Perhaps, you are also wondering, “what do squirrels eat?” The truth is it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what these rodents consume. Here, you’ll find out all about a squirrel diet.
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Squirrels: What They Are?
Squirrels are small-sized rodents in spite of the fact that they consume a lot; their diet contains a variety of food. These rodents can be found virtually on all continents of the world-hopping from branch to another. They are both prey and predators; they prey on smaller creatures while wild creatures also eat squirrels.
The squirrel family is a fairly large one; they consist of flying squirrels, chipmunks, prairie dogs, marmots, groundhogs and some others. A group of squirrels is referred to as “scurry” or “dray”. We have several types of squirrels; however, squirrels are generally categorized into three: ground squirrels, tree squirrels and flying squirrels. They belong to the Sciuridae family characterized mainly by their bushy tail.
Tree Squirrels, just like their name implies live on trees, they live in holes in trees darting from one hole to another in and around trees.
Ground squirrels as their name posit live inside holes burrowed in the ground. They make several tunnels linking to each other underground, which is useful for them when trying to escape predators, they can easily escape.
Flying squirrels like tree squirrels live on trees too; they build holes or nests on the edge of tree branches to allow them to fly easily from one tree to another. Flying squirrels can extend the muscle membrane between their legs and body and glide on the air. They can glide up to 160 feet (48 m), making it look like they can fly.
There are also several species of squirrels; however, the red tree squirrel and the grey tree squirrel are the most common type of species.
Grey Tree Squirrel
Like any other squirrel, they also prey on other animals such as young snakes or small birds. These grey squirrels bury their food in the ground; however, unlike other species, they have a pretty retentive memory and can almost certainly remember where they have buried the food. Grey squirrels also unearth and steal squirrel food.
By utilizing their scent and other landmarks, they are able to locate where they have buried their haul stored for times of scarcity.
Red Tree Squirrel
The red tree squirrel’s primary source of food is seed and fruit; they can depend on seed and fruit throughout a year. These red squirrels also enjoy eating nuts, fungus and acorns like every other species of squirrel.
They also bury their food so as to store up for the winter; however, unlike the grey tree squirrel, they are not adept at locating where they have buried it.
What Do Squirrels Eat?
Squirrels are omnivores, that is they are bothering herbivores and carnivores. Squirrels can eat virtually anything, both plants and other creatures. However, they are primarily herbivores. You are likely to come across a squirrel eating more often than not; they are very adept at eating. Squirrels eat a lot; their teeth contribute to their ability to eat; they have four front teeth.
These teeth constantly grow; this allows the teeth to still be strong after repeated gnawing on trees and other plants. A squirrel possesses 20 teeth in total. It has four incisors (two uppers and two lower) which it utilizes in cracking open hard nuts and seeds.
It’s remaining 16 molars helps in chewing up food. The four incisors never stop growing for the duration of a squirrel’s life; it grows six inches a year on average. Squirrels are curious eaters, and thus, they will try to feed on anything they see, even remnants from humans found in the dustbin. They scratch and search around for anything edible.
Squirrels are omnivores because they cannot live off plants alone; they cannot digest cellulose which is the main substance in plants. Thus they expand their diet to foods that are rich in fats, carbohydrates and protein such as nuts, corn and seeds.
Squirrels consume the following:
A Squirrel will consume any vegetable they can get their paws on at any time. Squirrels are primary vegetarians, although they can consume any food.
They consume many vegetables such as: radish, okra, eggplant, Brussel sprouts, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, celery, cauliflower, cabbage, arugula, beans, beets, chard, eggplant, kale, leeks, lettuce, peas, radish, spinach, lettuce, kale, radishes, tomatoes, corn, squash, Peas, yellow squash and any other ones they can find.
Squirrels are great tree climbers; they can get up and down with relative ease; they are very fond of fruits too. Many of them are particularly fond of berries including wild berries. They love and will eat any edible berry and grape they find.
A Squirrel will mostly feed on fruits such as grapes, strawberries, blackberries, figs, blueberries, red berries, raspberries, plums, cherries, mulberries, avocado, elderberries, lingonberries, pears, cloudberries, wild berries, tomatoes, eggplants (aubergines), persimmons, peaches, mangoes, kiwi, pineapple, nectarines, melons, grapefruit, apples, pumpkins, cantaloupe, citrus, raisins e.t.c.
