What Do Ground Squirrels Eat?

Are you a fan of that fluffy, personable animal we know as the squirrel? Do you ever wonder what do ground squirrels eat? Do you seem him running around the park, hopping from tree to tree, scurrying across park benches and slides and stones? Do you laugh at his curiosity as he scales unbelievable heights, flies in the air and digs at the ground with abandon to hide the perfect fall acorn? Are you intrigued by this small, friendly animal that often has learned to communicate with humans and give us a little bit of his personality? Do you often wonder what do squirrels eat, or where do squirrels live? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you are not alone! The squirrel has intrigued and delighted humans for centuries.

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Whether you find your new furry friend in a park or in your backyard, there is something new learn. If you are ready to learn about our friend the ground squirrel, then you’ve come to the right place. The ground squirrel is one of the most domesticated outdoor animals today because they are so personable and inquisitive. They are traditionally omnivores, which means they will eat a wide variety of meat — including small vertebrates and carrion — eggs, fruits, and plants. There’s not much that the ground squirrel will find distasteful, which makes him a useful animal to have in the animal kingdom. The ground squirrel helps regulate the food chain in simple and easy ways because he is such a diverse eater. Need your weeds under control? The ground squirrel likes the seeds of invasive plants and shrubs? Want to see a small, dead animal removed? The ground squirrel will make a meal out the carcass. Now, being a diverse eater also comes with complications, as the plants and fruits and trees that you are trying to keep in good shape also are attractive to the curious and sneaky ground squirrel. You’ll have to do some damage control and protect certain important plants and trees if you hope to harvest the fruits in the future. But there is a way to protect your most precious plants from the ground squirrel in a way that is healthy and safe for the animal and your plants and trees as well.

To give you a better understanding of the ground squirrel and his diverse ways of being, we want to start at the most important part of any functioning animal’s or person’s life – the diet. Do you know what ground squirrels eat? After reading this guide, you will have an extensive list of fruits, nuts, plants, seeds, and other items that the ground squirrel is all too happy to make his meal every day. Read our guide devoted to the eating habits of the ground squirrel and learn something new about your favorite park and forest animal!

What Do Ground Squirrels Eat?

Ground SquirrelGive Them a Fruit Tree

If you want to make a ground squirrel happy and fill his belly, then just introduce him to a fruit tree. This of course can be particularly annoying if you are trying to grow these trees, as ground squirrels will munch on your fruit trees to their heart’s content and they will damage them as a result. They are known to take the fruit right off the trees. Fruit trees that they especially like include apple, apricot, prune, peach, and orange trees. It won’t be surprising if your backyard ground squirrel gets to your fruit trees at an early stage. They love seedlings, and fruit seedlings are fair game.

They Love Nut Trees, Too

Ground squirrels also love nut trees. This comes as no surprise if you’ve ever watched a ground squirrel in a park — digging furiously in the ground to make a safe place for his select acorn or scratching at the base of a tree to find a nut he hid months ago. Ground squirrels delight in all kinds of nuts. There are a few nut trees in particular that the ground squirrel really delights to find as he is going about his day. If you have an almond, walnut or pistachio tree in your yard, then watch out! You’ll see your local ground squirrel having a field day gnawing at the branches and the meat of these nuts. Shoo them away, and they’re likely to take a nut or two with them as they scamper off to the next nut tree.

A Garden DreamGround Squirrel

There is no playground for a ground squirrel like a delicious, hearty garden. Ground squirrels love vegetable gardens, and they will devour them to their heart’s content — and maybe not yours. One important fact to know about ground squirrels in your garden is that they absolutely love seedlings. So if you’ve recently planted a batch of hearty greens or root vegetables, then watch out! You may want to protect them in a way that is safe for the squirrel, as these curious animals will try to find a way to eat your vegetable seedlings and munch on their roots. Keep this in mind as you are planning your outdoor garden so you aren’t disappointed or shocked after you spend hours planting only to discover your seedlings have been “stolen.” The ground squirrel surely will be to blame!

Golden Mantled Ground SquirrelEggs

Do you have ground-nesting birds in your yard or community? If you do, be prepared. “Yum!” says the ground squirrel to the eggs of ground-nesting birds. Do you raise quail or try to attract them to your yard? If you do, then you need to be aware that ground squirrels also will be watching for the birds to lay their eggs. Ground squirrels find eggs to be a tasty treat, and if you aren’t prepared, they will collect them more quickly than you can!

