Squirrels are small, tree dwelling members of the rodent species. They are part of the Sciuridae family which also includes chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels and prairie dogs. Squirrels are native to the Americas, Eurasia and Africa. Squirrels are characterized by their long, bushy tails, slender bodies and large eyes. They range in size from 7–10 cm (2.8–3.9 in) to 53–73 cm (21–29 in) in length. Squirrels live in a range of habitats ranging from tropical rainforests, and other forested areas, to semiarid deserts. Let’s take a look at the common diet of the squirrel.
What do squirrels eat?
Squirrels are most commonly portrayed as nut eaters, and while they do eat nuts they also eat a wide variety of other foods. Squirrels will eat plants, seeds, conifer cones, acorns, fruits, fungi (mushrooms), tree and flower buds, roots and green vegetation including twigs and bark. Certain groups of squirrels such as those living in tropical habitats will also eat insects, small lizards, small rodents, eggs and small birds. Squirrels will avoid foods that are high in cellulose as they are unable to digest this. They prefer foods which are high in carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Squirrels will store foods such as nuts, seeds, acorns and conifer cones during the autumn to use as a food source during winter. Urban squirrels will also rely on the human population for food. They will scavenge for food and will accept peanuts and seeds left out for them by humans. Squirrels are seen as a pest in agricultural areas where they will eat any grain, fruit, nut or vegetable crop. They can also destroy whole crops by eating the plants at the seedling stage.
What do squirrels eat in captivity?
Squirrels can be hand reared and kept as pets. When young, squirrels are fed specialized formula. Once they get old enough to eat solids squirrels are fed soft twigs, such as maple and oak twigs, and fruits and vegetables. Once the squirrel begins eating solid foods well then a wide variety of foods that the squirrel would normally eat in the wild are introduced. Squirrels are often given supplements of calcium and other vitamins to ensure good health.