What Do Squirrels Eat? 12 Foods These Furry Friends Love

what do squirrels eat

Squirrels are entertaining animals, and seeing them in your garden is always a treat. Unfortunately, squirrels frequently steal the food you set out for your garden birds, so what do squirrels eat? How can you tell whether they’re prospering in your garden or if they’re taking the food you’ve placed out for them?

Squirrels consume a diverse range of foods. When it comes to eating, squirrels aren’t picky. This is self-evident if you’ve spent any time studying the eating habits of common squirrels. Squirrels have a natural appetite for native to their habitat fruits, flowers, vegetables, fungi, nuts, trees, plants, and insects. When it comes to the squirrels’ feeding habits, though, there are little restrictions.

This article will teach you all you need to know about a squirrel’s ideal diet. Continue reading if you want to learn more.

Squirrels are curious

Squirrels are relatively prevalent in North America, and you’re likely to see an Eastern gray squirrel, a red squirrel, or a fox squirrel in your garden or backyard.

If you’ve provided food for the songbirds who frequent your yard or your hens, you may be upset by their constant attempts to take what isn’t theirs. If you’re thinking about keeping a squirrel as a pet, you might be curious about the ideal squirrel diet.

Squirrels, on the other hand, have a reasonably diverse diet. They can consume practically everything they can get their tiny paws on. They’re naturally interested and may try to consume something they shouldn’t.

Squirrels in the wild consume roots, leaves, nuts, bulbs, bark, fungus, and fruits, but they also eat roots, leaves, nuts, bulbs, bark, fungi, and fruits. However, after sharing their living space with humans, they’ve broadened their horizons and sampled a wider variety of foods that they’ve grown to enjoy.

A squirrel eating food remains thrown by people in public parks or youngsters in the school garden is not unusual. Even the food you put out for your dog or cat will probably attract a hungry squirrel.

What do squirrels eat?

Squirrels consume a wide variety of foods, even many that they shouldn’t. However, in this post, we’ll concentrate on the sorts of food necessary to maintain a healthy squirrel while meeting its nutritional requirements.

Birdseed

If you’re a birdwatcher and have a bird feeder in your garden or backyard, you’re surely aware that other animals will be attracted to it as well. Squirrels and other rodents in your yard will most likely be attracted to the birdseed you store for songbirds and woodpeckers.

Squirrels will consume grains and seeds such as black oil, sunflower seeds, or even peanut butter spread that you may save for birds in the winter. Most birds tolerate squirrels eating from their feeders, but others can get violent, such as the Northern Cardinal. As a result, make sure you take precautions to safeguard your bird feeders.

Bugs

While insects and bugs aren’t the primary sources of protein for squirrels, they can supplement their diet in rare instances. When other sorts of food aren’t accessible, especially in the cold, this happens.

Insects and bugs can be found in the bark of trees and buried in various cavities by squirrels. Caterpillars, crickets, larvae, grasshoppers, and other forms of damaged winged creatures such as butterflies and moths are their favorite foods.

Cheese

Of course, a squirrel wouldn’t ordinarily come across cheese in the wild. Still, squirrels have acquired a liking for it due to humans leaving all sorts of delectable delicacies behind when dining outside and dumping kitchen trash. Squirrels aren’t fussy when it comes to cheese. They’ll eat slices of cheddar, swiss, provolone, mozzarella, and whatever else they can find. Yes, they’ll eat cheesy pizza pieces if they’re available! Squirrels eat cheese in various ways, including leftover grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese, cracker sandwiches, and even a lump of somewhat rotten cheese thrown in a home compost pile. An excellent slice of cheese can provide a squirrel with some additional fat to preserve for leaner periods, such as the winter.

Eggs

When food is short, squirrels will go to any length to stay healthy and survive. This involves taking other animals’ and birds’ eggs. Squirrels have been known to assault songbird and woodpecker nests, as well as devour the hatchlings and young birds that fall from them.