These fruits are a significant source of energy for squirrels; it helps many of them in their hyperactive behaviour. These help them to gain added weight in preparation for winter.
Yes, your imaginations are correct. Squirrels are avid eaters of nuts. Many of them store it up in the ground with the hope of eating it later. Nuts are one of their best foods; they are particularly fond of acorns.
If you have trees around, you will find out these squirrels scurrying about carrying nuts to eat or to store for winter. It serves as a good source of protein for them; this helps to fatten them up for the winter.
The types of nuts they mostly consume are Acorns, Almonds, Beechnuts, Butternuts, Cashews, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, Hickory Nuts, Macadamia Nuts, Peanuts (Cooked and Unsalted), Pecans, Pine Nuts, Pistachios, walnuts. It helps to keep their teeth ground down and prevents their front teeth from growing too long. It is also of sizable nutritional value to them; they love to eat nuts.
Well, when you hear the question, what do squirrels eat, cheese may not be one of your favourite answers. However, squirrels do eat cheese. Although it is not readily available in their natural habitat, they forage around in dustbins for them and help themselves to it when they find it.
A squirrel will search around for scraps of food and thus add to their growing appetite to eat anything. Cheese is also a great day for squirrels. They’ll joyfully consume any type of cheese available – from chunks and scraps of cheddar, swiss, provolone, mozzarella – and just about any other cheesy food like Pizza scraps, cheese savouries and crackers, and your discarded cheese sandwich.
Call them greedy, well a squirrel doesn’t mind, it just wants to eat. Squirrels feast on birdseed too. Birdseed contains some of their favourites like grain, nut and seed, so they are tempted naturally to trespass on bird feeders.
They can contend with the birds while intruding on the bird’s food, don’t put it past them to chase a bird from its bird feeder. Further emphasizes the notion that squirrels eat a lot.
Now don’t be surprised, a squirrel will do all it has to survive even if it means stealing. When it can’t find other food sources, squirrels may resort to eggs. They prey on hatchlings or baby birds sometimes to satisfy their hunger.
Fungi and Mushrooms
Squirrels can consume a wide array of food, so don’t be shocked that they also eat fungi. Most squirrels that live in the forest feed on fungi, they forage around the forest for it. They mostly eat acorn truffles, truffles, and oyster mushrooms.
Sometimes squirrels bury their supplies to dry when it is moist or to consume during winter often, however, the downside is they don’t always remember where they have buried these supplies.
Another food source with great nutritional value to a squirrel is cereal; it bestows on them the energy required to carry out their activities. Cereals contain sugar which is useful to their body system. However, a large intake of cereal is bad for a squirrel. When feeding cereal to a squirrel, you can mix it with other natural things so that they don’t develop a strong craving for cereals.
Seed And Grain
Seed and grain are not left out of the purview of what a squirrel can consume. They eat seeds like poppy seed, nuts seeds, pumpkin seed, safflower seed, sesame seed, sunflower seeds. A squirrel can encroach on a bird feeder and feed on the seed there.
When the food supply is low, squirrels turn to carnivores. Squirrels tend to eat insects when they can’t find plants, vegetables or berries to feed on. They are a source of protein for them, some of the insects they feed on are: winged bugs, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, insect larva e.t.c.
Squirrels also feed on plants in their vicinity; they tend to consume the delicate parts of a plant which are soft enough for them to consume. They feed on plant stalks, grasses, roots, new fresh leaves, petals such as passion flower petals, succulent flower buds, bulbs such as tulip bulbs, fresh sprouts.
Plant seeds are not left out too, e.g. sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, and several others.
Pet Foods (Cat & Dog)
Well, I wouldn’t put it past squirrels not to feed on anything. Pet feed is also attractive to them. If they find leftover pet food, they can also consume it.
There have been several studies on a squirrel’s stomach, and it has been found out that they also feed on other smaller animals. They feed on young snakes, smaller rodents and small birds.
Aggression and predatory behaviour has been observed in various species of ground squirrels, in particular the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. Hunger can drive them to aggression and make them wild, thus turning them to prey on other creatures.
What Do Baby Squirrels Eat?
