Squirrels, like rats and mice, are rodents, and many rodents are omnivores. We don’t typically associate squirrels with meat-eating the way we do with rats. Maybe it’s because the image of a squirrel munching on acorns is too deeply ingrained in our minds, or because they seem too soft and fluffy to be meat eaters, but it’s hard to imagine squirrels eating meat. So, as omnivores, do squirrels eat meat?
Do Squirrels Eat Meat?
Yes, squirrels are omnivores so they do eat meat. It’s not their preferred food, but like most animals they’re opportunists and will eat whatever food is available to them. Most of them time, when they eat meat, it’s insects and bird eggs, but some squirrels will eat small animals and even snakes.
When squirrels eat meat
It’s probably no surprise that, even though squirrels do eat meat, it isn’t exactly a favorite food for them. If it was, no one would have to ask whether or not they ate meat- we’d all know because we’d see it happening.
Squirrels typically turn to meat when their usual food sources are scarce. Nuts, seeds, fruits and other vegetation are highly seasonal, and while squirrels are famous for storing caches of food for the winter, sometimes they don’t store enough or they forget where they hid the food. In these times, they’re much more likely to turn to other food sources.
Pregnant and lactating female squirrels are also more likely to eat meat. These squirrels are seeking out concentrated sources of protein and other nutrients, and meat will always be more nutrient-dense than plants.
How often do squirrels eat meat?
It varies widely, but more often than you think. Squirrels really are omnivores, and meat is a bigger part of their diet than most people realize. This is especially true when you get away from urban and suburban areas. In those places, there’s so much food around for them to eat that they rarely, if ever, go hungry. Most of the meat they eat there will come from your garbage come. In the wild, away from major cities, they have to rely on meat more often to meet their needs.
Still, meat is not their main food and they almost always prefer nuts and seeds. Given a choice between the two, squirrels would choose an acorn over a piece of steak.
Which squirrels eat the most meat?
It’s hard to say if any squirrels eat more meat than others. In general, larger squirrels are probably more likely to eat things like mice, snakes or birds. Grey squirrels seem to have even more of a taste for bird eggs than other species, but that’s just observational data without much research to back it up.
In fact, the amount of meat eaten by squirrels is likely influenced more by locations and seasons than by which species of squirrel it is.
What do squirrels usually eat?
Squirrels do prefer to eat nuts and seeds over meat. Acorns are the stereotypical squirrel food, but they really do love them. Of course, they don’t limit themselves to acorns, which are only around in the fall. Any sort of fruit, nut, or seed they can find is fair game. They also eat leaves, grasses and other plants, but these aren’t a big part of their diet.
Nuts, fruit and seeds all offer more nutrition, more calories, carbohydrates and fats than grasses and leaves, so that’s what squirrels tend to focus on. They’ll eat roots like carrots if you offer it to them, and they’ll eat starchy fruits like pumpkins and squash.
Do squirrels eat mice?
If they’re hungry enough, yes. In fact, squirrels have been captured on video eating mice- you can look up the videos, if you like, just be warned that it’s a little gruesome. Squirrels will hunt and kill mice when they need to, along with other small animals like lizards and even other squirrels.
Do squirrels eat eggs?
Most squirrels will happily feast on bird eggs if they find a nest undefended. Eggs are very nutritious, and they’re easy to digest. Squirrels don’t typically chase birds away from their nest, but if they find one while the parents are gone, they’ll eat every egg they can.
Are squirrels cannibals?
They can be, yes. Squirrels have been known to eat their own young, but it’s rare for them to do this and extremely uncommon for squirrels to eat other adult squirrels. Eating their own young is a survival behavior; it only happens when food is so scarce that the only way for the adult to survive is to eat the young, who wouldn’t have survived anyway.
Are squirrels scavengers?
Yes, they are. Squirrels will often scavenge roadkill and other carcasses for meat. Most people don’t observe this behavior often because squirrels typically won’t stay at a carcass for very long, since other scavengers are just as likely to kill and eat the squirrel as they are the carcass.
How to Attract Squirrels
If you want to attract squirrels to your yard, it’s as simple as putting out a bird feeder. Squirrels love birdseed. Sunflower seeds or even mixed blends of seeds is high in calories and really ideal for most animals that can get to it. Just ask anyone who puts feeders out to attract birds, squirrels can’t resist these things. You can also scatter birdseed around your lawn, and the squirrels will come running.
In the fall put things like pumpkins outside for them. Pumpkins are rich in carbohydrates and provide a lot of nutrition for squirrels during the season when they’re trying to fatten up for the winter. Just cut it up or smash it so they have easy access to the flesh inside the pumpkin.
It’s surprising to think of squirrels as meat-eaters, and downright shocking if you ever see one munching on a mouse or a lizard. But it’s perfectly natural, and all a part of a squirrel’s natural life. Meat is never a huge part of their diet, but they do eat it.