Squirrels are active and energetic animals that often remain excited and roam around the wild and in your backyard for food, playing, and lying flat on the trees or ground.
Why Does a Squirrel Lay on its Stomach? Squirrels lay on their stomach to hide from predators, for resting, to reduce the risk of falling from trees, heat damping or splooting, sunbathing, marking their territory, and due to injury or sickness. It can reduce stress and increase blood circulation and muscle strength. They also lay flat in mating season or to take care of young babies.
They behave differently under different conditions, and sometimes you do not understand their behavior. They lay flat on their stomach for various reasons, as some significant reasons are highlighted here.
Hide from predators
Different predators, such as foxes, mountain lions, domestic cats, coyotes, eagles, hawks, owls, snakes, bobcats, and raccoons, can attack the squirrels in the wild or in your backyard.
They lay flat on their stomach to blend with the environment to hide from predators, as they use the fur color to match the tree barks and camouflage with the surrounding trees or ground.
These rodents usually have a light-colored belly, which can highlight them in the surrounding trees, and predators can attack them. Lying flat can cover the light belly portion, and predators cannot notice them lying on the trees or ground.
Wildlife professionals believe that they use this technique as a defense mechanism, as they cannot manage to fight large predators using their teeth or biting them. Therefore, hiding from predators is one of the best choices for these rodents to protect themselves.
Squirrels lay down when resting
Squirrels remain active all day and keep climbing the trees and roaming around for searching food and water. Sometimes they have to travel several miles from their nest to get a healthy and adequate food quantity to feed their babies.
They lie on their stomach while resting because it is one of the most comfortable positions for squirrels to relax. People find them relaxing on the top of the tree branch after a tiring day.
They can also sleep lying flat on their stomach or take a nap, lying this way after walking several miles to their nest. The pet squirrel in the house also lies on its stomach sometimes to relax.
Reduce the risk of falling from trees
Squirrels can survive a fall from trees, as they are experienced in climbing and jump from high trees using their feet or claws, and do not get injured after falling from a tree.
However, it can cause injury to these rodents if they fall from the trees while sleeping because they cannot use their sense to jump safely on the ground.
Lying on the stomach can help them extend their claws and press their bodies against the tree branches can minimize the chances of injury if they fall from a tree while sleeping.
Heat damping or splooting
The scientists named their pose of lying on their stomachs to heat damping or heat splooting because they transfer their body heat to the cold surface, such as concrete grounds, grass, tree bark, and other shaded areas, especially in summer.
Squirrels can produce more heat due to their metabolic activities and have more body temperature than humans and many animals.
Their body temperature rises high in summer, and they need to maintain it using different techniques, and splooting or heat damping is one of those techniques.
They lie on their stomach on a cold surface and transfer their body temperature to the other surface until the temperature of the cold surface reaches the squirrel’s body temperature according to the third law of thermodynamics.
Squirrels live in hot and cold weather and maintain their body temperature according to their surroundings, as they need sunlight or sunbathe in cold weather.
I have a pet squirrel in the house, and the rodent lies flat in the garden in winter to take a sun bath and maintain its body temperature. Lying flat can cause their body to have more exposure to the sun, and they relax on a nice sunny day to warm up their body.
I allow it to stay in this position for a few minutes and take it back inside the house, as lying in this position for a long time can cause difficulty in breathing.
To mark their territory
Squirrels have sweat glands around their claws and feet bottom and scent glands near their mouth, which they use to mark their territory.
They can also mark their territory by urinating around the routes and mark them to make their nest. They lay on their stomach and rub the genital parts and their feet along the path as they travel and mark the territory this way.
The male squirrel scrubs its throat on the ground and releases a scent when saw another rodent approaching the surroundings and marking the territory.
Injuries or sick
They can lay flat on the ground or the tree branch when injured or sick and want to rest. They can get injured after falling a tree or attack by predators, which makes it difficult to move or roam around to play.
It is better to check the rodent if it does not move much and lay on its stomach, as the injury can get severe or infect other body parts.
You can take the squirrel to a veterinarian if it does not have an injury but still spend most of the time lying flat, which is suspicious, as they remain excited and energetic all the time.
Squirrels lie flat to reduce stress
They can get stressed or scared if the predator is nearby and lie on their stomach. It can help them reduce stress if they get frightened by a predator.
Research shows that lying on their stomach can minimize stress and feel more relaxed. They climb the tree and lay flat on the tree branch until the predator walks away.
It helps them feel calm and conserve the energy they lost during running or climbing the tree to hide from predators. Anxious and scared squirrels behave aggressively and can bite you if you approach them to comfort them.
Increase the blood circulation
Lying on the stomach can enhance the blood circulation and oxygen level in the body, as the pressure of the heart and stomach on the lungs decreases and it improves the oxygen level.
Squirrels have small thin blood vessels under their belly, and lying flat will help them increase blood circulation and oxygen, especially when sleeping.
The lungs can work better if they lie flat and get more oxygen because their pressure reduces. However, lying flat can sometimes cause these rodents to breathe difficulty if they stay in this position for a long time.
Increase the muscles’ strength
Squirrels lie on their belly with arms stretched and elbows on the ground, which causes the muscles to work more efficiently than sitting and standing.
It provides more strength to their muscles; therefore, you often find them lying on their stomach with two paws extended outward in front and two back paws at the backside.
Stretching the muscles by lying on their belly can cause them to become more flexible, and they can endure different situations if they have strong muscles and bones.
Squirrels Lie flat in mating season
They are often found lying flat in mating season, as male squirrels lay flat on their stomach to impress the female squirrel with their shiny fur and long hush tail.
The female squirrels can do this to show the male rodent the approval of mating as the male squirrel approaches them.
The eastern grey squirrels mate in two seasons annually, from December to February, and in summer, from May to June. Therefore, it can mean they are ready to mate if you see these rodents lying on the stomach during this season.
Take care of young squirrels
Baby squirrels cannot take of themselves, as they cannot move out of their nest before 8-9 weeks after their birth.
Mother squirrels have to feed and take care of the baby in the early weeks; therefore, the mother can lie on their belly when feeding nuts or other food items to the baby.
They can lie with the baby rodent to accompany or warm it in winter and protect it from predators if they attack them.