What Do Squirrels Eat?

Squirrels spend huge amounts of time each day foraging for food. So what are they looking for? Squirrels eat nuts (especially acorns), seeds, flowers, fruit, buds, fungi, and sometimes even insects and baby birds.1,2 If you’ve ever seen a squirrel going through the trash, then you know they love to eat human food as well!

Of course, squirrels don’t eat the same foods all the time. Their diet depends on what’s available during each season. For example, squirrels eat buds in the spring when plants are developing new leaves and flowers and then fruit in the summer when it appears.2

A Quick Guide to Squirrel Nutrition

If you have a pet squirrel, you may be wondering how much of each type of food to feed your furry friend. Fortunately, a healthy and balanced squirrel diet is extremely easy to achieve. Nuts and seeds make up as much as 95% of the eastern gray squirrel diet.3 In particular, squirrels prefer acorns, hickory nuts, and beech-nuts.1,4 Insects and other food derived from animals make up under 2% of a squirrel’s diet.2

What do squirrels eat image

To prevent your pet squirrel from eating too much or too little, we should also figure out the total amount of food he or she needs every day. Let’s start with the fact that the average squirrel eats about 100 pounds of food each year.2 Some simple math will give us our answer:

What do squirrels eat equation

So, your squirrel will need just over a quarter pound of food every day.

What About Baby Squirrels?

Like other young mammals, baby squirrels drink milk from their mothers. Squirrels nurse their young for about 3 months, which is a long time by rodent standards.5 Every mammal produces its own unique type of milk, and squirrels are no exception. Compared to cow milk, gray squirrel milk has less water and sugar but more protein and fat.6

If you’re raising a baby squirrel, you can make your own squirrel milk using this recipe.


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References

1 Reid, F. (2006). A field guide to mammals of North America (4th ed.). New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

2 Webster, D., Parnell, J., & Biggs, W. (1985). Mammals of the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

3 Chung-MacCoubrey, A., Hagerman, A., & Kirkpatrick, R. (1997). Effects of tannins on digestion and detoxification activity in gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis). Physiological Zoology, 70(3), 270-277.

4 Nixon, C., Worley, D., & McClain, M. (1968). Food habits of squirrels in Southeast Ohio. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 32(2), 294-305.

5 Haupt, L. (2013). The urban bestiary: encountering the everyday wild. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

6 Nixon, C., & Harper, W. (1972). Composition of gray squirrel milk. The Ohio Journal of Science72(1), 3-6. Retrieved from https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/5665/V72N01_003.pdf?sequence=1

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