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Are squirrels nocturnal?

Are Squirrels Nocturnal? Their Sleep and Other Habits Explained

Are you curious about those pattering footsteps you hear scurrying across the roof at night? If squirrels have taken up residence in your neighborhood, they just might be the culprits behind those odd late-night noises. But are squirrels truly nocturnal creatures? Depending on location and a few other factors, the answer may surprise you!

In this article, we'll cover key details about squirrels' sleep patterns and daily habits. You'll learn whether squirrels are out and about at night or if they prefer to nestle down when the sun sets. We'll also explore how seasons and environments can impact squirrel behavior to better understand these bushy-tailed critters.

Nocturnal vs Diurnal vs Crepuscular Schedules

When exploring whether squirrels are awake at night, helps to understand the meaning of nocturnal. In the animal kingdom, creatures are classified into different groups based on their sleep-wake cycles and the times they are active.

Nocturnal animals are most active at night and prefer to sleep during the day. Examples include bats, owls, and raccoons. Diurnal species, on the other hand, are active during the daylight hours and sleep at night. Squirrels, deer, and songbirds fall into this category.

Finally, crepuscular animals are most lively around dawn and dusk. They sleep during both the day and night. Some crepuscular critters include cats, rabbits, and skunks. Their rituals revolve around the rising and setting of the sun. So, where do squirrels fall on this spectrum

Squirrels are not nocturnal and not quite diurnal.

Digging Deeper: Just Squirrely Things

Now that we understand the difference between nocturnal and diurnal creatures, let's zero in on the critters in question. Squirrels are classified as diurnal, meaning they are awake and active mostly during the daytime. However, they are not exclusively daytime creatures. Squirrels typically rise before dawn and often stay active doing various activities into the early evening.

During the day, squirrels spend time foraging for food, playing, and maintaining their homes and territories. You may spot them energetically leaping through trees or bushes as they search for acorns, nuts, and other foods. Squirrels are playful critters and will chase each other through yards and parks during daytime hours.

At night, squirrels do not have the same level of activity, but they are not completely inactive either. They may leave their nests periodically to snack or cache food. Squirrels tend to sleep at night but can wake up if disturbed by bright lights or loud noises.

Overall, their energy peaks when the sun is up and winds down as darkness falls. Now, let's look at how seasons and environments can influence their behavior.

How Habitats Shape Daily Squirrel Routines

A squirrel's daily routine and sleep patterns can fluctuate based on the changing seasons and its habitat. This flexibility helps squirrels adapt and thrive in diverse environments across the country.

In warmer months, squirrels tend to be more active during the day as they gather food, socialize, and maintain their nests. You're likely to see them busily digging up flower beds or scampering across lawns on sunny afternoons. Come wintertime, squirrels may spend more time sheltered in their dens to conserve energy and stay warm.

Squirrels living in urban areas versus natural woodland settings also demonstrate different behavioral patterns. City squirrels that interact frequently with humans may be active earlier or later in the day compared to their rural counterparts. Urban areas with ample artificial lighting can disturb squirrels' sleep at night.

The availability of food resources heavily impacts when squirrels are active as well. For instance, squirrels may venture out more at night in autumn to bury nuts and seeds in caches for winter. Also, if backyard feeders are keeping them well-fed, squirrels can afford to sleep in a bit later.

Squirrels can be prevented and coexisted with on any schedule.

Avoiding Unnecessary Squirrel Run-Ins

As we've learned, squirrels are primarily active during daytime hours. However, these clever rodents can still potentially cause damage in yards and gardens. When issues arise, it's important to use humane deterrents and prevention measures. Some tips include:
  • Focus on exclusion vs eradication - Look for points of entry where squirrels may be accessing the areas you want to protect. Seal openings in attics, eaves, and foundations humanely with wire mesh, screening, or one-way exclusion doors.
  • Manage attractants - Don't leave pet food outside and clean up any nuts or fruits that fall from trees. If possible, use animal-proof garbage cans and compost bins.
  • Protect plants/structures - Use wire mesh or other barriers to safeguard flower beds, gardens, and vulnerable areas from squirrel digging. Prune overhanging branches to discourage access.
  • Provide alternatives - Offering corn cobs, peanuts, or other natural foods in open spaces away from gardens can help satisfy squirrel appetites.
  • Check for damage - Routinely inspect for entry points or signs of chewing that should be sealed. Look for nesting materials that indicate nests that should be humanely removed.
Remember, the goal is to make your yard less inviting for squirrels by limiting access, not by eradicating them. 

Knowing When to Take Action

Now that you understand squirrels' daily routines and how to deter them humanely, when should you address their presence, and how? Here are a few signs it's time to act:
  • New holes or entry points appear in the eaves, attic, or foundation that require sealing. Squirrels are remarkably adept at chewing through materials.
  • You hear scampering in walls/ceilings or see nesting materials indoors indicating an indoor nest that must be removed.
  • Squirrels start gnawing on wood structures, and furniture, or landing on balconies/patios where they could start chewing or nesting.
  • Visible or excessive damage in gardens, flower beds, or lawns from digging or eating.
  • Trash cans are frequently overturned with garbage strewn across the yard no matter how well you secure the lids.
  • Squirrels don't seem deterred by humane tactics and are becoming bolder in the damage they cause.
When these issues arise, it's time to start planning. For severe repeat offenses, you may need to enlist professional help or specialized products like the S35 Rhino Excluders® One Way Door for squirrels, chipmunks, and other similar rodents. These tools are developed by industry experts and can allow for safe, humane squirrel removal. Professionals can also advise on advanced humane deterrents to keep squirrels from returning, once evicted!


In summary, while squirrels do occasionally stir and snack at night, these bushy-tailed rodents are predominantly diurnal. They sleep when the sun goes down and are most active and energetic during daylight hours.

However, after diving into squirrel sleep cycles, daily habits, and how to coexist with them, we've discovered more than just their bedtimes! Understanding squirrels' natural rhythms also enables us to take proactive steps to protect our gardens without harming local wildlife.

If squirrels do become a nuisance around your home, RNS Products offers a range of innovative products, designed to allow safe removal for both humans and squirrels.
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