Tree Bark, Twigs and Green Forage

While not an actual component of their diet, ground squirrels do enjoy gnawing on tree bark and twigs. They also love the green forage that is associated with trees, shrubs, and ornamental bushes and plants. It’s easy to please a ground squirrel in summer park, for example. Clearly this isn’t a staple of their diet that satiates them, but it is pastime for them. They enjoy munching on bark, stripping the bark from a tree’s trunk, and munching on twigs and leaves. They also are known to dig around tree roots to expose them and gnaw on the bark on these roots. Ground squirrels make their burrows in the ground, often around tree trunks and roots, and it’s common for them to gnaw and dig so much around the tree’s base that they eventually cause the tree to topple! It’s also common to see a ground squirrel munching on all the additional parts of a tree or plant with a root or trunk — such as the leaves of ornamental shrubs, leaves and other plants that you may have in your yard. Green forage is a ground squirrel’s best friend, and he’ll go out of his way to take in these tasty staples throughout his lifetime. There is plenty to go around if your park or yard is outfitted with a wide variety of plant and shrubs. Ground squirrels delight in green plants with hearty leaves and fruit and seeds. All this to say, it’s important to know what ground squirrels like to munch on so you can project your plants from great damage. The ground squirrel doesn’t mean to hurt your plans. He simply sees them as a fun snack and an activity to pass the time throughout the day.

SeedsCascade Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

During the fall and summer seasons especially, ground squirrels love to forage for seeds. This is a primary staple of their diet, and they find them everywhere in a park, forest or yard. They aren’t too picky when it comes to seeds, and it’s common for a ground squirrel to eat the seeds of weed plants and crop staples such as wheat and corn. This is good and bad, depending on how you look at it — good if you want weeds under natural control in your yard and clearly bad if you are a career farmer trying to harvest your corn or wheat crop. All in all, you can keep a ground squirrel very happy with seeds from many types of staple crops, vegetables and invasive plants.

Insects and Small Vertebrates

When a delicious garden isn’t available, you can make a ground squirrel happy with insects. They know how to forage and to make use of any natural habitat. If your corn plants or apple trees aren’t available, the ground squirrel will go to work collecting his dinner of delicious insects. Whatever insect he can find, he’ll capture with his quick execution and scamper off to munch in delight. If insects aren’t available at the time, then the ground squirrel has no qualms about capturing small vertebrates and making a meal out of those unsuspecting creatures. Because the ground squirrel is a hunter and gather, he’ll make the most of a situation and come back with food that will get him through the day. If a fruit tree comes into his landscape, then even better. You’ll have one happy ground squirrel!

Ground SquirrelA Note on Carrion

After listing such an extensive and diverse diet, it is worth noting that the easy-to-please ground squirrel does not put carrion above himself. He is a resourceful eater, after all, and the decaying flesh of a wide variety of animals is an acceptable meal for the curious and industrious ground squirrel. Not only is this Okay with the ground squirrel and sufficient for a meal, but it also is helpful to the larger community. Ground squirrels will make sure natural decay is sped up and animals carcasses are used appropriately. Don’t call Animal Control to clean up a dead animal. Let the ground squirrel take over for the time being, and you’ll find that small, dead animals especially will disappear in time.

Trapping a Ground Squirrel with a Few Tasty Treats

Always choose the humane option with traps. If a ground squirrel is being a pest in your backyard, you of course can trap him and relocate him to a park. But never purchase a trap that will kill a ground squirrel. Try to preserve life in all of its forms. If you are trying to bait a trap that is safe for the squirrel and simply attracts the ground squirrel, then you have several options. Some tasty, decadent treats for a ground squirrel are nuts such as walnuts and almonds. Ground squirrels love these nuts especially, and you’ll be sure to attract them to the trap. Additional delicious bait for the ground squirrel includes oats and barley and fruits such as melon rinds. If you have any combination of these tasty nuts, grains or fruits in your trap, then you are certain to attract the attention of a playful, hungry ground squirrel. He will be quite content in your trap with these treats on the table!

Conclusion: A Diverse Forager for the Future

What do ground squirrels eat? Now you know! The ground squirrel is infinitely fun to watch as he entertains and eats. As an omnivore, he will eat a variety of meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, tree leaves and more. If it’s in a park, yard, or garden then you can be almost certain that the ground squirrel will find a way to set his table and get to eating. Keep this guide with you as you continue to study the ground squirrel and learn how to enact damage control over your garden and fruit trees. No doubt you’ve seen him on many occasions and you just haven’t known what he is eating. Now you do! A ground squirrel’s diet is simple yet varied. He can adapt and eat lots of natural foods, but his favorite always is the predictable seed, nut or sweet fruit. That shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve ever watched a ground squirrel in action. Yet nevertheless, there always is something new to learn about the ground squirrel as he navigates the Animal Kingdom. We hope this guide to the ground squirrel’s diet has been helpful to you as you continue your research on America’s best-loved animal, the ground squirrel. In this edition, you learned all about what ground squirrels eat, but there is even more to explore about the ground squirrel, so we hope you’ll check out our additional guides on this fun and furry animal. It’s always good to note that while the ground squirrel often seems domesticated and friendly to humans, no two squirrels are alike. So exercise great caution in petting or trying to feed ground squirrels with any of the foods listed in this guide. The bottom line always has been that the ground squirrel is an unpredictable animal with its own mind and ways. You don’t want to risk getting bitten or hurt by trying to hand-feed a ground squirrel. Instead, stay a distance off as you “squirrel watch.” It is likely that you will catch the ground squirrel filling his belly with many of the staples listed in this guide. Good luck and happy “squirrel watching!”

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