What do squirrels eat? Almost anything. They forage for whatever foodstuff they can find and hoard it for later. But just because they will eat almost anything doesn’t mean they should.
A proper array of protein, fats, and carbohydrates are the best food for squirrels. Squirrels are scavengers, thieves, and hoarders. And they’re super cute. This lifestyle is perfect for them since they need to stash food to make it through the colder months.
Chewing Does Not Mean Hunger
A squirrel has four front teeth that never stop growing. Throughout their lives, these sharp little teeth grow approximately six inches each year. To stunt the growth of their teeth, squirrels chew on tree bark and twigs. If you see a squirrel chewing vigorously on a stick, he’s not starving. He’s just satisfying his natural urge to chew on something like a puppy does when teething.
Gnawing on something tough and chewy like bark and small sticks will also deter him from chewing on the wood of your house. If you have a pet squirrel, give him lots of toys and small pieces of wood to chew on. It will keep him occupied, file down his teeth, and burn off some energy.
What Do Squirrels Eat?
Society is most familiar with the sight of a furry squirrel happily admiring an acorn from his perch high in a tree. And while acorns are delicious, they also enjoy other food. Walnuts, flower seeds, flower bulbs, and roots are also part of their normal diet. Potted flowers also make great hiding places for burying nuts.
In forested areas, squirrels can be seen snacking on tree buds from maple, elm, pine, spruce, and a variety of other tree flowers. But that’s not all. There are many other things squirrels enjoy munching on.
What do squirrels eat – In a Nutshell
The absolute best food for squirrels are nuts still in their shells. When you think about squirrel food, think about what comes out of a forest. Squirrels thrive wherever trees are. Trees provide shelter and safety along with a significant portion of their diet.
What do squirrels eat when they’re looking for food? Trees that offer hickory nuts, beechnuts, and walnuts provide a smorgasbord of healthy food squirrels love. All the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients a squirrel needs to survive hot summers and freezing winters are wrapped up in these nuts.
The outer shells of these tasty nuggets are hard and sometimes difficult to remove. But thanks to those ever-growing front teeth, the squirrels have an alternative chewing post to gnaw on. As they work hard to chew through the shell, their teeth are naturally filed down and any food residue is removed. This is why squirrels don’t get cavities.
Do Squirrels Eat Peanuts?
Yes, they enjoy stuffing their cheeks and hoarding peanuts just as much as any other seed or nut. But peanuts are not part of their normal diet. In their natural habitat, peanuts would not be a recurring food. It’s a delightful snack but should be given only in moderation.
Raw peanuts are dangerous to our furry tree climbers and should not be considered a favorite food for squirrels. They sometimes contain a fungus that can be fatal. Unsalted roasted peanuts are a better choice, but keep the portions small. Offering a few peanuts as a special snack won’t hurt, but don’t make it a staple of their diet.
Along with peanuts, humans have introduced other non-natural foods to squirrels. Corn, grapes, squash, pumpkin, and even cookies are added to squirrel feeders by humans. Squirrels have a varied appetite, and there’s not much they refuse in the way of food. But that doesn’t mean that just because they’ll eat that it’s good for them. Things like corn and peanuts have no real nutritional value to squirrels. If you plan to add some corn and peanuts to your feeders, keep them to a rare minimum.
Good vs Bad Squirrel Food
The neighborhood tribe of squirrels will hunt and forage for nuts to store for the winter. If you’re going to participate in supplying their winter hoard, try offering the nuts with the most health value.
- White oak acorn
- Hickory nuts
- Black or American walnuts
- Raw peanuts
- Salted peanuts
- Niger seeds
- Corn (it’s a squirrel’s favorite snack but has no nutritional value)
- Cashews and pine nuts
- Sunflower seeds
With a high metabolism, they burn through food at an escalated rate. High energy foods are vital to keep up their strength. Squirrels cannot vomit or burp. They also never have heartburn. If they swallow something inappropriate, they have no way of eliminating it before it’s digested.
Hibernation and Hoarding
Some squirrels hibernate while others depend on their summer hoard to survive the scarcity of winter. This is why they must have the correct squirrel food nature intended. They wake up periodically throughout the cold months, have a bite to eat, and snuggle down again.
Having the proper seeds and nuts available means they need not trudge through the snow to forage for food. It also lowers the risk of being caught by a predator if they stay close to their sanctuary. A cache of nuts and seeds high in fat and proteins will give them enough calories to survive until spring.
Squirrels Eating Other Animals
Since squirrels are part of the rodent family, they have a large variety of tastes. You may be surprised to discover that a favorite food of squirrelsdoesn’t always come from plants. While they prefer the life of a vegetarian, wild plant life isn’t what it used to be. Pollution, climate change, and human occupancy have diminished the quality of plant life across the globe.
With a hungry squirrel, favorite food items like seeds and nuts may not be in abundant supply. To stave off hunger from lack of high-quality plants, they will satisfy their hunger with a meaty alternative.
