Do Grey Squirrels Hibernate?

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: January 2, 2013


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.

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.

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.