What Do Squirrels Eat?
You may be wondering, “What do ground squirrels eat that attracts them to my yard?” Most species of squirrels are vegetarians. That said, they’re not picky eaters and will feed on practically any food that’s readily available. In general, their diet consists of nuts, fruits and vegetables – common components of a suburban garden. As such, your plants may be inviting squirrels to dine. Even more, the expansion of housing developments has led squirrels to adapt to urban living. Since gardens yield a variety of vegetables and fruits year-round, they make for ideal environments for squirrels. While this bodes well for squirrels, it does not for your property. So, what do squirrels eat and how can you help to ward them off? Here’s everything you need to know.
Winter and Fall Diet
Typically, squirrels collect nuts during the fall and store them to eat during the winter. As so, you may find squirrels digging holes in your yard to store their collection. But, they may also dig “fake” holes and place no food inside to keep other animals from finding their real refuge. Since squirrels do not hibernate, their supply helps them survive during the colder months. That said, they dig, collect, and store all year-round. Some of their favorite foods include acorns, walnuts, hickory nuts and Osage orange fruits. They may also feed on wild tree fruits, nuts, and tree buds when food is scarce later in winter.
Summer and Spring Diet
In the summer, squirrels will feast on berries, fruits and succulents. Specifically, they enjoy fruits and vegetables like oranges, apricots, corn and avocados. You may notice some of your garden crops have bite marks and ask, “do squirrels eat apples?” They do. Like other rodents, squirrels have four front teeth that continually grow. This allows them to bite through hard exteriors like apples and nuts. So, if they eat fruit, do squirrels eat tomatoes, too? Nothing is off limits when it comes to their diet. Be sure to take preventative measures to protect your garden.
Depending on the species, squirrels may expand their diet to eat insects and other animal matter. Flying squirrels have the most carnivorous diets and may eat bird eggs and nestlings. As infants, squirrels rely on their mother’s milk since they do not leave the nest until about 40 days. They are not fully weaned, however, for another 50 to 70 days.
Prevention and Exclusion
There are a handful of measures you can take to safeguard your garden from squirrels. The use of protective tools including wire mesh, plastic netting, wire cages or cheesecloth is recommended to help protect rows of plants and crops. To safeguard clusters or individual ripened fruits and vegetables, you can use wraps or place bags around them. If you’re looking for a natural solution, prickly plants can suffice. Plants with thorns can be placed around plants or developing seeds to help deter squirrels.
Other methods to help prevent squirrels from entering your yard include habitat modification and trapping. In terms of habitat modification, trim tree branches and remove bird feeders near your home. Few repellents exist specifically for squirrels, but hot sauce has been used on plants as a taste repellent. Live and kill traps are may also be used. However, this method can be dangerous if used incorrectly or if placed in areas accessible to pets.
Many DIY methods for squirrel exclusion and prevention can be both time consuming and costly. In addition, the results can be ineffective for keeping these pests out of your yard and garden. Let a wildlife technician help you find a better method. Contact Terminix® today to schedule a free inspection of your home.