Yes, squirrels can die from falling, but it’s uncommon. Squirrels rarely die after a fall because they have a low terminal velocity (the maximum speed of an object), minimizing the impact of a fall.
Over the years, several videos of squirrels falling off of buildings or tall places have surfaced. They all end the same: the squirrels run off unharmed.
But why all the fuss about falling squirrels?
People are intrigued because it seems an impossible feat. It’s also hard to believe these cute creatures can be brazen daredevils with the ability to survive such dramatic jumps.
The question remains: How do they survive falls?
In this article, we answer these questions including what should you do if you find a squirrel that has fallen.
Do Squirrels Die From Falling?
No, it is not common for squirrels to die after falling from trees or buildings. Their terminal velocity (the speed they move at during a fall) is low enough that squirrels survive impact with the ground.
Squirrels can survive high jumps or falls. This is because their weight is low compared to their surface area.
This results in a low terminal velocity.
Squirrels are one of the only animals that can survive a fall from any higher because their terminal velocity is so low.
Can a Squirrel Survive a Fall From Any Height?
Yes, a squirrel can fall from any height and survive because its terminal velocity is so low. A squirrel reaches terminal velocity in three seconds and will fall at the same speed until they reach the ground, instead of gravity speeding up the fall as it does with larger animals.
What Is Terminal Velocity?
Terminal velocity is the maximum speed of a falling object.
Terminal velocity occurs when the force of the air resistance push up is equal to the force of gravity pulling a falling person, animal, or object down.
When the speed of a moving person, animal, or object is no longer increasing or decreasing, terminal velocity has been reached.
The lighter the person, animal, or object, the less gravitational force is exerted, and the lower the terminal velocity is. This means that less air resistance is needed to slow down the acceleration of the fall.
As squirrels are light, they can easily slow their falling speed.
What Is A Squirrel’s Terminal Velocity?
Squirrels have a terminal velocity of about 22.4 miles per hour. This is low compared to other animals as squirrels are light compared to their surface area.
Due to their low terminal velocity rate, squirrels reach terminal velocity in the first three seconds of falling.
According to Science Facts’ terminal velocity calculations, a squirrel weighing 11.6 ounces (330 grams) with a surface area of its belly of approximately 196.8 inches2 (500 cm2) has a terminal velocity of 22.4 miles per hour (35.4 kilometers per hour).
Unlike larger animals that experience increased speed the closer they get to the ground due to gravity, squirrels’ don’t accelerate when falling. Their low terminal velocity means they fall at the same speed until they reach the ground.
This reduces the impact of the fall, allowing squirrels to survive no matter the height of their fall.
What Happens When A Squirrel Falls?
When a squirrel falls, it stretches out its legs and tail to increase its surface area. This reduces the speed at which the squirrel is falling, reducing damage on impact.
Here is what happens when a squirrel jumps or falls:
- Stretches legs out wide to the side.
- Extends the tail to the back.
- Pull legs in under the body before landing.
- Extend legs fully before touching the ground.
1. Stretches Legs Out
When tree squirrels fall or jump, they stretch out their legs out to the sides to create the largest surface area possible. This creates a parachute effect.
By stretching their body and increasing their surfacing area, they slow the speed of their fall. This helps them reach terminal velocity quicker.
2. Extends Tail
Squirrels rely on their bushy tails to increase their surface area.
Tree squirrels’ tails are long and bushy for a reason. It helps them glide when jumping and acts as a parachute, reducing aerodynamic drag, when a squirrel falls. 
3. Pulls Legs In
Like cats, squirrels always land on their feet. While they stretch their legs when falling, they pull them back in before they land.
4. Extends Legs
Squirrels fully extend their legs before landing, which makes the legs act as shock absorbers when they tough the ground.
What To Do If You Find a Fallen Infant Squirrels
It’s unlikely that you’ll find a fallen adult squirrel. However, if you find a fallen infant squirrel, the best thing you can do is step back so that the mother can collect it.
Baby squirrels, also called a ‘kitten’ or ‘pup,’ can fall from the nest in a storm or if another jealous male squirrel pushes them out of the nest.
If you find a kitten or pup that has fallen from the nest, Tufts Wildlife Clinic recommends waiting to see if the mother will collect it. To aid this process, observe from a distance and keep people and pets away from the fallen squirrel.
If the mother doesn’t collect the young squirrel by dusk, you can follow these steps:
- Prepare a box
- Protect yourself
- Lift the squirrel
- Call an expert
1. Prepare A Box
Get a cardboard box. Place a heating pad or hot water bottle inside. Cover the heating pad or hot bottle with two pillow slips or a thin blanket to avoid burning the squirrel.
2. Protect Yourself
Put on thick long gloves with long sleeves as protection before handling a squirrel.
If you don’t have long-sleeved gloves, wear a thick, long-sleeved shirt.
3. Lift The Squirrel
Pick the baby squirrel up quickly. Place it on a soft cloth (like a fleece scarf) and put it inside the cardboard box.
Keep the squirrel warm by turning on the heating pad or refilling the hot water bottle every 30 minutes.
4. Call An Expert
Phone your local vet to inquire about a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you. Ask a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for advice about feeding the infant until they can collect it.
Don’t handle a squirrel without protective gloves. Squirrels have sharp claws and teeth that they use to bite and scratch humans.
Related: Can You Have a Squirrel as a Pet?
What Is Squirrel’s Terminal Velocity?
A squirrel’s terminal velocity depends on a squirrel’s weight and surface area. The terminal velocity for an average tree squirrel weighing 11.6 ounces (330 grams) with a surface area of approximately 196.8 inches2 (500 cm2) is 22.4 miles per hour (35.4 kilometers per hour).
How Do Squirrels Land?
Squirrels land on their feet. Before they land, they pull their legs back under their body and extend them to absorb the impact when they touch the ground.
How Far Can Squirrels Fall Without Getting Hurt?
Squirrels can jump or fall from any height without getting hurt. A squirrel has a low weight and comparatively large surface area allowing for a terminal velocity so low that the impact of the landing is minimal.