Red squirrel eating a nut during the fall.
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What Do Squirrels Eat?

If you’ve ever seen a squirrel in your backyard, you may have wondered what squirrels like to eat. Squirrels are known to be omnivorous animals, meaning their diet can consist of plant-based foods and smaller insects or larvae. 

In cities and towns, these little critters have proven to be quite the survivors with many fun facts and traits. They’re constantly finding new ways to rustle up food and store it away for later. This means they can get through the winter months without significant food shortages.

Understanding what can squirrels eat will help you understand their dietary habits and how they manage to survive on a seasonal basis.

Key Pest Points:

• Grey squirrels require 40-80 grams of food daily, while red squirrels require 18 grams daily.

A squirrel’s diet consists mainly of nuts, fruits, succulents, vegetables, and insects; they also store food for the future by caching it away for later consumption.

• In colder months, they feast on acorns, walnuts & hickory nuts, whereas warmer seasons bring oranges, apricots, and avocados into play.

Typical Squirrel Diet 

To maintain their health, grey squirrels require between 40 and 80 grams of food daily, equating to roughly 10% of their body weight. On the other hand, red squirrels consume 18 grams or around 5% of their body weight per day. 

Squirrels have a good appetite and aren’t afraid to try new foods. They feed on:

  • Native fruits: apples, strawberries, bananas, blackberries, and more.
  • Trees: oak trees and pine trees. 
  • Vegetables: eggplants, beans, cucumbers, squash, and more. 
  • Fungi: mushrooms 
  • Nuts: walnuts, white oak acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, and more. 

Insects: crickets, larvae, caterpillars, grasshoppers, winged bugs, and more.

But they don’t stop there – they’ve become partial to things like sugary snacks and cereals. All in all, these critters are open-minded when it comes to eating.

These critters will also store food for the future. That’s why many people set up feeders in their backyard – to give them a helping hand. This genius way to store food, called caching, helps them prepare for the upcoming winter months. But seasonal changes do make a difference to their diet. 

Winter and Fall Diet

During the fall and winter, squirrels stay busy collecting nuts and other seeds to store away for colder months. They spend around 70-90% of the time out of their drey searching and gathering food. From Eastern and Western Gray Squirrels to Eurasian Red Squirrels and American Red Squirrels – these critters use their creative skills of subterfuge and deception when collecting nuts. 


They may dig “fake” holes in your backyard, placing no food inside to keep other animals from discovering their true refuge. Grey squirrels have a better memory than their red cousins, which gives them an edge in the food-storing game.

Squirrel eating outside, on the show.

Both types will bury their food for later consumption, but gray squirrels’ superior memory allows them to remember exactly where they’ve buried it – a luxury that red squirrels don’t share. Because of this, grey squirrels often have the chance to steal the food stashes of their red companions.

Gray Squirrels spend half their lives burying nuts. When food is scarce later in the season, they will eat acorns, wild tree fruits, nuts, and tree buds for additional sustenance.

With fall months serving as the primary time for stockpiling, they’ll collect a variety of goodies from acorns, walnuts, and hickory nuts to Osage orange fruits – all of which help them survive the winter.

Here’s a look at the typical weight and calorie values per 100g for some of the winter foods squirrels frequently eat:

Food TypeTypical Weight Per ItemCalorie Value
Acorns0.782 to 11.679 g387 kCal/100g
Walnuts10.4-19.6 g654-709 kCal/100g
Hickory Nuts3 to 4 g657  kCal/100g
Wild Tree Fruits, Nuts & Tree Buds*Varied by species and regionVaried by species and region

These are just some foods squirrels may eat during the winter and fall months. They will switch their diet and look for more plant-based food sources as the weather gets warmer. 

Summer and Spring Diet

Squirrels are industrious critters who enjoy a varied diet. In the warmer months, they feast on various fruits, succulents, and vegetables such as oranges, apricots, corn, avocados, and tomatoes.

On average, these readily available snacks make up the majority of their entire diet. With four continuously growing front teeth, nothing is off-limits for these little critters. Though squirrels can swim, they usually don’t catch fish.

Squirrel eating a nut outdoors on the grass.

They can easily gnaw through any hard nut or shell, like almonds, apricots, and hazelnuts. In addition to fruits and nuts, they munch on bark, mushrooms, flowers, and the occasional insect. 

