Are squirrels vegetarian, omnivores, or carnivores? Sure, squirrels eat seeds and nuts. But do squirrels eat meat? Learn their eating habits: foods they’ll eat and what they avoid.
Squirrels are omnivores, which means that their diet consists of both plants and meat. Squirrels primarily eat vegetarian foods. But they will also eat bird eggs, insects, mice, baby snakes. There is not much that squirrels will not eat, including their own young.
If you have ever sat in a park while having a picnic, you know how desperate squirrels are to get ahold of any kind of food. They forage, hang around humans and sometimes even hunt to get the nutrients that they need to survive.
So what does a squirrels’ diet consist of? Is there anything that squirrels will not eat?
Here is everything that you need to know about squirrels and their eating habits.
Do Squirrels Eat Meat? 4 Hunted Foods
Although squirrels are primarily known as prey animals, they also do some hunting of their own.
Not only do they eat meat, but they also actively hunt their prey.
Squirrels are predators and will eat these animals:
Squirrels hunt mice for food.
They do not regularly eat mice, but if they are hungry, or need a good source of fat for the winter, they will kill and eat mice.
Squirrels primarily hunt bird eggs, but they will also eat chicks found in the nest.
Sometimes a squirrel will attack an adult bird, which is usually a mother bird sitting on the nest of the eggs.
Squirrels will not actively hunt snakes, but if they feel threatened, or if a snake is after their young, they will attack the snake.
Squirrels fight the snake by both biting it and kicking gravel at the snake. If the squirrel wins the fight, it will proceed to eat the snake and feed it to its young.
Here’s a photo by the National Park Service of a rock squirrel eating a snake.
4. Baby Squirrels
Sometimes male squirrels will kill and eat the young of other squirrels, or, even worse, they will kill and eat their own young.
In a study published in March 2018, male red squirrels were observed killing and caching young red squirrels. A squirrel cache is their (often) underground pantry of stored food. In this study, baby squirrels were also cached in trees.
This study was performed by Jessica A. Haines, David W. Coltman, Ben Dantzer, Jamieson C. Gorrell, Murray M. Humphries, Jeffrey E. Lane, Andrew G. McAdam, and Stan Boutin. In their study and supplementary appendix, you can see the details and supporting photos of this cannibalistic behavior.
Although if I were you, I would take my word for it and keep my appetite.
What Do Squirrels Eat?
A squirrel’s diet depends largely on whatever they can find.
Here are a few examples of the kind of food squirrels will eat, in addition to fresh-caught meat:
Perhaps the most commonly known food that squirrels eat is nuts.
Squirrels will eat and store whatever kind of nut that they can get ahold of.
Acorns are popular, but they also love walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans.
Berries are another food that squirrels love to eat when they can find some.
They are sweet and nutritious. Commonly favored berries are raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries.
Many people put out birdseed and bird feeders in their backyard to attract a variety of birds. However, this birdseed also attracts squirrels who are happy to stuff themselves on the readily provided food.
No matter what you do to keep them out, they’ll probably find a way to get to the delicious birdseed!
From our experience, they prefer sunflower seeds (in the shell) and will gorge themselves on them.
4. Plant Material
Squirrels are natural foragers, and they are likely to forage for and eat plant roots, stalks, leaves, grass, and anything else that will provide them with nutrition.
Squirrels love seeds too and will eat the seeds of plants.
Such seeds include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, and any other kind of seed that they can find.
Although squirrels prefer seeds and berries, they will hunt down and eat insects if the opportunity presents itself.
Insects provide squirrels with high protein value, which is important to their diet.
Although squirrels do not prefer eggs, they will resort to nest robbing when they are low on other food options.
They have been known to steal eggs from other tree-dwelling animals, such as robins or blackbirds.
Squirrels have also been known to steal chicken eggs straight from the coop.
Squirrels will forage for fungi, such as mushrooms or lichen.
Squirrels are very favorable toward human food and have grown fond of the taste of most treats or food that is left at parks, in garbage cans, or the back of pickup trucks.
These squirrels will consume almost any kind of scrap that they find.
And thanks to Reddit, we know that squirrels also love eating pizza.
Squirrels will eat just about anything. This includes carcasses of other animals that have been killed.
The image of a squirrel nibbling at a carcass is not very pleasant. But squirrels are omnivores, so they can tolerate a variety of different foods, including other dead animals.
Last winter, we had trouble with some rodents in our garage. More than once, I would set a trap in the evening, and in the morning, I found just a pelt of a mouse in the trap. Once trapped, it was quickly eaten by the squirrels.
Giraffes are another animal that will eat meat off a carcass.
What Won’t Squirrels Eat?
It may seem like squirrels will eat any kind of food that comes their way. This is only partially true.
A hungry squirrel will eat anything that it can find that will provide it nutrition, but there are certain foods that squirrels will avoid, if possible.
Squirrels avoid peppers because they do not like the smell or taste of capsaicin – which is the thing that gives peppers their heat.
Squirrels cannot handle the strong, hot taste of peppers and will avoid them when possible.
Ground hot pepper powder is used as a natural rodent deterrent in gardens and around the outside of homes.
Alliums / Garlic
Will squirrels eat garlic? Yes, at least by some accounts.
I’ve read of squirrels collecting garlic cloves, but I haven’t found of them actually eating them.
We’ve grown garlic for years. And even with excessive amounts of squirrels around our property, they’ve never bothered with our planted garlic.
Alliums are monocotyledonous flowering plants that include onions, garlic, scallion, and chives. Squirrels will avoid most alliums if they can help it. Squirrels generally dislike the strong taste of raw onions and will avoid eating them. Similarly, the taste of garlic is too strong for them.
Almanac recommends using garlic to deter squirrels.
Food that is Bad for Squirrels
Alongside food that squirrels will not eat, there is food that is really bad for squirrels (but sometimes this does not stop them).
These foods include dairy products, candy, highly processed foods, and super sugary foods.
According to Henrys Pets, the following foods are bad for squirrels: bell peppers, eggplant, greens, turnips, wild mushrooms, chestnuts, and fruit pits. Here is the full guide (link opens pdf).
If you are planning on feeding squirrels at the park, or if you are someone who owns a pet squirrel, remember that super processed foods are bad for them. Just because they are eating it does not mean that the food is good for them.
Now we know what squirrels eat. What animals eat squirrels? Learn about all 68 types of eagles.
What have you seen a squirrel eat? Did you know that squirrels eat meat? Join me in the comments!
- About the Author
- Latest Posts