Squirrel in winter - hibernation with breaks

Squirrel in winter - hibernation with breaks

the essentials in brief

  • Squirrels do not hibernate, but reduce their activities in order to use as little energy as possible
  • In winter, squirrels go looking for food about every two days
  • In the fall, squirrels gather supplies and dig them in for the winter
  • If you want to help squirrels survive, you can offer them food in winter

Do squirrels hibernate?

Winter is often a challenge for squirrels. The animals prepare for the cold season during the summer and autumn months. Despite good precautions, their survival is not always guaranteed. They have to leave their Kobel about every two days to eat and to defecate.

also read

  • Feeding Squirrels - All You Need To Know
  • Why, when and how do hedgehogs hibernate?
  • Squirrel Kobel in the garden - tips and interesting facts

How squirrels survive the winter:

  • Body temperature in winter: 37 degrees Celsius
  • thick winter fur protects against frostbite
  • curl up so that the body is covered by the tail
  • Waterproof Kobel is insulated with moss, leaves and feathers
squirrel hibernation

Rigid winter, hibernation or hibernation?

The automated shutdown of metabolic processes is hidden behind rigid winter conditions. This is caused by the drop in temperatures in winter and occurs in cold-blooded animals such as fish and reptiles. These organisms adapt their body temperature to the temperature in their environment. In winter, the body temperature drops and the animals freeze.

Some creatures of the same temperature, such as bats, hedgehogs and marmots, go into hibernation. They also slow down their metabolic processes. The body temperature drops and the heartbeat and breathing also become slower. It can happen that the animals wake up briefly in winter. However, they do not consume food in hibernation.

Squirrels are also active during the winter months. However, they keep their activity to a minimum so that they don't waste too much energy. This hibernation is a form of hibernation that is interrupted by short waking phases. Metabolism is reduced during these periods of rest, but body temperature is maintained. This leads to an increased energy requirement, so that the rodents have to eat food in winter.


When do squirrels hibernate?

When the animals go into hibernation depends on the weather conditions. When frosty temperatures and snowfall occur as early as November, the animals retreat to their sleeping nests. This can shift to December or not happen at all. In the mild winter months, when the ground is neither frozen nor covered by a blanket of snow, the animals do not have to reduce their activity. The hibernation lasts until February in severe winters. Usually the first mating activities can be seen as early as January.

Food in winter

In autumn, squirrels build up their supplies for the winter. If they cannot find enough food, the animals can starve to death in the harsh winter months. The burying of supplies is predominantly observed in squirrels that live in central European deciduous and mixed forests. Squirrels in boreal coniferous forests do not show this behavior, because there are enough pine and spruce cones available for the animals to feed on.

Create hiding places

In Central Europe the rodents hide their collected supplies in the ground. They often choose a place near tree roots so that they can find it more easily in winter. Sometimes they also use cracks in bark or forks as a pantry. In contrast, food is never stored in the Kobel. The sense of smell plays an important role in finding hiding places. However, it often happens that the squirrels do not find all the hiding places. The seeds germinate in the coming spring.

This is how squirrels bury their food:

  1. Paw hole
  2. Put nuts and seeds in it
  3. Cover the supply with soil
  4. press with paws and snout
squirrel hibernation

Food spectrum

Squirrels are omnivores that do not specialize in any particular food. They eat both plant and animal foods. If they cannot find their hiding place again in winter and no other cones can be found, they will eat the shoots and buds of trees or mushrooms. Squirrels can digest many mushrooms that are poisonous to humans.


Dentition and food intake

Squirrels hold the food with their front paws. The cover scales of cones are held in place with their teeth and torn off. About 100 pine cones are processed in this way every day. Here they take in about 100 grams of food. The daily requirement of a squirrel is on average 35 to 80 grams.

Nuts are opened within a few seconds by the rodents drilling a hole in the shell with their lower incisors. As soon as this is large enough, they set the lower incisors like a lever and blast off a piece of the shell. This behavior is not innate, so young animals have to learn to crack nuts first.