When nuts aren’t readily available, squirrels eat eggs, which are high in protein. Because squirrels are such astute foragers, birds typically go to considerable lengths to ensure well-protected nests. If you’ve built a nest box in your backyard for a breeding pair of birds, you’ll want to make sure the entrance is well hidden to keep squirrels and other predators out.

Fruits

Squirrels can readily climb fruit trees and grab the fruits to eat because of their sharp claws. If you plant fruits in your yard, you’re surely aware that squirrels may be a pain since they eat your grapes, kiwis, apples, figs, plums, nectarine, peaches, and mangoes.

They also enjoy berries, bananas, melons, and cherries of all types. Fruits supply squirrels with the necessary sugar to increase their energy levels, allowing them to leap around and forage all day without becoming exhausted. They’re also high in minerals and vitamins, which help the squirrel stay healthy.

Fungi

Squirrels don’t mind eating fungi that grow naturally in their woodland and forest settings when searching for plant roots and leaves. Squirrels eat truffles, oyster mushrooms, and acorn truffles, among other things. These fungi can be found growing on the bark of trees or in wet regions concealed beneath the soil.

The animals may also opt to dry the mushrooms and store them in their hiding area for later use, ensuring that no other squirrels or animals have access to them.

Insects

If fruits and nuts aren’t readily accessible, a squirrel will consume microscopic insects to supplement its protein intake. Caterpillars, larvae, flying bugs, grasshoppers, damaged butterflies, and crickets are just a few of the insects eaten by squirrels.

Kitchen Waste

Squirrels have learned to prefer numerous sorts of food that are thrown by people, in addition to the natural forms of food that they discover and graze on in their surroundings. Squirrels enjoy foraging, so they’ll investigate any leftover picnic food or kitchen waste you dump in the trash or leave in the park at the end of the day.

Squirrels don’t eat cheese; therefore, it’s safe to assume they don’t eat it. These animals, on the other hand, are now sharing space with people who eat cheese outside. Squirrels have easy access to cheese because it is a favorite picnic snack. In rare situations, humans purposefully feed cheese to squirrels, causing them to develop a liking for it.

Squirrels don’t have a particular taste for cheese, so they’ll eat whatever you throw their way. Swiss cheese, cheddar, gouda, and any other sort of cooked cheese fall under this category. They will consume cheese on its own, in a leftover sandwich, or pizza leftovers that have been thrown away.

These animals’ stomachs are developed to withstand mold and fungus that usually make humans sick, so they don’t even get sick if the cheese is somewhat old. This is why squirrels are frequently seen nibbling at household compost.

Cheese leftovers, which are high in proteins and lipids, can supply nourishment to squirrels. This will keep the squirrel healthy, especially during the winter months when it is chilly.

Although not designed explicitly for squirrels, Cereals are particularly appealing to these little animals since they are formed of grains and often include nuts. Squirrels would eat the cereals even if they didn’t have a distinctive fruity taste.

Because these grains are high in sugar, they provide an energy boost to the squirrel. On the other hand, artificial colors and preservatives were not designed to be ingested by squirrels; thus, they may be damaging to their health.

Squirrels eat a variety of foods, including bread and crackers. Cooked vegetables and wasted fruits, as well as any other form of kitchen trash, will be consumed. They also devour dog and cat food you leave out for your pets or throw away after they aren’t eaten.

Nuts

Acorns are undoubtedly every squirrel’s favorite food, but squirrels will consume walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, macadamia, almonds, and hazelnuts if acorns aren’t available. Nuts are, in fact, the squirrels’ absolute favorite diet and their primary source of proteins and lipids.

When a squirrel comes upon a large supply of nuts, it will generally take some and reserve them later. Squirrels perform an excellent job of ensuring the healthy growth and spread of plant life by climbing trees and dispersing seeds. Furthermore, the squirrel’s hoarded nuts provide a rich food supply for other animals that may discover the squirrel’s hiding area.

If you’re growing nuts in your garden, though, your harvest will undoubtedly be jeopardized. This is why you should cover your nut tree with netting or wire wrap to prevent the hungry squirrels from spoiling your crop.

Pet food

Squirrels have developed a few peculiar feeding habits along the road as the omnivorous scavengers that they are. They will not hesitate to pack away a few dozen pieces of dog or cat kibble and will most likely return for more if they find an established place where it is easily accessible. Although it is not beneficial for them, the hungry, opportunistic squirrel may go so far as to eat wet cat food or canned dog food.

Plants

Squirrels like foraging for roots, plant stalks, leaves, and even plant bark. They will consume anything that has nutritional value for them.

Because fragile branches or soft twigs, new growth, young leaves, sprouts, and flower buds are soft and sweet, they are frequently preferred. Squirrels also like eating various types of seeds that may be available. Sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and poppy seeds are examples.

Having squirrels in your flower garden is typically a significant problem since they don’t mind eating any part of the plant. They might potentially attack any new development in your garden, putting your flowers and other plants in danger.

Vegetables

Squirrels adore eating all types of leafy greens, which is terrible news for gardeners who plant vegetables in their gardens. If you plant arugula, spinach, kale, or lettuce, you already know how difficult it is to keep squirrels away from them.
Among the vegetables squirrels eat, there are the following:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant
  • Leeks
  • Maize
  • Okra
  • Peas
  • Root vegetables
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes

For anybody wanting to cultivate various vegetables in their garden, dealing with hungry squirrels may be a difficult challenge.

What not to feed squirrels?

We previously said that squirrels should not be fed maize-based items, corn ears, or peanuts. We’ve also spoken about not giving them sweet snacks or giving them pet food.

It is not a good idea to give popcorn to squirrels. It’s made of maize, and squirrels don’t need it. There’s too much sugar or salt in it.

Bread is likely to be at the top of the list. Feeding bread to squirrels is not recommended. They shouldn’t consume any cellulose-based items. Although brown bread is arguable, it’s probably best to avoid it entirely.

This is the most thorough list of things not to feed squirrels that you’ll discover.

  • Bread
  • Candy bars or sweet treats
  • Chocolate
  • Corn-based products
  • Dairy products
  • Junk/fast food
  • Peanuts
  • Popcorn
  • Processed foods
  • Sugary cereals

What are the kinds of food that squirrels won’t eat?

Squirrels are opportunistic, but they will refuse particular sorts of food, even if they are starving. Squirrels dislike all forms of spicy or hot food; thus, any kitchen garbage containing spicy sauce or hot peppers will be avoided. One of the tactics that gardeners employ to secure their crop is to apply pepper spray, which repels squirrels.

Squirrels despise raw onion and garlic; therefore, they won’t consume them if you grow them in your garden. Garlic spray may also be used to keep squirrels away from your flowers and veggies.

Although they devour flower bulbs, some varieties, such as daffodils and snowdrops, are avoided. Squirrels will not be thrilled to visit your garden frequently if you grow them in your garden.

Squirrels will consume a variety of foods, including sweets and foods that are high in preservatives. Because this sort of food might make squirrels sick, you should avoid leaving it in the garden to safeguard these adorable creatures.

Final thoughts

Squirrels aren’t particularly picky. Most things will appeal to them, and if they can get their hands on the wrong goodies, they’ll behave as if they’re at a child’s birthday party!

In general, it’s great for kids to eat foods native to their environment, including a suitable dosage of nuts, veggies, seeds, and grains when they’re available, as well as a bit of fruit for dessert!

When things are tough, squirrels will eat almost anything. It’s rough out there in the wild, and survival is crucial.

We hope this information has helped determine what squirrels consume.

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Emma Olsen
I’m a gardener and blogger with over 20 years of expertise writing about and cultivating fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. I have extensive experience in organic and sustainable gardening, perennials, annuals, and sustainable and urban farming. I’m a nature freak and I enjoy bird watching and swimming with sea creatures.