Here is a look at the typical weights and calorie values per 100g for some of the winter foods squirrels frequently eat to get a better understanding of their diet:

Food TypeTypical WeightCalorie Value
Oranges140g47 kCal/100g
Apricots45-60g48 kCal/100g
Avocados215g160 kCal/100g
Almonds1-1.5 g576 kCal/100g
Hazelnuts1.32-4 g590-665 kCal/100g

The summer diet of squirrels is a refreshing change from the winter fare and helps them stay active and healthy. Whether they are eating out of your hand or rummaging through your backyard, it’s essential to know what foods these curious critters like as their dietary needs change with the seasons.

Other Food Sources 

Depending on the species, squirrels may vary their diet to include certain insects and other animal matter. In fact, in 2019, the U.S. National Park Service shocked its followers when they posted images of a squirrel killing and consuming a snake – which quickly went viral. This behavior isn’t typical, but it shows these creatures’ ingenuity. 

As kits, squirrels rely on their mother’s milk for sustenance and generally only venture out of the nest once they’re around 40 days old. Even then, they won’t be weaned entirely for another 50-70 days – so mama squirrels need to continue providing nourishment until then.

Red squirrel eating samaras from maples.

Squirrels have shown resilience in finding and eating various natural and artificial foods. These curious critters are a joy to watch and observe as they go about their daily lives. Understanding their diet is crucial in helping us coexist peacefully with these delightful animals. 

How to Prevent Squirrels from Eating Your Garden 

If you see squirrels in your garden, there are a few things you can do to prevent them from eating your plants:

  • Use netting or fencing around vulnerable plants: To protect your plants from being eaten by inquisitive squirrels, you can purchase netting or fencing as a physical barrier. This will prevent the squirrels from accessing the plants while allowing them to climb and explore other areas of your garden.
  • Remove food sources: If you see frequent squirrel activity, look for potential food sources to attract them. This includes bird feeders as well as unsecured garbage cans or compost piles. Removing these potential food sources may help deter the squirrels from entering your garden.
  • Hang wind chimes or other noise makers: Wind chimes are a great way to scare away squirrels and keep them from getting too close to your garden. You can also purchase flashing lights or sprinklers that turn on when they detect motion.
  • Use scented deterrents: You can also use scent-based deterrents to repel squirrels from your garden. Various commercial repellents and natural solutions like cayenne pepper or garlic powder are available on the market.
  • Utilize repellent sprays: Numerous commercial repellent products deter squirrels from entering and eating your garden. Incorporate bird feeders

By following these simple tips, you can help to keep your garden safe from pesky squirrels. You can coexist peacefully with these delightful animals with a little effort. Remember, the key is to remove potential food sources and create physical or sensory barriers that discourage them from entering your garden.

FAQ:

Are squirrels carnivores or herbivores?

Squirrels are classified as omnivores, meaning they feed on both plants and animals. While they mostly eat nuts, fruits, and seeds, they supplement their diet with insects, eggs, and even small birds and mammals.

Can squirrels eat grapes?

Grapes are a great source of moisture and sugar for squirrels. They also provide vitamins and minerals that help the squirrels stay healthy. However, they must be eaten in moderation, as too much food can harm them.

Do squirrels eat bird eggs?

Yes, squirrels can eat bird eggs. They typically only do this when natural food sources are scarce, and they need to supplement their diet. However, it is important to note that squirrels rarely consume eggs if other food options are available.  This is why it’s important to keep bird feeders out of reach of squirrels or use squirrel-proof feeders to protect your bird population.

Do squirrels eat carrots?

Carrots are a great source of nutrition for these critters, providing them with vitamins and minerals that help keep them healthy.

Can squirrels eat almonds?

Squirrels enjoy almonds. It provides them with essential nutrients and vitamins. However, you should ensure only to give your squirrels natural, unsalted almonds, as salted varieties can harm their health.

What food is poisonous to squirrels?

Most foods are generally safe for squirrels, but a few can be toxic. This includes dried fruits, prunes, fruit juice, and raisins. Chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine are also hazardous to squirrels. Some plants, such as azalea, rhododendron, and yew, can be poisonous if ingested. You must know what foods and plants you have in your yard that could harm squirrels.


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