Do they? Yes – yes, they do. Given challenging circumstances and when the supply of food is low, squirrels like to go after unusual food sources. While squirrels will not bother to go after large animals like rats, they are known for going after insects (like crickets), birds, and even mice.
For squirrels, mice are a brilliant source of fat and protein. During the summer months, squirrels will engage in spontaneous attacks to get mice, which are fresh and warm food items. Many times, squirrels find themselves in a terrible position when there are few sources of food. Often, the nuts they usually bury during fall start sprouting, making the mammal search for an alternative protein source.
What Squirrels Eats: The Ultimate Guide
Since we have established that squirrels do eat mice, why can’t we explore the animal and exhaust its subject? The short answer to the ‘what squirrels eat’ question is this: JUST ABOUT ANYTHING. However, the primary food items that squirrels prefer are seeds, nuts, grains, vegetables, fungi, and plants. Now, let’s get into the most ‘squirreled’ parts of this article.
What Exactly Are Squirrels?
Like mice, rats, and rabbits, squirrels fall in the rodent class. So, they are mammals of the order Rodentia. Of all the mammal orders, this is the largest. It also includes hamsters, beavers, woodchucks, prairie dogs, porcupines, and chipmunks.
A Tasty Truth: A Dray Or A Scurry Is A Group Of Squirrels.
Squirrels are typified by their furry and small bodies with big and bushy tails. Like all the other rodents, they have prominent incisors that are long and sharp. Their sizes vary immensely, that is, from less than an ounce to over 3 pounds, which is the case of the Ratufa bicolor. Technically speaking, the heaviest squirrel, which weighs around 18 pounds, is the Alpine Marmot. But those little giants do not resemble the squirrels we often see. Depending on the specific squirrel species, a wild one can live up to 10 years, and while in captivity (or in domestication), it can live up to 20 years. While there are many squirrel varieties, the most common ones are three: the tree, the ground, and the flying squirrels.
What Exactly Do Squirrels Eat?
Since squirrels are omnivorous, it is okay when they eat both meat and plants. However, their primary food items are plants. When they want to include meat on their meals, they usually go for baby birds, eggs, and typical insects. They only do meat and eggs when they are a little too hungry, and when no nuts and seeds can be found.
Since squirrels are opportunistic feeders, they will take a wide range of food from whichever source they find available. Also, squirrels lack predatory instincts and are not hunters; they are foragers and scavengers. Their work is to comb around looking for food as opposed to lying around, waiting for prey. You may already have established that squirrels are not at all picky. Whatever gets to their paws and is edible – that they can eat.
An exciting thing about squirrels is although they love eating plant matter, their digestive systems are not made to break down cellulose. Cellulose is the main substance found in most plants. Instead of sticking to an all-plant diet, you will find them relying on different foods that are high in protein, carbohydrates, and fats, like seeds and nuts.
Since they have an incredibly diverse palette and will eat many foods, squirrels will even want to partake in foods that are not healthy for them, such as chips, chocolate, dairy, and candy.
The foods that these rodents eat are tree barks, flowers, leaves, insects, birdseed, and grass. At pet stores, you will find plenty of mixes that have squirrel food blends. Squirrel blocks are popular pet foods formulated and manufactured to meet all the nutritional needs of the rodents. More importantly, the food works to prevent a condition known as MBD, or Metabolic Bone Disease, caused by a calcium deficiency. Sadly, MBD is common in many pet squirrels and is fatal. Some of the factors that make a squirrel develop MBD are not getting enough sunlight and eating too many nuts. If you have an indoor squirrel and suspect that it has MBD, here are some of the symptoms likely to manifest themselves:
4. Loss of appetite
If you have a squirrel and want to take care of its dieting, you can get multi-vitamins and calcium powders that you can sprinkle on your animal’s food. You can also get many online recipes to make nutballs, squirrel balls, and nut squares.
If you’re not sure if your squirrel is getting enough nutrients and fear that it may develop MBD, you should arrange for a check-up with the vet.
