A study found that 95% of college and university campuses in North America were home to at least 1 squirrel species according to the Oxford Academic Journal of Mammalogy.
40% of campuses were even home to 3 or more squirrel species.
Most people believe that squirrels only eat nuts. However, this is far from the truth. But what do squirrels eat?
What Do Squirrels Eat?
Squirrels eat everything from nuts to flowers to insects. They hardly discriminate, which also means that they sometimes eat things that are not healthy for them. Which includes a piece of candy that someone dropped. Squirrels’ palates are very expandable.
Not limiting themselves to what they eat is what has helped squirrels adapt to their environment as well as they have. Read on for some more interesting facts about what squirrels eat.
What do Squirrels Eat? Some Surprising Foods in Squirrels’ Diets
Squirrels Eat Cheese
For those who would like to give squirrels a boost on their body fat for the winter, they also love to eat cheese. They don’t care what kind of cheese or even if it’s leftover cheese pizza scraps.
Cheese, after all, is a very good source of protein. They will also accept cheese crackers and grilled cheese sandwich scraps.
Since they don’t typically have access to it in their natural habitat, you’re safe to bet that cheese is a real treat for them. They have even been known to take slightly molded scraps from dumpsters or trash cans.
Squirrels Eat Fungi
As stated a little earlier, squirrels will even eat fungi. Fungi in various forms are typically available within their natural environment. They favor any form of it from truffles to lichen to mushrooms. So they will safely get rid of your ground mushrooms for you.
In fact, squirrels are also known to leave some of it out to dry before coming back to eat it later or storing it for the winter. The types of fungi that they find depend on whether their environment is moist or dry. Lichen usually grows within the small cracks of mature tree barks.
Eggs Are Eaten By Squirrels
When food sources become more scarce for them, squirrels are not above resorting to eggs or even baby birds. They mainly prey on the eggs of wild birds such as robins or blackbirds. However, if you happen to keep a chicken coop on your land, be sure that it’s always enclosed.
Squirrels are not above sharing those, either. They have also been known to steal eggs from swamp or ground animals. Like cheese, eggs are a good source for keeping them fattened up during the winter and a good source of protein.
Squirrels Eat Your Pet’s Food
Squirrels are not above picking at your cat or dog’s food, either. With dry kibbles, they will often take a dozen of them at a time and then come back for more later. They are also not above snatching your pet’s wet food, either. That’s how indiscriminate they can be.
However, wet pet food can be detrimental to their digestion. So if your dog or cat primarily eats wet food, it’s recommended that you keep it inside.
Vegetables are part of a Squirrels Diet
Squirrels especially love leafy greens. They will go right for lettuce and kale. They also love basically every other vegetable that you can think of from tomatoes to okra to cabbage. However, a few things that they won’t eat are raw onions, garlic, jalapenos, and peppers. In fact, pepper-spraying your garden is a good way to keep them at bay.
Differences in the Diets of Different Squirrel Species
There are many different species of squirrels. Not every one of them is an omnivore. Groundhogs, for example, are herbivores. They feed off of ground vegetation exclusively and hibernate whenever food is not available during the winter.
Chipmunks are known for being able to stuff multiple nuts in their cheeks. Though they actually share the gray squirrel’s omnivorous diet. However, they will eat any abandoned ones that they find. They will also eat worms and baby mice. Unlike tree squirrels, however, chipmunks don’t go hunting for their food. They simply eat whatever they find.
The red squirrel shares the gray squirrel’s omnivorous diet. However, they are sometimes known to go after baby rabbits. Pine seeds make up a good majority of their diet. For storage, they will cut green pine cones and store them along with seeds and nuts at the base of the trees. Red squirrels also drink tree sap directly from cedar trees. Their way of doing so is very interesting. They bite into it until the sap starts to flow. Once the water in it runs out, they then return to drink to sap.
Flying squirrels also generally share an omnivorous diet. However, southern flying squirrels are one of the most carnivorous species. This is because the majority of their diet consists of eggs and birds.
The California ground squirrel is found in California, Washington, and Oregon. Their diet consists mainly of roots, nuts, fruits, and very small animals. They are often considered to be pests by gardeners because they often take up residence in gardens and make their own little buffets out of them. They also hibernate during the winter.
Frequently Asked Questions About What Do Squirrels Eat
Are there any foods that squirrels will not touch?
Squirrels do find a few things distasteful. For example, they won’t touch safflower oil and Cajun-spiced seeds. The spice isn’t what seems to have an effect on them as much as they simply don’t seem to like the taste.
Is squirrels’ hibernation connected to their food availability?
Not necessarily. That seems to be the case only for the ground hog. Most of the other species simply sleep a lot during the winter. When they get hungry, they come out to forage for the food they stored up. This is why they spend the fall storing food for the winter.
How do squirrels find their food during the winter?
Many do so by their sense of smell. Surprisingly, though, they don’t always remember every storage location. Whatever they leave behind often grows into other vegetation such as shrubs.
How much food do squirrels store?
