How Fast Can Squirrels Run? How Far? Why?+(Video)

It’s common to see squirrels running and jumping for food in the backyard. Everything happens very fast at a glimpse pace. But how fast is it? and how fast can squirrels run?

If you have a cat or dog, despite how fast it is, you might see your pet chasing squirrels but couldn’t catch it, especially cats that are quite fast. They are fast enough to catch them. However, squirrels may also outpace cats even when they are domesticated and know how to chase rodents like mice.

Not only that but squirrels often hunt birds and bird food and eggs despite how fast birds are. Sometimes they even run in front of cars but still manage to come out. However, how fast squirrels are? What is the limit of their speed? Here are the answers.

The Short Answer…

Good for little rodents, squirrels can run as fast as 20 miles per hour for 2 – 4 miles. What makes squirrels fast is their anatomy, low eight agility, fat and short powerful legs. However, squirrels may run fast for a number of reasons but mostly escaping from predators and for catching food like mushrooms. Nonetheless, squirrels are faster than average humans, not from the fastest person. 

But by no means, squirrels are not faster than cats and rabbits yet cats usually cannot manage to catch squirrels but rabbits can.

What Makes Squirrels Run Fast?

There are several reasons behind squirrels fast running. One of the main reasons is anatomy that helps them to run fast.

They have strong muscles on their rear legs to ensure that they can make great frontal leaps. That’s why when squirrels run, they look like they are jumping. Their overall weight is minimal compared to other running animals. 

Plus, squirrels do have a flicky and flexible tail which assists them in finding the right balance using the centre of their gravity mass. In other words, squirrels know how to run fast because they can flip-flop between two different positions using their left and right limbs and their tail as the steering wheel.

They also have a great energy surplus reserved as body fat in their bodies. Most of the grey and fox squirrels metabolize and store carbs in their body to have them readily available to burn when they want to run.

Even though they can’t run for more than two miles at a time without making a stop, that distance is enough to get them out of the range of their predators or even make them fast enough to get close to their food. While squirrels are omnivores, squirrels eat a bunch of different food such as nuts, seeds, pine cones, chocolate and even popcorn.

In short, squirrels are able to run fast due to their anatomy, low weight, agility, and short powerful legs.

Why Squirrels Run Fast?

While squirrels are capable of running fast but that doesn’t mean they would run all day without a reason. Here are why squirrels may run at that speed.

  • First, squirrels run fast because they want to avoid their predators. They want to be faster than them and manage to enter their nests and be protected. Also, squirrels run because of their need to claim food in their territory.

    Squirrels are competitive animals and don’t allow intruders even from the same species to enter their territory. When they try to get the food they run fast to ensure that they claim it first and consume it or prepare to get it to be stored in their nests for later.
  • Sometimes squirrels can be seen running fast after each other. But that isn’t their predator, right? So why do they run fast after each other? During the mating season, squirrels run fast and chase each other and come into sexual intercourse with it. They rush to do so because they compete with other fellow squirrels and running is just a natural response for them. 

  • Another reason why squirrels may run fast is playing with other fellow squirrels especially baby squirrels when they leave the nest. Members of the same squirrel family could run all the time as a bonding activity between them and feel better and happier.

 

  • Not to mention, that squirrels could run would be to deal with curiosity and anxiety. Squirrels are curious to explore their environment and may run to make sure that they know every single spot of their territory. You would be amazed to know that squirrels run to deal with the anxiety and stress they may feel.

 

  • Finally, squirrels run when they want to anticipate the coming winter. They run to increase their heat and make sure they are protected from extreme cold weather. Also, that running could mean that they rush to gather food for the winter coming.

How Far Can Squirrels Run At That Speed?

No matter how fast they are, it isn’t sustainable for long. There is always a limit to it. Thus, with that speed, how far can squirrels run? Here’s how.

Without a doubt, squirrels may run at a high speed of 20 miles per hour only for a few miles. Most squirrels cannot constantly run for more than 2 miles, which is something animal scientists know well. That happens because squirrels are small and cannot store too much energy on their fat cells.

