Do Squirrels Come Out at Night and the Best Times to See Them

Gray, red and fox squirrels are the most common types of tree squirrels. Red squirrels are predominantly found in Europe, while gray and fox squirrels are found in America.

If you have a backyard full of trees, it is more than likely that you will see squirrels around the place if you time it right.

In this article, I will cover some key information about squirrels, including whether they come out at night and the best times to see them.

Keep reading to find out more.

Do squirrels come out at night?

The answer to this question will largely depend on the squirrel in question! 

Some squirrels, such as the Eastern gray squirrel is a diurnal animal, meaning that they are the most active in the early morning and late afternoon.

Some squirrels, like many other small mammals, are crepuscular. The word “crepuscular” is derived from the Latin word for “twilight.” This means that these squirrels are particularly active for a couple of hours at dawn and dusk, however, during the main body of the day, can sleep for as much as 18 to 20 hours. 

That being said, unlike most members of the squirrel family, flying squirrels are strictly nocturnal. This means that they are strictly active during the night, meaning that you are less likely to come across them in your backyard unless you’re sat out there specifically at night for that purpose.

When is the best time to see squirrels?

Most squirrels are the most active at dawn and during the late afternoon when they are searching for available food. Squirrels tend to forage and feed on the ground rather than in trees, so this is where you are likely to see them.

If you tend to be an early riser, you are most likely to see your backyard full of gray squirrels during your morning coffee. So, be sure to wake up early and keep an eye out for them around this time if you’re hoping to see them. 

However, you should be aware that there are certain seasons and weather conditions that a squirrel will venture out less in, and thus, you will therefore see them less frequently.

These include:

Winter 

Most obviously, during the winter you are less likely to see squirrels in your backyard. While gray squirrels do not hibernate, in winter they become far less active, sleeping for long periods and sometimes even several days at a time. 

The reason that gray squirrels don’t hibernate is that they cannot store enough energy to survive for long periods without food. However, due to the fact that they become less active throughout the winter in comparison to their activity in summer, they are less frequently spotted during the colder months.

Heavy Rainfall 

While squirrels do forage during light rainfall, when it is raining heavily they tend to seek shelter, usually in hollow trees or leaf nests in the branches. 

During light rain fall, adult squirrels might use their bushy tail as an umbrella to keep themselves dry as they forage for food for themselves and their young. However, when it is extremely wet and stormy, they tend to shelter away from the rain, and you are less likely to see them in your backyard.

Where do squirrels sleep?

Where a squirrel sleeps and lives depends on a few factors, such as the type of squirrel, the time of year, and the region of the country that they live in. The majority of species of squirrels belong to one of two categories – tree squirrels and ground squirrels. 

Ground Squirrels

Unlike tree squirrels, ground squirrels prefer sleeping in underground burrows consisting of tunnels up to 30 feet in length. They are burrowing animals that dig holes in the ground to stay warm.

Depending on the species of ground squirrel, they may even hibernate in their homes throughout the winter. They are not nocturnal and are diurnal animals that spend their time foraging for food during the day, and then sleep at night.

Squirrels make their nests with collected leaves, along with small twigs and branches. They will typically start to build their nests before fall when there are still plenty of leaves on the trees.

It’s important to note that squirrels do not always build their own nests. Sometimes they come across an existing nest left by a previous squirrel. It is also possible for a squirrel to build more than one nest, using its second nest as a reserve nest in case its other nest is ruined by harsh weather conditions.

Tree Squirrels

Tree squirrels such as the flying squirrel, red squirrel, and the Eastern gray squirrel sleep in nests or dens that they create in trees. They create their dens in preparation for the long winter months.

Squirrels may build a leaf nest, much the same as a typical bird’s nest, or they may find a hollowed-out cavity in a tree and may make it warmer with moss or leaves.

The leaf nests are called dreys. They are typically made from a collection of dried leaves, grass, and twigs to keep the squirrel warm. The squirrel builds these dreys in the forks formed by large tree branches. These nests are more susceptible to needing maintenance to ensure that it remains intact for long periods of time.

In addition to nests they build themselves, sometimes tree squirrels come across cavity nests inside the tree itself. With this type of nest, the squirrel has more protection against harsh weather conditions and also from any potential predators.

Not only are these types of nests better to protect the squirrel from extreme weather such as snow, wind, and rain, but it also means that the squirrel has to spend less time building and maintaining its nest.

A den made from a cavity nest therefore does not require the same amount of work, allowing squirrels to spend more time relaxing and conserving energy, especially during the winter.

Do squirrels eat at night?

This also depends on the squirrel in question. The majority of squirrels are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day and sleep at night like humans. During the light hours, they will spend their days foraging for food and water.

However, if you’re talking about a nocturnal squirrel, such as a flying squirrel, then yes – squirrels eat at night.

For the most part, squirrels do not eat at night. However, there are exceptions to this as some species do, so it will depend on the squirrel and their habits.

Do flying squirrels forage at night?

Yes! As flying squirrels are nocturnal squirrels, they sleep during the day and forage at night when there are less predators around. 

At night, flying squirrels can glide up to 250 feet from tree to tree. They even have the ability to make 90 degree turns in mid-air, and this makes them look like they have the ability to fly here, there, and everywhere. 

However, despite their name, flying squirrels cannot actually fly in the same way a bird can. Instead, they are gliding from tree to tree with the aid of a patagium, a parachute-like membrane that stretches from wrist to ankle. It is this that gives these types of squirrels the ability to glide from tree to tree. 

In Summary 

If you want to see squirrels eating at your feeders or jumping around in your backyard, you’ll need to establish which squirrels you’re looking for and know their habits.

Grey squirrels are diurnal, so if you’re hoping to see them, you should make sure to sit out in your backyard in the early morning hours or early dusk.

Spending more time outside will help, and you will get to know their daily routine once they have been visiting your backyard for a while.