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Gray Squirrels Mating & Making Nests

Gray Squirrels have two breeding seasons, one from December – March and another May – July (most females mate in the latter season and only mate once a year).  At this time of year, polygamous male Gray Squirrels are aggressively chasing and checking out females to see if they are in estrus and if they are receptive. (An unreceptive female squirrel lets all suitors know in no uncertain terms – using claws and teeth – that she is not interested.)  Male Gray Squirrels can smell females in estrus as far as half a mile away, so the woods are full of hopeful males these days.

Frequently litters this time of year are born in a tree cavity, while the second, late-summer litter is born in a leaf nest (drey).  Cavities obviously offer more protection from the elements and predators than do leaf nests. Most den cavities have been created by decay, lightning, or woodpeckers and are lined with dry leaves, shredded bark and grasses. (Photo:  Gray Squirrel collecting American Beech leaves to be used as a lining for her cavity nest.)

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6 responses

  1. Alice

    Using claws & teeth is definitely not as nice as feigning a headache.

    February 12, 2021 at 8:27 am

  2. We have so many Grey Squirrels in Franklin, Massachusetts! A couple of Black ones too! Very busy, busy creature! Oh but in the summer how they like to stretch out full length in the driveway and take a quick soak up the sun rays nap! 🙂 ❤

    February 12, 2021 at 8:34 am

  3. Laura Giard

    Hello. Thanks so much for all the wonderful information you provide us. I was wondering if you could tell me why I am seeing small birds pecking at the small branches of trees (it has been primarily chickadees but also titmice and juncos). The trees I have seen them in are my weeping cherry, magnolia and peach. Thanks you. Laura

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    February 12, 2021 at 8:39 am

  4. Rema Boscov

    Dear Mary Holland,

    Thank you for your wonderful work. This morning I saw what I am pretty sure was a mink running in my yard today. But it is not near water. I am pretty certain it wasn’t a weasel. It did not have a white coat, not even a white belly and was completely dark brown with a long tail. It loped through the snow. Is it possible it was a mink? It was heading toward my deck, and seems to have gone under it, despite the lattice fencing, and not reappeared. Here are the tracks it has made in my yard.

    Thanks so much for your help!

    Rema Boscov


    February 12, 2021 at 12:27 pm

  5. Peter Denis

    Most interesting article and I thank you. I live on the fouth floor of an apartment building in Montreal surrounded by mature trees and with plenty of grey squirrel nests in their forks. My comment concerns an incident that occurred last summer while sitting with my wife on one of our large balconies. an industrious grey squirrel decide the she would clean her nest of squirrel hair and gobs and gobs floated down as she disposed of it. some even landed on our balcony. You did not mention squirrel hair as an insulation material but some must fall out from all the squirrels that use a nest and the landlady decided to get rid of some by sharing it with the neighbours (us) on that late summer day.

    February 12, 2021 at 1:08 pm

  6. Thank you for all of the information you share! I have a squirrel who has a nest inside a tree and am wondering how many babies she might have, and how long they stay in the nest for. I don’t know when the babies were born as I only see mama poking her head out from time to time.

    February 26, 2021 at 8:42 am

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