and now have a considerable population there as well.
  • Grey squirrels cause a lot of damage by eating seeds, fruits, nuts, bulbs and crops, getting into shingles and damaging roofs, cutting telephone cords and even electric cables.
  • Grey squirrels do not have enough energy stored in their bodies to hibernate during winter, however they do sleep a lot and eat the food that they have collected during warm weather to tide them over.

Grey Squirrels were first introduced to the UK in the 19th century from North America and have since thrived in British woodlands, making them our most common species of squirrel today. Unlike Red Squirrels, Grey Squirrels are much larger in size and never have tufts on the tips of their ears.

Grey squirrel in an oak tree.
Grey Squirrels are the most common species of squirrel in the UK.

©Sterling E Thompson/Shutterstock.com

It is widely assumed by people (and indeed we at A-Z Animals have been asked the question many times) that Grey Squirrels hibernate during the winter months. In fact, they are one of our smaller mammal species that does not, but they have instead adopted a number of techniques that help them to survive through the colder periods.

When the seasons change from summer to autumn, Grey Squirrels begin to forage for food including nuts and seeds which are then buried in the ground or stored in holes in the trees. They are not actually feeding themselves up to survive through the winter but are instead insuring that they still have access to food when it becomes scarce with the colder climate.

A grey squirrel standing in the grass surrounded by fallen leaves.
Grey Squirrels begin to forage for nuts and seeds in autumn to bury in the ground or store in holes in trees.

©TheLiftCreativeServices/Shutterstock.com

Squirrels (unlike dormice and bats) are unable to retain a high level of body-fat which means that they cannot sustain themselves through the winter, even if they wanted to hibernate. Although they do have a largely vegetarian diet, in times when food is very scarce, Grey Squirrels are known to prey on small birds and steal eggs in order to survive.

Numerous people believe that Grey Squirrels hibernate due to the fact that they can be seldom seen during the colder months. However, they are actually snuggled up in a larger and warmer drey which they build especially for the winter to help keep them warm. Grey Squirrels can be seen to be active during these colder days but will stay in the comfort of their drey if the weather is bad.

A grey squirrel perched on a wooden ledge eating seeds.
Grey Squirrels don’t hibernate during the winter. They build special dreys to help stay warm in the colder months.

©Bruce MacQueen/Shutterstock.com

Next Up…


The Featured Image

10 Animals That Hoard - squirrel
Squirrels rely on their sense of smell to find the caches in which they hoard their food.
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About the Author

Lex is a green-living, tree-hugging, animal-lover, who at one time was the mother to twenty one felines and one doggo. Now she helps pet owners around the globe be the best caretakers for their most trusting companions by sharing her experience and spreading love.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animal, The Definitive Visual Guide To The World's Wildlife
  2. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals
  3. David Burnie, Kingfisher (2011) The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia
  4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species
  5. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals
  6. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals