One thing should be clear, when it gets frosty outside or there is even snow on the ground, not even the last squirrel wants to frolic in the trees. It is more comfortable then to retreat to the Kobel, the technical term for their nest, and wait for milder temperatures. In contrast to the cold-blooded animals, the small rodents do not hibernate.

hibernation, hibernation, hibernation

In order to be able to better understand squirrels, Sciurus vulgaris from the squirrel family, in their (non-)winter activities, the following is a brief explanation of the three terms: Cold-
blooded animals, such as reptiles or fish, adapt their body temperature to the respective ambient temperature. In winter, they have no choice but to become rigid with their cold body temperature. All vital functions are shut down almost to zero. This is the only way they can survive in the winter.

Hedgehogs, bats and marmots, among others, hibernate. Your organisms shut down the systems. Body temperature drops, breathing and heartbeat slow down. However, they occasionally wake up, scratch and defecate if necessary, only to fall back asleep shortly thereafter. They do not eat during the winter period.

Things are different for animals that hibernate, such as squirrels. They do not hibernate and, like brown bears or badgers, are active in winter. However, their activity is inevitably restricted. Cold demands more energy from the body, and there is also a limited supply of food. It is best not to move more than necessary as a squirrel.

The apartment: the Kobel

The original habitat of the squirrel is the mixed forest. There is enough food here and, above all, enough space to build their spherical nests, the roosts. Preferred places for this are branch forks from a height of five meters. The finished Kobel have a diameter of around 40 centimeters and consist of twigs, pine needles and leaves. Abandoned woodpecker holes or bird nests are often used as a finished foundation. The construction time is only three to five days.

A squirrel often builds up to eight roosts. These include shady nests for daytime rest, thick-walled sleeping hutches for hibernation and simply here and there alternative hutches if a nest has become uninhabitable due to parasite infestation or destruction. As loners, the squirrels live alone in their nest. In the city, they prefer to build their roosts in parks, gardens and cemeteries.

housing help

In the city, it is not always easy for the squirrels to find suitable places for their nests. In parks and gardens, trees and shrubs are often severely pruned so that they only find a few forked branches of adequate height. Here are a few tips on how to help squirrels build their nests in winter:

  • Do not cut down tall trees below six meters in height
  • leave a few stable forks when pruning trees and shrubs
  • before each cut, check for nests beforehand
  • Do not completely dispose of garden waste such as needles, leaves and especially pine cones
Note: If you are redesigning a garden or planning to set a hedge, you should also think of the native hazel bush. Together with hawthorn and wild roses, this creates an easy-care, natural hedge that makes squirrels and birds equally happy.

activity in winter

So the squirrels just hibernate. That means they show little activity. In severe cold, they often do not leave the nest for several days. But every now and then hunger forces them out into the cold and they try to find their hidden nuts and cones. Incidentally, this happens more often than people say they do. Instinctively, enough supplies are hidden that the food found is sufficient under normal conditions.

Their body temperature remains constant at 37 degrees in winter, and their breathing does not slow down either. With less activity, the frequency of the heartbeat and the entire metabolism are automatically reduced. Although this reduces energy requirements, food is still required every few days. Then it’s time to get out of the ditch and go in search of food. So that they don’t freeze to death, they grow a dense winter coat in autumn


Laboriously, that’s already clear, the squirrel feeds itself. But what actually? The agile rodents have a varied diet because they are omnivores . You can follow what nature has to offer all year round, just as we humans (should) do:

  • Berry
  • nuts
  • seeds, grains
  • buds, flowers, bark
  • fruit
  • mushrooms
  • Worms. snails
  • insects, maggots
  • Bird eggs, young birds

They are adept at holding their food with their front paws and peeling or cracking it with their teeth, depending on the condition. To get a feeling for the amount of food, an example using spruce seeds: You need about 100 cones a day, that is up to 100 grams. The average requirement is between 35 and 80 g of food, depending on the nutritional value.

Hazelnuts, walnuts, acorns and beechnuts are usually hidden as supplies for the winter. They can be buried particularly well, often up to 30 centimeters deep. In winter they owe it to their fine nose that they can find their hiding places again

Tip: squirrels are very useful for nature. They never find 100 percent of their hidden supplies again in winter. They thus contribute to the spread of tree species.

feeding aid

Especially in urban areas, it doesn’t hurt to give the wood squirrels a little help. It is not uncommon to see them feeding at the bird houses when there is a lot of snow. A bowl, especially for the squirrels, filled with acorns, beechnuts or sunflower seeds is gladly accepted. Especially when it’s a harsh winter, with long cold spells or solid snow cover. Some squirrels even take nuts from the human hand in their distress.

There are now special food boxes for squirrels on the market. They have a window so the squirrels can see the treats. They have a mechanism that opens a flap as soon as a squirrel sits in front of it and admires the nuts.

But it is also enough to simply lay down the food under trees and bushes. The resourceful squirrels will sniff out the delicacies. It is best to always lay out the lining in the same place. Under no circumstances should salted or spiced nuts and fruits be included, the squirrels cannot tolerate that.
Suitable for winter feeding are:

  • hazelnuts
  • walnuts
  • peanuts
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • raisins


Squirrel cats, as they are called in some regions, also need water in winter. The water supply can be problematic for the “city squirrels” on dry winter days, since many areas are straightened and asphalted, so that only little water can accumulate. If you want to help, put a water bowl in a quiet corner in your garden or in the neighborhood. Don’t forget to keep the bowl and the place clean as well.


Young animals stay in their mother’s nest for a few months before they also start their life as solitary animals. Especially in the first winter, many, more precisely almost 80 percent of the young animals do not survive this first cold test. If they have survived the winter, they can expect an average of three more years of life.

spring awakening

For the squirrels there are no fixed dates in the spring at the end of the hibernation. Your activity adapts to the respective outside temperatures. So it may be that on warm days in February they are already dashing happily over the branches, but have to retreat to their sleeping huts on bitterly cold March days.

They’re cute, these Sciurus vulgaris, and they’re useful. The small forest animals have long since adapted to the human habitat. In other words: have to adapt. It therefore makes sense to deal with their way of life, especially in winter, in order to be able to support them as effectively as possible during this time.

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