This is how you can protect squirrels

Great fun watching squirrels in the garden. You can offer the animals a place to sleep and raise the young and set up a feeding station. The more houses the animals find, the more comfortable they feel.

KobelFeeding place
heightat least five meterstwo to three meters
functionProtection from enemies, restconvenient cleaning
suitable locationshigh tree trunk, fork of a branchBalcony, hedges, tree roots
AlignmentEscape hole points to the trunkFood platform with a clear view

Build Kobel

If you want to specifically offer the animals a place to sleep, you can build a goblin yourself. It is important that the dwelling is made of untreated and robust wood. Natural glazes (59.87 € at Amazon *) protect the wood from the weather and make it more durable. A Kobel must be waterproof and offer protection from wind and cold. Nevertheless, the material must be able to breathe so that moisture that has penetrated can escape again and does not go moldy.

To feed

squirrel hibernation

Squirrels like to accept feed mixes that are actually intended for birds. So that there is no competition, you can support the animals with a varied range of food. Acorns, beechnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are gladly accepted. Raisins and other dried fruits or carrots and corn are not spurned.

You should not offer fresh fruits and vegetables in winter, as the food can overwhelm the digestive tract. Avoid salted or spiced nut and dried fruit mixtures, because these are not tolerated. Peanuts are also unsuitable because of their ingredients.


Always put food in the same place under a tree, or offer nuts and fruits in food boxes. A plate in front of the window is also suitable as a dining table.

Why feeding makes sense

If agriculture is intensified and private gardens are tidied up, the food supply for rodents is drastically reduced. Due to the lack of habitats, the animals are pushed into urban areas, but here too there is a lack of food. It therefore makes sense to support the animals with food.

Per winter feeding:

  • December-January : high snow cover and frost prevent access to hiding places
  • January-February : females with high energy requirements
  • March-April : the first young animals are looking for food


The rodents also have to ingest water in winter, but this is difficult to cope with in asphalt urban areas. Place a bowl filled with water next to the food so that the animals do not die of thirst on dry and sunny winter days. The container should be cleaned daily, otherwise bacteria and viruses will spread quickly.

Secure possible sources of danger! Rain barrels (€ 149.95 at Amazon *) are often a deadly trap and should be covered.

The squirrel year

Squirrels live in the canopy and are diurnal. They build several goblins, which they use to rest and sleep, as a refuge and nest for raising young. The squirrel year begins in January or February, when the males make their first attempts at approach and look for females willing to mate.

The young are born early in the year after a gestation period of 38 days. The mother sometimes nurses her offspring until they are eight weeks old. Then the animals have to take care of themselves, because squirrels are loners. In rare cases, social behavior can be observed. When winter is just around the corner, the animals retreat to their protected and warm kobels.

Design the garden close to nature

If you have the opportunity, consider leaving some areas of the garden to nature. In this way, wild corners can develop and diverse habitats can be created in which squirrels feel comfortable. They need old trees and densely branched hedges that provide nest building material and food.


Squirrels like to nibble on berry bushes or strawberry plants.

Resting phaseActivity phase
vegetationHazel and walnut treesFruit trees, berry bushes, wild fruit hedges
DwellingsSleeping areaFeeding station, watering station
OthersRefrain from caring for trees and lawnsProvide moss, leaves and pieces of bark

frequently asked Questions

Do squirrels hibernate?

Squirrels are one of those animals of the same temperature that do not hibernate. Only in the harsh winter months do they reduce their activity and go into hibernation. The body temperature is not lowered here.

Where do squirrels hibernate?

The rodents use nests as a retreat. These pebbles are built waterproof and equipped with warming insulation. They are high up in the treetops and offer safe protection from predators.

Why don't squirrels hibernate?

The animals cannot shut down their metabolism so much that the body goes into hibernation. Squirrels need to eat even in winter, because maintaining their body temperature requires energy.

How long do squirrels hibernate?

The duration of the winter rest depends on the weather. If the first frosts and snowfall appear from November onwards, squirrels withdraw. As soon as the temperatures rise again and the snow melts, the rodents are active again.