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Why Do Squirrels Eat Meat? Are They Meat Eaters Or Vegetarians?

Tree Squirrel

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 unusual for squirrels to eat all kinds of meat and even eggs. If you watch the ground squirrel within their natural habitat for a while you will likely see them consuming meat. I even have read and heard stories about ground squirrels consuming animals such as birds, insects, lizards, mice, and snakes that are 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:

  1. Ground squirrels
  2. Flying squirrels
  3. Tree Squirrels

The flying tree squirrels build their homes in trees. The ground squirrel prefers to live below ground. 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, fruits, and seeds – mostly vegetarian. However, when extremely hungry squirrels will eat just about anything they can find.

In addition to their regular diet squirrels have been observed consuming a variety of other staples including meat, baby birds, insects, small rodents, animal eggs, and young snakes. Squirrels consume these food sources whenever their primary diet is unavailbe.

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 offered a number of theories that suggest why squirrels eat meat.

Research studies have found pregnant or lactating female squirrels eating meat because it supplies them with a concentrated source protein and essential minerals.

Another well-known theory,  suggests 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.

Related Questions

Are squirrels cannibals? Grey squirrels are indeed cannibals and have been seen eating their young. The grey squirrel species will feast on bird eggs, frogs, and snakes if the opportunity presents itself.

Do squirrels eat mice? Squirrels are opportunistic eaters and if given the chance will eat mice. They may even eat other small animals including baby 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.

Lynn Edwards

I was tired of spending $79 per month ($948 per year) for professional pest control services. Fed up with this out of pocket expense I decided to figure it out myself. I researched and read everything I could find about pest control, learned what works and what doesn't. I created the DIY pest control guide to save you time, money and help you protect the things you love from all types of pests. Since 2016, I have been taking care of my pest control problems without the help of a professional exterminator. I've learned what the pest control companies don't want you to know. Knowledge is power!

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