Can a Squirrel Die From Stress?

Stress is not safe for squirrels, as they experience different situations unfavorable for them to live and survive. It acts the same way for all animals, which can cause offensive behavior as they try to escape depressing situations.

Can a Squirrel Die From Stress? Some squirrel species can die from stress because they have sensitive nervous and immune systems, while some species can survive in challenging situations. They can get stress due to live traps by humans, food competition, attacks by predators, invasion by other squirrel species, and loss of shelter.

The different situation causes the animals to get stressed, which affect their lifestyle and survival conditions. Some species act quickly in such a situation, while others take some time to understand it and react a few minutes later.

Why would a squirrel die from stress?

They are small adorable rodents that cannot face the worse situations and panic quickly to escape from danger or the uncomfortable environment because they are used to feeling free.

The red squirrels are more sensitive to challenging situations and often die in handled or trapped forcefully. Their nervous system is not as strong as other species, and they give up soon under such conditions.

They release a hormone called cortisol produced in the adrenal cortex exterior to adrenal glands, which also causes the secretion of some other hormones.

Cortisol, or glucocorticoid, is a steroid hormone that controls different organs and tells the brain and body what to do in challenging situations.

The rodents release this hormone in the blood, which causes different effects on the body and nervous system. High cortisol levels can damage the nervous system, harming the binding nerves.

These rodents produce high amounts of cortisol hormone in stressful situations and can cause negative effects if the squirrel is exposed to stressors for a long time.

The stress from sudden shocks can cause heart attack and causes the rodent to die. The hormone release is different in different situations and affects them differently.

Flying squirrels have approximately higher cortisol levels and have 90% of these hormones circulating in the blood without binding with the protein carriers, which can control the stress hormones.

All other species and animals have sufficient protein carriers to bind with these hormones and protect them from severe health threats while flying squirrels are unique.

However, the stress hormone level under normal situations is not too high to cause rodent death. They face anxiety and can attack you or predators, but they rarely die if the body and the nervous system fail to overcome the challenging conditions.

What are the causes of stress in squirrels?

Different situations cause stress in squirrels, and some of the conditions are explained below.

Live traps by humans

House owners often set traps for squirrels if they live in the countryside because there are more chances of these rodents roaming around the gardens in these areas.

These traps are designed to trap the rodents and not to kill them because the house owners set their favorite food, such as peanut butter or nuts, in the trap and catch them when they enter the traps or cage.

They get worried when they face a suddenly threatened situation, and the adrenal glands start releasing stress hormones, which causes them to act more wildly to escape the traps.

Food competition

They often store or bury their food around their nest to feed the young babies during hibernation. The other species or predators can get into their nest to get the food if they find the rodents burying the food.

They feel stress when they cannot find proper food for themselves and their babies because the young squirrels cannot get out of the nest to find food and need an appropriate diet for growth.

The mother squirrel can get anxious if other predators try to get the food the rodent brings for the babies and behave aggressively in such depressing situations.

Attacks from predators

Different animals and insects, such as snakes, domestic cats, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and weasels, can attack and eat these rodents and the food they store.

Moreover, owls, eagles, and hawks can grab these little rodents to eat them if they do not find other food sources. They get stressed when the predators attack to try to enter their living space. 

They retaliate, and the body releases adrenaline, also called the fight hormone, due to stress or tension. The hormone helps the rodent run and escapes the tense situation.

Invasion by other squirrels

They feel worried if other specie invades their living space or enter their nest, as red squirrels are severely affected by grey squirrels invading their nest.

The invasion by grey squirrels causes a reduction in food availability and affects their fitness because they invade specie and eat the seeds of the native species.

This leads to chronic stress and several health problems in native species, as the grey squirrels cause stress for the red rodents. 

The glucocorticoid hormones release in the feces, as FGM in red squirrels becomes higher than average, which shows they are facing a difficult situation.

Loss of shelter or nest

They build their nests in the tree’s cavities or collect the leaves and twigs around the tree branches more than 20 feet high from the ground.

They reproduce and keep their babies in the nest to prevent predators. Having the nest destroyed due to rainstorms or windstorms in the forests can cause the rodents to get stressed.

The loss of shelter causes them to become worried about their babies and become active in finding new nests safe for them and their babies.

What happens when a squirrel gets stressed?

The excessive secretion of stress hormones is not safe for these rodents, as they become aggressive and attack you if you try to invade their nest or trap them.

They can bite you with their sharp teeth, which cause different diseases, and you may need to seek medical help if the bite causes infection.

Moreover, physiological stress can cause a reduction in growth, as the organs will not work efficiently and reduce reproduction among these animals.

The rodents are forced to share the nest or habitat with other squirrels, have food competition, and cannot get an adequate diet, which causes them to behave offensively.

All these challenging conditions cause slow growth, smaller size, and reduced fertility, leading to the specie’s extinction over time. 

It can also reduce the immune system efficiency, and the rodents become more prone to diseases, which leads to a higher death rate.

How to tell a squirrel is stressed?

They are expressive animals, as they can show anger and stress by making noises, sounds, chattering teeth, and stamping feet.

They try to scratch you or the predator if stressed and show aggressive behavior because the high-stress hormone secretion causes them to become rude.

One of the non-invasive ways to estimate the stress level in these rodents is to measure the cortisol or glucocorticoid metabolites.

Flying squirrels living in Southern and Eastern Asia are analyzed for the hormones they release by taking blood samples under these conditions.

They become worried more quickly than other rodents because they have high glucocorticoid concentrations. The stress hormone level does not go high immediately, but it takes a few minutes to release the cortisol hormone.

They can face hair or weight loss if other invasive species enter the habitat, which shows they are not comfortable and anxious about the present situation.

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