What do squirrels eat when they aren’t getting enough vitamins from the shabby local plant life? Some squirrels will dine on fleshy foods like insects, small frogs or fish, bird eggs, and newly hatched baby birds. Crickets and worms can also be a satisfying meal for a hungry squirrel.
Caterpillars can be a yummy treat, too. A small mouse may feed a family of squirrels. And though they may prefer berries, shoots, and nuts, they will compromise to survive. They’ve been known to chew up lizards, baby bunnies, snails, and sometimes even small snakes.
Squirrel food – Plan B
Humans are taking over the natural habitat of squirrels by developing housing and business areas. The lack of trees and shrubs means less living space for wild animals. One small way to counteract this is to put up feeders with squirrel food.But if none is available, a bag of birdseed will suffice. They’ll pick out their favorite seeds and usually dump the rest for the birds.
Birds share some of the same seed attraction as their furry neighbors. Think of the bigger, heartier seeds. Black oil sunflowers seeds and safflower seeds provide carbohydrates and fats that squirrels need to produce energy.
What Can I Feed Squirrels?
Aside from the list of nuts, another favorite food of squirrels are fruit and vegetables. You may be surprised to discover these furry tree huggers enjoy a variety of fruit and veggies. They provide an excellent source of vitamins, natural sugar, minerals, proteins, and carbs.
Exposure to humans has lowered squirrel’s fear levels, and some squirrels seek out people to get a snack on the go. The next time you have a picnic or enjoying lunch on a park bench, offer strawberries to a bushy-tailed passerby. Or some small slices of watermelon. They also enjoy grapes and cantaloupe.
While some humans may hate veggies, they’re some of the best food for squirrels because they have high concentrations of vitamins. Set out a bowl of raw broccoli on your window sill.
Once they notice it, they’ll help themselves and come back for more. Add carrots and peas to the mix. Brussel sprouts, yellow squash, and zucchini are also packed full of nutrition. Cucumbers and green beans are full of protein squirrels need. Leave some in a squirrel-populated area, and watch them feast.
What Do Squirrels Like to Eat from Humans?
If you want to jazz up their squirrel food mix at home, add some fruit like apple slices, pears, and even pineapple. Just make sure the fruit you add is non-citrus.
You could also make miniature nutballs (nuts mixed with unsalted peanut butter, oatmeal, and a dash of flour baked at 180° for three hours). The nutballs are especially good in the winter since they are high in fat.
Or hang a Styrofoam ball rolled in wild birdseed with unsalted peanut butter and oatmeal to get their attention.
To Be or Not to Be….poisonous
The digestive tract of a squirrel is short, so food doesn’t stay in their system for long. This allows them to eat foods that humans would consider poisonous. Some mushrooms and other fungi, for example, are harmless to squirrels but dangerous to humans.
While squirrels love seeds, the seeds from fruit can be deadly. Avoid giving them the pits or seeds from fruit like apples or watermelon.
Other fruits to avoid at all costs are raisins, dates, figs, persimmons, plums, prunes, and any dried fruit. These could damage the internal organs and be fatal.
Squirrel Foods to Avoid
Just because it tastes good doesn’t mean one should consume it. This applies to all species. Squirrels will eat many types of food even if it’s not good for them.
Don’t offer a squirrel one of your French fries. They may enjoy it and want more, but it’s doing more harm than good. Their digestive system isn’t equipped to handle foods with high starch or high sugar content.
Potato chips, crackers, pretzels, and anything salted should be avoided. Granola, sweetened yogurt, cookies, and any type of candy can have adverse health effects on squirrels. They cannot handle artificial sugar and could get very sick.
You may be tempted to throw a piece or two of bread or maybe some rice to a passing squirrel.
Don’t. The starch will cause stomach aches and could develop into more serious issues later. They will eat it, without a doubt. But bread can contain three times more sugar than a candy bar or a can of soda. Like corn, squirrels will eat as much as you give them, but it has zero nutrition. Some breads can also have a high sodium content similar to salted peanuts. A squirrel’s kidneys are not equipped to digest such a high amount of sugar and salt.
Squirrels vs Birds
Many a bird feeder has been ransacked by rogue nut seekers. Squirrels are intelligent, but you can outsmart them. The first option is to buy a squirrel-proof bird feeder. But these can get expensive and sometimes fail to dissuade the fluffy tail invaders. Never underestimate the determination of a hangry squirrel.
Set up the bird feeder on one side of the garden with a separate squirrel feeder on the opposite as far away as possible. Squirrels (and birds) are creatures of habit. They enjoy structure and repetition. Keep the feeders full regularly with their favorite food, and they will generally stick to their own feeders.
Experiment with the squirrel food mixture until you get the perfect blend for your garden visitors. Once they realize the food in their feeder is the best, they’ll leave the bird feeder alone. Happy squirrels, happy garden.
What Do Squirrels Like to Eat?
A hungry squirrel will eat almost anything he can get. In the wild, Mother Nature provides the best food for squirrels in abundance. But in the human sector, things are different. We need to give them a helping hand. So, what can I feed squirrels? An array of fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds will keep them healthy and happy. Depending on the species, you could also throw in a few mealworms for a special occasion.