Can Squirrels and Rats Mate? What about Chipmunks? Squirrel Breeding FAQ

Nature can produce some interesting combinations, especially when certain species interbreed with one another. While it’s possible with some like wolves and coyotes, it’s not common in the world of rodents.

But, some people still question whether or not rodents can interbreed, such as is the case with squirrels, rats and chipmunks.  So let’s get into the research.

Can Squirrels Mate with Other Rodents like Rats and Chipmunks?

No, squirrels can only mate with other species in the squirrel family. While they are all part of the same family, Squirrels and rats are not related.  They are different subspecies that cannot interbreed, it’s physically impossible.

squirrels breeding
Mating Season

If you do a search online for which other species squirrels can mate with, you’ll find some tall tales about people seeing them: either mating or producing offspring. But this is more likely to be urban legend, since there is no way to verify these claims.

Squirrels Mating with Rats

It is not possible for rats to mate with squirrels in any capacity. Most of this is due to how different they are in behavior, habit, mating patterns and overall physique.

Squirrels and Rats are not Related

Squirrels are diurnal, or daytime active, whereas rats are nocturnal, or active at night. The only exception with squirrels is in the case of flying squirrels, which are nocturnal by nature.

Still, they are not related.

Different Activity Makes Breeding Unlikely

With disparate daytime and nighttime activity, this makes interbreeding highly unlikely. They just aren’t around at the same times.

More importantly,  squirrels only mate in the springtime and late summer whereas rats mate all year round.

Different Mating Calls

Additionally, a rat’s mating call vs. squirrel’s mating call are completely different.

They simply are incapable of  responding to the mating call or creating each others’ call.   This trait alone negates the possibility of them being able to mate successfully.

Claims of a Rat-Squirrel Hybrid

While there are some claims that people have seen squirrels with a rat’s tail, it could be true.  Squirrels have thin, fleshy tails much like rats but fill out completely in fur, which gives that bushy appearance.

Here is a picture I took of a squirrel hanging on my living room window screen.  If you look through the fur, you can see how his tail is actually quite long and thin, like a rat tail.

close up image of squirrel tail looking like long rat tail
Squirrel Tail resembles Rat Tail

What probably happened is either the squirrel, lost it’s tail fur in the nest (quite common), suffering from mange or malnourishment,, or they got into a scuffle with another animal.

Whatever the reason, they’ve lost their fur and you’re seeing the real tail, not a rat-squirrel hybrid.

Squirrels and Chipmunks Mating

While it may seem as though Chipmunks should at least be able to mate with squirrels, they can’t. Much like rats, they’re physique, nature and habits are far too different to matchup.

That said, they technically may be able to interbreed, but no one has never seen it in nature and we have no proof of anyone attempting their husbandry.

Chipmunk and Squirrel Relation

Chipmunks and squirrels barely notice each other as they go about their daily duties even though both are diurnal. However, chipmunks are much smaller than squirrels. The tallest a chipmunk gets is 5½ inches whereas squirrels can get to a height of 12 inches.

Squirrels love frolicking through the trees whereas chipmunks mostly stay nearer to the ground although they can climb up a tree from time to time.

While it’s true both these animals have roughly the same breeding times in early spring and late summer, there’s nothing about them that draws them to breed with one another.

Interbreeding between Squirrel Species

The only other rodents that squirrels can breed with are other squirrels. Even then, not all species within the breed mate together. In fact, squirrels are quite picky about their mates; only selecting the best and brightest available.

Flying Squirrel Hybrids

Therefore, hybrids are very rare among squirrels, but it does happen. For instance, Northern Flying Squirrels and Southern Flying Squirrels will interbreed on occasion. However, this is usually the efforts of breeding in captivity rather than in the wild.

How Black Squirrels Happened

There’s also the phenomenon of Black Squirrels, often found across North America and England. You can find them in Washington DC, Ohio, New York City and Ontario, Canada.

black squirrels gene variant

After introduction in the UK to a zoo around the earlier parts of the 1900s, they escaped and naturalized within the landscape.

However, it’s important to note that they’re really not a phenomenon at all but a rare DNA mutation of a Gray Squirrel that interbred with a Fox Squirrel.

Per the Smithsonian Institute, it’s not uncommon to see these two species chasing each other around during mating season.  But, they are both “Squirrel types.”

Pigment Gene – “Melonic Variant”

This melonic variant (1) gene gives Black Squirrels they’re beautiful, unusual coloring. Scientists have actually studied this melanism in squirrels by extracting DNA from both Fox and Gray Squirrels.

They found that there’s a natural darker-hue to some Fox Squirrels which has developed a theory that the mutation  originated with them.

However, this spread to gray squirrels via generations of interbreeding. While genetic similarities seem to checkout between Black and Fox Squirrels, researchers don’t dismiss the possibility of it beginning in Gray Squirrels and later passing it onto Fox Squirrels.

This is because the grayscale range of black that Gray Squirrels can have.

Rare but Old

But, statistically speaking, Black Squirrels are incredibly rare and if you ever see one, consider yourself lucky. Scientists estimate that only one out of 10,000 squirrels get a black coat.

But, it may give them an advantage during the winter months. The darker color may allow them to stay warmer in areas that experience extreme cold temperatures and similar weather conditions.

Some researchers postulate that Black Squirrels may have been around since the end of the Ice Age. This, in turn, helped them expand their range over the course of 11,000 years from that time.

In Conclusion

Different types of squirrels can mate with one another, but it’s extremely rare.  It may be the reason we have black squirrels, but even that is not 100% certain.

As for squirrels mating with other rodents, there is no support that this is happening.

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