It has been estimated that, on average, they store enough food to last for a whopping three years. They do so for just about every summer and fall that they spend storing food. Again, however, they don’t always remember every single location.
How do squirrels bury their food?
Squirrels are very clever. Gray squirrels, for example, dig shallow pits with their paws while holding a piece of food in their mouths. They then drop the food into the pit and cover it with debris, such as leaves.
Where do squirrels bury their food?
In all sorts of places. This is a very smart instinct of theirs as they give themselves several places to get food should some other animal eat out of one of the holes. In scientific terms, this is called scatter hoarding.
Do squirrels ever store food in their nests?
Not to the current knowledge. They simply find those spots in the ground to dig and store for the winter. In fact, it has been found that tree squirrels especially use what’s called spatial chunking. In other words, they sort out their food by size and type.
Do squirrels hunt for food when there’s snow on the ground?
Not to current knowledge. They’ll hunt for it when it’s cold out but when things get inclement, they go hide in their shared dens or nests for a nice sleep. It is the way that they share the body heat that they have worked so hard for.
What do squirrels feed their babies?
Mother squirrels nurse their babies until they’re at least a month old. Once the mother senses that they’re ready to go out on their own, they wean them. It is then that squirrels leave the nest to start mating and foraging for food on their own.
Do squirrels eat tree bark?
Well, squirrels are not beavers but they have been known to chew small patches of bark at a time. Though they usually only do so when other food is scarce. This can trigger insects and fungi, which can damage the tree.
Do squirrels eat leaves?
Squirrels eat leave usually off of newly planted trees. They have also been known to chew flower buds. They are not above using potted plants as their storage grounds. As said above, squirrels don’t limit their diets very much.
Do squirrels eat tree branches?
Squirrels don’t typically eat tree branches. However, they do bite them off to build their nests. Their nests also typically consists of pine needles, foilage, and other vegetation.
Do squirrels drink water?
Squirrels drink water to stay hydrated in the warmer months. Pregnant females in particular need a lot of water to support their pregnancy growth and lactation. There’s nothing wrong with helping them out if they can’t get any in their natural environment. Even a birdbath does the trick.
Can I still feed the squirrels if my next door or backyard neighbor hates them?
There’s nothing wrong with giving nature’s critters a helping hand or two. Just make sure that you don’t try to spite your neighbors by putting your food too close to the property line. That could lead to a lawsuit.
Do squirrels eat bones?
Surprisingly squirrels eat bones. In fact, they consume much of their calcium by nibbling on things like bones and deer antlers. Another way you can help them out is by going to a local pet store and ask them if they store small bones.
What happens when you give a squirrel too much food that is not good for them?
They can develop something called metabolic bone disease (MBD). It’s kind of like osteoporosis for squirrels since it results in weakened bones. Those who care for wild squirrels have reported an increase in recent years, too. What’s worse is that they can’t vomit or burp.
Is there a perfectly balanced mixture for squirrels?
A perfectly balanced mixture for squirrels is focused on nuts, leaves, fruit, fungi, and non-field corn. You can even add a little bark and some seeds. This is perfect for maintaining their bones and getting all the minerals that they need.
Do squirrels chew on power lines?
Unfortunately, squirrels chew on power lines. They’ve been suspected for numerous power outages during the last three decades especially. Including a couple that shut down NASDAQ in the late 1980s and the mid-1990s. They probably think that they’re elongated tree branches.
Are squirrels safe to eat dead animal carcasses?
As long as the carcasses are fresh and not rotten. Squirrels can’t even experience heartburn. As a result, if they eat something as poisonous as a rotten carcass, it is very dangerous and often fatal to them.
How much does the average squirrel eat?
Even though their lives revolve around food in many ways, the average adult actually eats about a pound per week. They typically bury and store the rest. In doing so, they often inadvertently feed other animals.
Do squirrels have any anti-theft techniques for their food?
The gray squirrel, for example, likes to dig fake holes to deceive potential thieves. They also tend to dig up their food and re-bury it multiple times. With their sense of smell, they manage to recover up to 80 percent of their caches.
What is a good formula for a squirrel feed?
It is generally safe to mix fruits and nuts with most cereals. This is generally enough to give the squirrels the boost they need to keep coming back for more. It gives them great storage for the winter. This is enough to give the squirrels the boost they need to keep coming back for more.
Are there any other foods that are not good for squirrels?
Not very many are not good for squirrels. However, peanuts are really in the legume family and they don’t have very much nutritional value. Mold is very toxic when it grows on peanut shells. Field corn tends to have the same issue with mold. Limit fruit as it can reduce a squirrel’s ability to digest calcium.
What are squirrel nutballs?
A nutball is a potent vitamin specifically for squirrels. It was created by a squirrel nutritionist. It is very important for pet squirrels. Since wild squirrels eat almost anything they find, they get all of their vitamins and minerals where they are. Pet squirrels don’t have that luxury.
What if I want to feed wild squirrels from my backyard door?
If you want to train wild squirrels to come to your home but don’t want to hang up a feeder, putting out a bowl of acorns or native nuts is good enough. Or you can combine it with small amounts of vegetables for a desert.