Most squirrels store carbs received from grains, nuts, and berries, but their storage capacity is not indefinite. They would need to stop and rest after 2 miles of intense running before catching their breath again and restoring running.

Interestingly, squirrels can walk and travel for a long distance that could come up to 20 miles per day, but they cannot run to support a long pursuit by another running animal. They have evolved compared to other rodents to have stronger limbs but not enough to allow them to run continuously for more than 2 miles without a pit stop. It’s always good to know that squirrels will not run away from their nests or territories and would rather hide effectively until the danger has gone away.

Are Squirrels Faster Than Humans?

Squirrels are definitely faster than the average human. You cannot compare them with the sprint running champions who can run at speed of more than 28 miles per hour, but you can surely declare that squirrels can run as fast as 20 miles per hour for a short distance.

The optimal distance to develop and maintain that speed would be two miles. That is a good distance to achieve all its goals since a squirrel only runs to avoid danger and capture some food. 

The same problem is with their predators and pets that try to catch squirrels like raccoons that would eat squirrels but only if they manage to catch them. Squirrels are generally faster than raccoons since they have a more lightweight body profile and better balance than these animals.

But raccoons are not the only animal that eats squirrels. In fact, crows also happen to eat squirrels if food is scarce. However, that is completely not easy to do with the squirrel speed and agility.

Are Squirrels Faster Than Cats?

By any means, squirrels are no faster than cats. That happens for various reasons. Cats have four evenly shaped legs that are padded, giving them more friction to the ground and developing higher speeds. Cats also can move all their limbs in the same direction and with the same effort, making them ideal for running fast. Their top speed could be close to 35 miles per hour, which squirrels cannot compete with.

The younger and most powerful squirrels may develop a top speed of no more than 20 miles per hour, thus being a lot slower than cats. When cats are after squirrels, they will reach them sooner than later. However, squirrels have fingery hands, which help them grab the tree branches and climb higher than cats.

That’s how a squirrel can hide from cats and other animals that are after it without the need to develop a higher speed than the one originally meant for it.

How Do Squirrels Compare With The Fastest Animal in The World?

Comparing squirrels with the fastest animals, squirrels are way down to the list. The top five animals are the cheetah, the antelope, the brown hare, the African dog, and the Australian kangaroo. They are all at least three times faster than squirrels, and that’s because their bodies are better prepared to develop such a high speed with limbs and bodies perfectly shaped for that reason.

But when it comes to rodents, squirrels are the local champions of the rodent since they could be faster than mice and raccoons. However, they are not known as great runners in the animal kingdom, and they manage to get away from their hunters using their climbing abilities, as mentioned before. They are also small enough to hide in their underground nests or the tree canopies.

Are Squirrels Among the Top Ten Faster Running Animals?

Unfortunately, squirrels are not within the top ten faster running animals. Despite they are small, they lack the proper limb anatomy to allow fast running that requires the best possible cooperation of the rear and front limbs. It’s also necessary that the limbs are identical to ensure a perfect balance and a better power distribution between the animal’s front and rear axis.

Generally, squirrels are not designed to compete with other animals in the running, and they can hide and even climb to higher points to protect themselves from their hunters. Squirrels also use their sharp teeth and long nails to ensure they can counterattack any potential hunter and protect themselves effectively. 

The top ten running animals have more feline animals and other mammals like the elephant and the kangaroo. They both have a solid and developed muscle system allowing them to reach top speeds higher than the squirrels’.

Which Is Faster the Rabbit or the Squirrel?

Rabbits may easily outpace squirrels in their running contest. If you have a rabbit chasing a squirrel, the first will reach the second sooner than later. Rabbits can reach the 30 miles per hour limit and keep that speed for a longer time until they reach their food or find a safe spot to stop and hide.

On the other hand, squirrels may only reach a top speed no higher than 20 miles per hour. That makes them vulnerable to rabbits’ invasions and food competitions. Even though rabbits will never attack a squirrel, getting to know that they are faster could give you valuable information about the way they interact when they compete for food and who will conquer the other in case of a contest.

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