Five genera of squirrel reside in the USA, with the most common being the gray tree squirrel. These omnivores are often thought of as being nut-eaters, and nuts will make up the majority of their diet.

However, the small rodents will eat a varied diet. While many people put food out for their local squirrel population to snack on, this can cause problems for the squirrels themselves, you, and your neighbors.

Fortunately, they are resourceful animals that are capable of finding their own foods, although they will benefit from being provided with a natural and suitable habitat in which to live, visit, and eat.divider-multipet

Grey Squirrels and Red Squirrels

Grey and Red Squirrel
Image Credit: Left – Grey Squirrel -(tpa, Pixabay); Right – Red Squirrel (Pexels, Pixabay)
  • The Eastern Gray Squirrel is the most common in the USA. It is a tree squirrel that will live between 10 and 12 years in captivity. They are hunted by birds of prey, foxes, weasels, and other larger animals. If you ever see a black-colored squirrel it is, in fact, a gray squirrel.
  • The American Red Squirrel is smaller than the gray, and it is less common, in no small part thanks to the fact that only one in five survive beyond their first year and the fact that they have a short average lifespan of around 3 years. Predators are similar to those of the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Although fewer in number than the Eastern Gray, the American Red can be found right across the country. Despite being around half the weight, the Red Squirrel will bully the Gray Squirrel to control a feeder.
  • Fox Squirrels are fewer in number than the Gray and the Red Squirrels, but they do well in areas populated by a lot of humans, so they can be seen quite regularly. They are the largest squirrel in the USA and are highly adaptable. Although they are often seen on the ground, where they forage, they are skilled climbers and exceptional jumpers.

Natural Habitat

Different types of squirrel have different habitats. Tree squirrels live in trees and will make nests in tree hollows. Ground squirrels live in burrows, similar to those of rabbits and other small animals. The squirrels that are most commonly seen in gardens are tree squirrels, and they are highly skilled at climbing as well as jumping and foraging on the ground.

Squirrels do not hibernate. This is because they do not have a high enough level of body fat to be able to carry them through the winter months, and it is the reason that they are so well known for burying stashes of nuts and fruit in the garden and near their habitat. These stashes provide sustenance through the winter months when food is difficult to forage because of hard ground and snow-covered bushes.

young squirrel
Image Credit: Pixabay

Keeping Squirrels Away from Bird Feeders

Unfortunately, squirrels are often seen as unwanted vermin, and it is just as common for people to ask how to get rid of squirrels, or how to prevent them from visiting their garden, as it is to ask how to attract them. In truth, it can be difficult to deter squirrels.

If you want to keep them out of the bird feeder, consider putting up dedicated squirrel feeders in the corner of a garden, because these nimble little critters can complete complex and seemingly impossible obstacle courses.

Should You Feed Them?

Some people enjoy feeding squirrels and providing them with a regular supply of food. The rodent will learn where to find food, and they will return to your garden if they think it offers a sustainable source of food.

Feeding squirrels in your garden may cause them harm. If it encourages them to cross busy roads or stray into areas where they are not wanted or are closely controlled, it could cause their death.

Feeding them means that they will return. They are skilled at breaking and entering, and they will chew through wire and wood if they believe there is food on the other side, so feeding them can lead to property damage in your home, as well as in your neighbors.

While squirrels will not usually hunt if they have an abundance of nuts, fruit, and vegetables, encouraging them to your garden means that they could be eating the food that other wild animals would otherwise consume.

Squirrel in a tree
Image Credit: Pexels Pixabay

What Can You Feed Squirrels?

Although often thought of as being herbivores and eating only nuts, squirrels are omnivores. They will eat a steady supply of local fruit and vegetables and do enjoy nuts and berries, but they will also eat eggs and some small meat sources if other food is difficult to come by.

If you do choose to feed the squirrels in your garden, feed them nuts, fruit, and vegetables. You should try to stick to those varieties that are found locally.

You can also feed hazelnuts, walnuts, and peanuts, but they should be plain and free from additives.

Fruit and vegetable sources include apple, carrots, celery, and spinach. Shred the food if you want to prevent them from burying whole chunks in your garden, and ensure that you clean the feeders regularly.

Hand-Feeding Squirrels

Avoid feeding squirrels by hand in a bid to tame them. This will dull the senses and the instincts that they need to be able to survive in the wild, especially if they are young. Feed on feeders and keep your distance to enjoy this sweet wild animal.


What Do Squirrels Eat?

Squirrels do eat and prefer nuts, as depicted in popular culture and TV. However, they will also eat other fruit and vegetable and will sometimes eat insects, eggs, and even some small animals. Avoid feeding by hand, consider whether your garden is really a safe environment in which to encourage the squirrel, and be sure to feed them natural and unflavored foods.

Featured Image Credit by Pixabay