When a Squirrel Sneezes

Squirrel Chase

Have you ever seen squirrels chasing one another, sometimes several at a time? A typical scene during certain seasons is of three or more critters scrambling up and down the trunk of a tree, with much gleeful hiding, stopping, listening, and flicking of tails.

What explains this? Well, it is part of an elaborate mating game that lasts over two weeks. The process kicks off when a female is almost fertile. It takes at least two weeks of vigorous exercise for her to ovulate–nature’s way of forcing the males to compete by chasing her for that long!

Day after day she will lead the pack, with hopeful males trailing and puffing away on this marathon. The chase is so gruelling that the young and weak males fall behind, leaving only the strongest as finalists.

During this time, the female is carefully observing the contestants. She is looking for the strongest, fittest one to be the father. Isn’t Nature a sly one?

Finally, when the female is in heat, she sneaks up close to the male she has chosen, and she signals his success by–are you ready?–sneezing! So next time you hear a squirrel sneeze, you’ll know what is going on.

One December I was observing this ritual for over two weeks. I had heard the female sneeze, so I was looking out at the snowy patio when the amorous pair tumbled right in front of me. They were playful and sweet; really quite affectionate. It was exactly winter solstice: Christmas day. The promise of new life to come.


5 thoughts on “When a Squirrel Sneezes

  1. Evening Vicki~

    You’re not going to believe this….but just today, while I was in the park feeding my “friends”….I witnessed this “production” that you just described (minus the sneezing)!

    Maybe I caught them a few days away from two weeks?!

    How did you find this information out??

    You amaze me…just amaze me!

    Once again, you offer us a touching tale…that beats the HELL out of National Geographic!

    God Love Ya Woman!

    Thanks for this Vicki…it made my heart smile.

    Be well,

  2. And a good evening to you, Ron!

    My word! In sync again, are we? Incredible!

    I hope you can see your little marathon runners during this week. I was lucky enough to have a small garden and I could keep close tabs on them every day. With careful observation and reading, you begin to understand what is going on.

    Let me know if you hear any sneezing!

    And, how’s the squirrel fishing?

    Thanks for stopping by, my friend!


  3. Not for nothing, but a squirrel DOES NOT sneeze when it is trying to mate. Also, just from sitting in a park for 2 or so weeks DOES NOT make you an expert on squirrels. I have raised many many many squirrels and both male and female squirrels both sneeze. It does not have anything to do with mating. I have raised both male and female squirrels and they both sneeze equally. I am not trying to come off strongly, but it does bother me when people put false information on the internet, which seems to happy quite frequently! Have a squirrley day 🙂

  4. Thanks for the squirrel information! This sounds like the mating rituals of my squirrel, but there was no sneezing! I really miss him…if I sneeze will he show up? I’ll try it out! I still love that darned SQUIRREL!

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