Squirrels are intriguing creatures with their bushy tails and energetic movements, but they also spend a great deal of time sleeping. In fact, squirrels spend up to 60% of their day asleep! This makes sense, considering that squirrels need to conserve energy while they hunt for food and build up a layer of fat for winter.
While many animals go into a state of hibernation, a squirrel’s version of this is called torpor. While true hibernation lasts months, torpor is a short period during which a squirrel’s metabolism slows and it doesn’t have to eat or eliminate waste. Tree squirrels, including gray squirrels, are known to use this technique for winter to save energy while hunting for food and building up fat reserves.
During torpor, squirrels may not need to eat for weeks or even days at a time, depending on the environment in which they live. Squirrels can also rely on their thick coats and the auto-response of shivering to maintain their average body temperature during torpor.
While a squirrel can sleep anywhere, it usually chooses to tuck away in a sheltered nest or den during the night. These nests are often acorn-shaped and are built by squirrels from twigs, leaves, grass, and other natural materials. They can be found in forks of trees or in the crooks of tree trunks, and they typically offer protection from rain and snow.