Meet our cute park pals—the many, many squirrels that call New York City’s parks home. A true New Yorker, our squirrels play a major role in greeting park lovers and helping to nourish our trees.
The majority of squirrels in New York City are eastern grey squirrels. Even the darker grey or black or brown-rusty colored squirrels are all eastern grey squirrels!
Squirrels are mostly active during the daytime. They eat nuts, seeds, and berries, but please don’t feed them. They can bite! Squirrels are perfectly capable of feeding themselves.They can find their own food, which is healthier for them than human food. Feeding a squirrel can make them less fearful of humans, which can also hurt them in the long run.
Squirrels also have an incredible sense of smell. They bury many nuts and seeds throughout the year, and are later able to retrieve the nuts from exactly where they buried them, thanks to their powerful sniffers. The nuts and seeds that are not retrieved by squirrels help to nourish and grow our trees and forests.
We call a squirrel’s nest a “drey”. Their nests are made of leaves, and are easiest to spot during the fall and winter when the leaves are off the trees. Squirrels live in small family groups. Mothers give birth about one or two times a year in winter and early summer, and can have a litter of one to five babies. The female gestation period is about 44 days. The babies are little, pink, hairless cuties. Like us, they rely on their mother’s milk to grow. Babies leave the nest after about 12 weeks.
Eastern grey squirrel adults are about nine to 12 inches long, and weigh about 20 ounces (less than two pounds). Squirrels live to about three to five years old in the city, but can live up to 8 to 10 years old in rural areas.
While squirrels are cute and approachable, they can bite (and often do!). Squirrels are afraid of dogs and try to stay away from red-tailed hawks. Dogs should not be allowed to chase squirrels. Please keep your dog on a leash.
If you see an injured squirrel, the best thing to do is leave the squirrel where it is, give it some distance, and call 311. The more information you can provide 311, the better. Please remember that young animals often look as if they have been abandoned, when in fact their parents are nearby.
NYC Parks Urban Wildlife Calendar
Check out our Urban Wildlife Calendar to learn more about animals in NYC’s parks and how we co-exist with them. View the Wildlife Calendar