Squirrels: They Take No Fall Damage

What Happens When You Drop One?



“I’m sorry but it looks like a cartoon squirrel that hit the road head first after falling out of a tree” by benchilada is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

By: Michael Philipov, Journalist

How far do you need to drop a squirrel to kill it? It is estimated that a squirrel has to fall over 4.79 miles to die, because that drop would take so long that the squirrel would suffocate to death. But if we assume that the squirrel has infinite atmosphere to fall through, it would die in 480 miles due to lack of water.

When an object is free falling through the atmosphere, its movement is affected by two things: gravity and air resistance. Gravity has an acceleration of 9.8m/s^2 and air resistance prevents a squirrel from traveling faster than 20 mph, its terminal velocity, reaching it within 3 seconds. A squirrel can easily walk away from falling 10 or 1,000 feet because 20 mph is such a low terminal velocity that the squirrel is not injured.

A squirrel only weighs slightly over 300 grams, air having a much larger effect on their movement than it does humans. Not only that, but squirrels instinctively spread their fluffy bodies out, increasing their wind drag. Using the fact a squirrel dies of thirst in 24 hours, and its max speed is 20 mph through the atmosphere, it would travel 480 miles before it dies (again, assuming that it has infinite atmosphere to fall through).

If we calculate in terms of dropping straight down from the sky, it would only survive 4.79 miles because a squirrel can only hold its breath for up to 3 minutes, and they can breath at considerably larger heights than 10,000 feet (going to use 20,000 feet because that is how high humans can breath). It would take the squirrel about 14.37 minutes to fall that height, leaving you with a dead squirrel. How could you kill a squirrel, just how could you.

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