How Squirrels Usually Get Their Food
As mentioned in the previous sections, squirrels take feeding opportunities as they come, and they are also foragers. This implies that they spend lots of time looking for available food. Also, squirrels practice what is known as hoarding or food caching. In this phenomenon, squirrels store their food items in a hidden location to avoid competition from others of their kind. This is done during the warm months as the squirrels prepare for winters.
Contrary to what many people believe, squirrels do not hibernate during winter. What they do is hide in their dens and nests since they do not like the cold. Also, they engage in a lot of sleep during the cold times and gain a lot of weight. The weight helps them to stay insulated against the winter chills.
Another thing that squirrels practice is deceptive caching. In this instinctual phenomenon, they decide to dig a hole and then pretend to have dropped a nut in it. Then, they cover the hole with leaves. Experts say that this behavior is meant to outsmart any competition. For a squirrel who is not too smart, they will remove the leaves only to find nothing. It is a way squirrels use to waste each other’s time.
Even though squirrels hoard lots of food for the cold weather, they often bury too much than they can find later. The food buried starts to sprout and grow into trees, which is a sad thing for squirrels. Surprisingly, the most challenging period of finding food for squirrels is not during winter; it is in early spring. The reason is that the buried food usually has started sprouting, and no other food is available. Also, there are more active during spring than in winter, meaning that they require more food to sustain themselves.
Let’s look at how they eat. Squirrels can take on their diet because of their well-adapted jaws and teeth. Squirrels have a total of 20 teeth, four being incisors and the other sixteen being molars. The incisors help to crack hard seeds and nutshells open. The molars help in food chewing.
A Tasty Truth: Like Other Rodents, The Incisors Of A Squirrel Grow With Ceasing. They Can Grow To About 6 Inches Per Year.
The iconic image of squirrels is the one where the animal has stuffed nuts in its mouth. However, the only type of squirrels that have cheek pouches is the ground squirrels. The cheek pouches are pockets found behind the squirrel’s front teeth, that is, between the cheeks and the jaws. Flying and tree squirrels do not have any cheek pouches.
Food Options For Squirrels
This section is going to look at the food options that are approved for squirrels. As you can already pick out, the information is tabulated categorically:
|THE FOOD OPTIONS FOR SQUIRRELS (PER CATEGORY)|
Peanuts (Cooked and Unsalted)
Feeding Needs Of Squirrels (How Often Should These Rodents Be Fed?)
Squirrels fall into the category of animals known as diurnals, as in, they are active during the day. So, they should be fed during daylight hours. The only exception is with flying squirrels, which are active at night, or nocturnal if you like.
If you’re dealing with wild squirrels, you can always place some food outside the bird or the squirrel feeder. The animal will then eat at its pleasure. If yours is a pet squirrel, you should stick to the instructions given in the bag of food. On top of that, you can always inject supplements throughout the day.
However, a common issue that comes with feeding pet squirrels is obesity. Because pet squirrels stay caged up and don’t have any foraging to do, they are usually less active. To add to that, their pet parents give them highly concentrated treats and food that they would otherwise never get. If you can, never overfeed your squirrel. Always try to limits fat, salt, and sugar intake. Remember that some seeds have a high-fat concentration. Also, you should ensure that the squirrel gets a constant supply of water.
Final Words, Summarily Speaking
Do squirrels eat mice? They can, but it isn’t something they would do regularly. In the spirit of recapping, squirrels are plant and meat-eaters; they are omnivores. Primarily, they are scavengers but also, they feed opportunistically.
When baby squirrels are born, they start with nursing through their mother’s milk. When they get to about six weeks of age, they progress to eating solid food. In the wilderness, baby squirrels start with a varied diet of unshelled nuts, vegetables, and fruits. When they are pets, their pet parents introduce them to squirrel blocks to ensure they get all the nutrients they need and gain weight. Also, they need the blocks to avoid developing MDB, or the Metabolic Bone Disease.
If you ever see a baby squirrel that seems abandoned, try and make it feel warm. Also, NEVER feed a baby squirrel with soy milk or that of a cow or a goat. The last thing is that squirrels should not be overfed.