Squirrels are rodents.
A lot of people look at squirrels and think they are cute and cuddly. Some people even consider them as pets and feed squirrels daily like they do dogs and cats. I view squirrels a little bit differently since they are rodents and acknowledge the fact that they are wild animals, and you should too.
Squirrels are capable of doing more than just gathering nuts. They can be excellent hunters too, as I pointed out to one of my readers the other day. She had watched a video about a squirrel eating a mouse and couldn’t believe her eyes.
The reader wanted to know “do squirrels eat meat”. It is not uncommon for squirrels to eat all types of meat and even eggs. If you observe the ground squirrel in their natural habitat for some time you could easily see them eating meat. I have read and heard many reports of ground squirrels eating birds, lizards, mice, snakes, insects, and other animals both dead and alive.
Squirrels are not exclusively vegetarians and if you want to learn more about their eating habits and other interesting facts I invite you to continue reading the information below.
North American Squirrels
There are over 200 species of squirrels and they can be categorized into three types:
- Ground squirrels
- Flying squirrels
- Tree Squirrels
The flying and tree squirrels make their homes in trees while the ground squirrel chooses to live underground. The squirrels we most often see are the American red squirrel, black squirrel, eastern grey squirrel, western grey squirrel, and fox squirrel.
What Do Squirrels Eat?
When we think of a squirrel’s diet we are all conditioned to think they are vegetarians who eat a lot of nuts and acorns. But there is so much more to a squirrels diet.
Squirrels eat a diverse mix of foods rich in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. For the most part, a squirrels native diet consists of nuts, plants, and seeds – mostly vegetarian. However, when extremely hungry squirrels will eat just about anything they can find.
In addition to their normal diet squirrels have been observed eating a variety of other things including meat, small birds insects, small rodents, eggs, and young snakes. These food sources are consumed whenever the opportunity exists.
The animals that squirrel eats can be either dead or alive. Squirrels will kill and eat alive any small animal they can get the jump own. They will simply bite off the animal’s head and eat them alive. Roadkill and dead carcasses are also fair game to any squirrel who is looking to eat meat.
Why Do Squirrels Eat Meat?
We have established the fact that squirrels are not solely vegetarians and do eat meat. So the next logical question is why do squirrels eat meat. This is not something I could answer on my own. However, I did read a research paper that provided a few theories that suggest why squirrels eat meat.
Researchers believe that pregnant, lactating, or female squirrels looking to reproduce, eat meat because it provides a source of concentrated protein and other minerals.
Another theory is that squirrels eat meat to compensate for a seasonal decline in the quality of plant food. Yet still, another hypothesis is that the squirrel kills for some other reason, usually territorial defense, and then consumes their dead rival.
Source: Great Basin Naturalist – Squirrels as predators
Watch A Wild Squirrel Eat A Mouse
Have you seen the video of the squirrel eating the mouse yet? If not you can watch the interesting video below. In the video, you will see a Colombian ground squirrel in Canada’s Banff National Park chowing down on a mouse.
Most people think this type of feeding is unnatural because they mistakenly believe squirrels only eat nuts and plants. In fact, it is not uncommon to see squirrels eating all kinds of animals including birds, lizards, snakes, and other rodents.
Are squirrels cannibals? Grey squirrels are indeed cannibals and have been seen eating their young. This squirrel species will also eat bird eggs, frogs, young birds, and snakes if the opportunity presents itself.
Do squirrels eat mice? Squirrels are opportunistic eaters and if given the chance will eat mice. They will also eat other small animals including young snakes and birds.
Are squirrels dangerous to humans? The biggest danger squirrels present to humans is their ability to damage property. They will chew and gnaw of your personal property and also damage the structure of your home. They have been known to enter attics and chew on electrical wires causing thousands of dollars in damage.