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Do Squirrels Eat Pepper Plants?

Pepper plants add a splash of color and vibrancy to any landscape thanks to their brightly colored peppers and lush green foliage. But any gardener will tell you that raising these fiery fruits isn’t without its challenges, especially if your neighborhood has many squirrels. Because of this, many of you might ask, do squirrels eat pepper plants? 

This article will respond to this query and provide additional information regarding the relationship between these furry animals and pepper plants. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Squirrels may eat your pepper plants, especially if food is limited in their environment.
  • These animals are sensitive to capsaicin (which irritates their mouths) and prefer peppers that don’t contain it.
  • Deer, birds, and insects are some of the animals that may eat your pepper trees.

Do squirrels eat pepper plants?

Yes, squirrels do eat pepper plants, particularly favoring bell peppers due to their lack of the heat-inducing compound, capsaicin. Squirrels may sometimes eat jalapeños and hotter peppers as well. 

The amount of damage that squirrels can potentially do to your pepper plants largely depends on the size of the local squirrel population, and the types of pepper plants you have.

Squirrels are more likely to eat the less hot peppers, so bell peppers are safer than squirrels. A yard with many large trees will likely have more of its pepper crop lost to squirrels than a yard with fewer trees… and fewer squirrels. 

Why do squirrels eat my peppers?

Pepper plant
Pepper plant | image by Artur Luiz via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Squirrels are opportunistic feeders, meaning they consume anything within their reach and are readily available when hungry. These furry animals may target the peppers in your garden if they’re within easy reach and there is no significant other food in the area. Here are the three main reasons why these species might be attracted to your peppers:

Nutrition

Like other fruits and vegetables, peppers are an excellent source of several important nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. The high water content of peppers helps them maintain adequate hydration, particularly during the dry seasons.

Food scarcity

If food is scarce in the squirrels’ natural habitat because of seasonal changes, weather, or human encroachment, they may seek out gardens as an alternative food source.

Easy access

Squirrels are skilled climbers and can be interested in your peppers if they’re grown on plants that are simple to climb or if they’re growing directly on the ground. 

Can squirrels completely destroy pepper plants?

Squirrel crawling on tree
Squirrel crawling on tree | Image by Ralph from Pixabay

Squirrels can wreak significant havoc on your pepper plants, especially when they gather in large numbers. The damage they inflict doesn’t usually cause systemic harm like some diseases or pests, but it can still be extensive.

Even while they can do significant harm, they rarely destroy an entire plant unless it’s little or highly delicate. In general, mature pepper plants can endure some activity by squirrels, however, this may dramatically reduce the number of peppers the plant produces.

Do squirrels prefer certain types of pepper plants?

As opportunistic feeders, squirrels eat various readily available foods, even peppers. However, their ability and desire to ingest specific types of peppers may be affected by the capsaicin concentration of the plant.

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Capsaicin is the component that gives spicy peppers their heat, and many animals, including squirrels, are sensitive to it. Consuming a pepper with a high concentration of capsaicin may create a sensation like being burned, discouraging the squirrel from eating more. 

On the other hand, bell peppers don’t have any capsaicin, which means they aren’t unpleasant to animals like squirrels and may be consumed without discomfort. As a result, bell peppers have a higher chance of being consumed by these animals than hotter types if they’re attempting to eat your garden’s pepper plants.

However, keep in mind that the availability of alternative food sources, as well as the accessibility of the peppers, will continue to play important factors in whether squirrels target your pepper plants. 


Examples of other animals that eat pepper plants

Several animals, including squirrels, find pepper plants, especially the fruits of those plants, to be a delicious food source. This can be a cause of aggravation for gardeners. Some of them are as follows:

Deer

Deer ate garden flowers
Deer ate garden flowers | Image by cgordon8527 from Pixabay

If deer get access to a garden, they have the potential to devour a wide variety of plants, including pepper plants. Deer are known to eat a wide variety of vegetation, and they frequently strip plants down to the stems, which can effectively kill younger or smaller plants if it happens frequently enough. On the other hand, similar to squirrels, they’ll be more interested in peppers that don’t contain capsaicin. 

Birds

Sayaca tanager feeding on pepper
Sayaca tanager feeding on pepper | image by Alex Popovkin via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Peppers are a tasty treat for many different types of birds. It’s interesting to note that birds aren’t sensitive to capsaicin, so they can eat even the spiciest foods without experiencing any pain.

Insects

Aphids feasting on pepper
Aphids feasting on pepper | image by Matt Magnusson via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Pepper plants are susceptible to attack from various insects. Aphids, thrips, and even some kinds of beetles and caterpillars are capable of causing a large amount of harm. They feed on the plant’s leaves and stems more frequently than on the fruit itself; however, a severe infestation can put the entire plant at risk.

If these animals are causing trouble in your pepper garden, it’s worthwhile to consider some preventive measures to protect your plants.


How can I protect my pepper plants from these animals?

Fencing

Install a fence around your garden. For larger animals like deer, the fence needs to be quite high, as deer can jump over lower fences. To keep smaller animals like squirrels from tunneling beneath the fence, it should be excavated into the ground.

Companion planting

Certain plants can deter squirrels naturally. Try adding garlic or onions nearby to keep pests away from your pepper plants. 

Predator scents

Use the urine of a squirrel predator (like a coyote) as a repellent. Predator urine is widely available at stores and on the internet, but its usage should be approached with caution as it has the potential to draw in larger predators.

Spicy repellents

Capsaicin, which gives hot peppers heat, can be an effective squirrel deterrent. Create your spray by combining water, dish soap (as an emulsifier), and a substantial amount of cayenne pepper, spicy sauce, or capsaicin extract. The mixture should be sprayed on and around the plants. 


Final Thoughts

Squirrels, as opportunistic eaters, consume readily available food, including pepper plants—particularly bell peppers due to their lack of capsaicin. While they rarely destroy plants, they can significantly reduce yield by nibbling on the fruits.

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Understanding how squirrels act and what they eat is the key to keeping them out of your yard, which will help you keep your pepper plant’s growth and health.