What do squirrels eat? In a nutshell, (Ha!) squirrels eat nearly everything. Knowing what squirrels eat and when will help protect your property from these voracious rodents.
Yes, squirrels are rodents.
Squirrels are part of the order of Rodentia. That—the order of Rodentia—almost sounds regal, but it’s not. Rodents are rodents because of one main common trait. The main and most disturbing trait is that all rodents, including squirrels, have two pairs of continuously growing incisors. Yes, continuously growing! This means that it is imprinted on a squirrel’s DNA to constantly chew and gnaw in order to keep these teeth from growing too long and piercing its brain. Maybe that’s why squirrels eat nearly everything you can imagine.
Rodents such as squirrels are very skilled eaters.
Along with their razor sharp incisors, squirrels have flexible jaw muscles and joints and hard, ridged molars. This means they can chew and chew and chew all day long. Their jaws are so flexible they can easily spit out wood chips or other inedible bits and never pause from devouring whatever their feast. And, if they need to transport their food, they just slip it into their cheek pouches. Saving a snack for later!
So, what do squirrels eat?
Squirrels rely on a diet of protein dense foods as well as lots of carbohydrates and fats. When available, squirrels will readily eat fungi, fruits, vegetation, conifer cones, tree buds, nuts, and seeds, especially if that seed has been served in a birdfeeder. Squirrels are famous for taking one bite out of every piece of fruit on a tree. Total jerks. They will also overturn planters and wreak havoc on vegetable gardens.
So, what do squirrels eat if their preferred food sources are unavailable?
No one will ever accuse a squirrel of having a refined pallet. If their favorites—nuts, seeds, and vegetation—are not available, they will eat meat. Squirrels have been known to feast on baby birds, bird eggs, small snakes, other small rodents, and even each other if they get too hangry. Predatory behavior has been observed in the bushy-tailed squirrels. Researchers have observed squirrels stalking small chickens, killing worms and baby snakes, and preying on lizards and pocket mice. How cute is that squirrel on your fence post chewing on a nut now?
Squirrels’ diets will change throughout the year.
As typical food sources become scarce, squirrels will start to look for other food sources. This migratory, hunter-gatherer trait can be damaging. Squirrels have an impressive sense of smell, so go they can smell a nut or seed buried underground. They can also smell the food in your pantry. Let’s say a squirrel gets in your house. He can’t find any food in your attic, so he starts to sniff around. A squirrel’s got to eat, right? Well, your kids may not ever find your Oreo stash, but that squirrel will. Maybe he’ll just take one bite out of each cookie.
Protect your property from squirrel damage.
Because of a squirrels need for food and shelter, homeowners should inspect their property regularly for evidence of squirrels. As temperatures drop, make sure no access points exist anywhere on your roof and exterior walls, or near vents. Squirrels will view the slimmest crack or open seam as an invitation. Trim tree branches away from roofs and exterior walls. Check your attic spaces for evidence of an infestation—poop, odors, damaged insulation, and chewed wires—throughout the year, especially the colder months. At the onset of spring, when squirrels may find their food sources nonexistent as seeds and acorns are buried or sprouting, check the attic again. And, for the love of all things holy, don’t ignore the scratching sounds, even if it’s the middle of the night and absolutely terrifying.
To recap, what do squirrels eat? Anything you don’t want them to eat. Hungry little dodgers.
Do you want to learn more about squirrels? Click here.