Today we will tell you the diet of squirrels in the wild, at home, in parks, and in gardens.
We will also list foods that squirrels should not be fed.
Squirrels are a numerous group of small rodents that live in many parts of the globe, except for Antarctica and Australia. Their distinctive features are an elongated body and a large fluffy tail. Their fur coloration varies depending on the region of their residence and season; it can vary from white to black.
The main territory for squirrels is forests, parks, and squares. They occupy hollows in trees or build spherical nests of branches, moss, wool, and grass. Sometimes rodents prefer to find empty bird nests and even settle in birdhouses. What does a squirrel eat?
What do squirrels eat in the wild?
The diet of squirrels living in the wild depends greatly on the climatic conditions of the region and the time of year. They make large food reserves for the winter – squirrels don’t hibernate in winter. With the onset of spring, rodents start searching for fresh sources of food. Squirrels eat fir and pine cones, berries, roots, pine nuts, lichens, tree buds, bark, and needles.
Squirrels make large stores for the winter but tend to forget the locations of their hoards. Often one squirrel finds another squirrel’s supplies, which saves it from starvation. In especially hard times these fluffy animals do not disdain to eat frogs.
Summer is the time of playtime and plenty of food. The ratio of squirrels noticeably increases and is replenished with mushrooms, which they are very good at. Squirrels often visit vegetable gardens in search of fresh fruits and vegetables. But they also do not refuse animal food. If there is not enough plant food, the squirrels easily turn to lizards, birds, birds’ eggs, insects, and their larvae.
In summer a squirrel usually needs 45 grams of food a day (85 grams during pregnancy), and even less in winter – 35 grams. The basis of food is pine nuts, acorns, beechnuts, hazelnuts, seeds and roots of some plants, and mushrooms.
Squirrels usually stock up on supplies for the winter. Cones, nuts, and acorns are buried in the ground or hidden in hollow trees and nests, of which one squirrel always has several. They often forget about them and find them by chance, thanks to their sense of smell. When it’s cold squirrels don’t eat much, and during severe frosts they wait in hollows or nests, hibernating and using supplies. The hungriest time is the end of winter and early spring. Lack of food in winter and infectious diseases kill up to 85% of young squirrels.
What do captive and park squirrels eat?
Squirrels eat a variety of foods – they are omnivorous rodents. Here’s what squirrels eat:
- White wheat bread (no more than 10 g per day);
- Pine nuts, hazelnuts, and raw unsalted peanuts (10 g per day);
- Walnuts (10 g once every 3 days);
- Carrots, cabbage, and apples 5 g every other day;
- Chestnut (a little every other day);
- Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds (10 g every day);
- Berries, fruits, dried fruit, sweet cookies, hemp seeds, lettuce, and dried mushrooms (2 g per day);
- Milk, cottage cheese, and butter 2 to 3 g per day;
- No more than 1 g of chicken eggs per day;
- Honey, jam, bone meal, fish, and chalk (alternate between the two, not more than 2 g per day);
- Grass, cones, fresh plant shoots, and pine needles in unlimited quantities.
One should not overfeed the animals – it has a bad effect on their mobility and often leads to unfortunate consequences. If a squirrel lives in a park, excessive diet leads to obesity, so it will not be able to find food in the right quantities by itself.
Squirrels in squares or houses can be fed unsalted and not very sweet cookies, white bread crumbs (dried, but not fried), and other goodies, but in small quantities. Unnatural foods can cause serious digestive and dental problems for the rodent.
What squirrels should not eat categorically?
Never treat a squirrel to these treats:
- Smoked, salty, or overly sweet foods;
- Salty beer snacks – chips and salted fried peanuts, flavored breadcrumbs, crackers, salted fish;
- Fried foods (including peanuts and sunflower seeds);
- Exotic fruits and nuts, especially almonds (they are poisonous to them).
Remember to wash your hands well after feeding squirrels. Despite their cute and harmless appearance, they can carry infections and bacteria dangerous to humans.