Baby squirrels are born blind; they cannot see and thus need to depend on their mother for at least the first two to three months. They feed on their mother’s milk for the first forty days as they are unable to leave the nest.
However, as baby squirrels grow older and can use their teeth to eat something solid, it does not need to depend on its mother again, and they’ll also develop the curiosity of older squirrels to try a variety of things.
Then, they’ll stop feeding on their mothers’ milk and feed on nuts, insects and a variety of other things.
What Squirrels Will Not Eat?
With what you have seen so far, I bet you would be wondering if there is anything a squirrel cannot feed on. Well, irrespective of the fact that squirrels are enthusiastic eaters, there are few foods which don’t appeal to them.
Squirrels dislike raw onions and raw garlic; they are also not disposed to any hot peppers such as chilli pepper, jalapeños, serrano peppers, anaheim peppers. Some people use pepper spray to repel squirrels. In addition to what they hate, some foods are harmful to them and which is advisable if you don’t feed them.
They include bread, peanuts, popcorn, Processed or junk/fast foods, dairy products, chocolate, corn-based products, candy bars or sweet treats, sugary cereals. Raw peanuts are not good for them. Such things can be harmful to squirrels; too much sugar is not good for them. Instead, you can feed them with something healthy, combined with little sugar.
It is also important to note that squirrels are diurnal, that is they are active during the day; thus, it is during the day they look for food. It is therefore imperative that you feed them during the day as they are not active at night. Make sure you provide them with sufficient foods during the day. Flying squirrels are the only exception to this; they are nocturnal.
Why Do Squirrels Bury Food?
Another interesting feature of squirrels is that they bury and keep their foods. Yes, you read right, these creatures also hoard common supplies. You can call it being intelligent, squirrels burrow the ground and hide supplies such as fruit e.t.c so that in times of scarcity, they can come and dig what they have hidden at a later time.
They can dig holes all around your garden as they usually take supplies and bury them in multiple locations so that during winter, they can get something to feed on. You may be curious as to how they can later locate where they have buried food; well, squirrels can smell the supplies they have buried. However, it is not in all situations that they are able to recover what they have buried.
Even some other creatures can steal what they have buried, birds inclusive, they scratch and overturn the earth and steal the haul of these poor squirrels. Other times, the squirrels can completely forget about the fruit they have buried, and in turn, this will start germinating in the earth and grow into a tree. This way they contribute to nature and the development and protection of the environment
A fun fact about squirrels is that they engage in deceptive caching, they try to deceive onlookers or other creatures by pretending to bury supplies in a particular place whereas they have not buried anything there.
Squirrels can make for an amusing watch; they are hilarious creatures. Squirrels trust humans easily and even eat out of their hands. You can decide to buy a feeder and place it in your backyard and include their favorite foods such as nuts, berries, fruits, vegetables e.t.c will surely encourage them to come to your environment.
And if you have bird feeders around, providing squirrels with their feeders will prevent them from disturbing the harmless bird’s and depriving them of what is theirs.
Types of Squirrel Feeders
As the nomenclature implies, this feeder is placed on the ground or very close to the ground. It gives the squirrels easy access to food. You can place it near your home.
These types of feeders are usually mounted, it gives you a better view of the activities of the squirrels from your home. Hanging it in your garden will give you a front-row view to enjoying the entertainment a squirrel will provide.
It is similar to the mounted feeder; however, it is hung; this type of feeder can alert you when the squirrels are feeding around. You can hang it in your yard or garden or near your home so that it is available for them to feed on.
A squirrel’s best food is fruit, nuts and vegetables. These foods are the best; they love natural foods.
Squirrels explore various kinds of food sources when finding food. They can burrow the ground in search of food or search through waste bins. They find their food themselves.
However, you can also provide a feeder for them; if they see that a particular food source is quite rich, they will keep coming back. Squirrels diet is quite wide, and you should be able to find something that appeals to their taste buds.
Yes, squirrels detest raw onions, raw peanuts and raw garlic, they also hate any hot peppers such as chilli pepper, jalapeños, serrano peppers, anaheim peppers.
Well, there you have it, the mechanisms that operate between a squirrel’s mouth. These animals can’t seem to keep their mouths closed as they are always munching something.
But in spite of this, squirrels still don’t get big, they may become fat for their body, but they aren’t large creatures. And these creatures make for good pet squirrels.