Squirrels. They are everywhere. They are the playful distraction that makes dogs and people say “squirrel.” You look out at your bird feeders, and a squirrel does amazing acrobatic feats to get at those delicious treats. Sometimes you can even begin to recognize them and give them special names. Until they disappear.
They could be squirreling away their finds into nests for the winter. They could wander off to a greater source of food. Or they could have run into one of the creatures that view them as a delicious delicacy. This leads to today’s question: what eats squirrels?
What kind of animal eats squirrels?
Squirrels have many natural predators. They have to be aware of enemies from the air, on the ground, and even as they are scurrying through the trees.
- Hawks: One of the animals that attacks squirrels from the air is the hawk. Hawks capture and kill their prey with their talons. They prefer to hunt just before nightfall, in the dimming daylight.
- Owls: Another airborne danger for squirrels, is the owl. Owls are stealth hunter, able to sneak up on their squirrel target in silence caused by special wing feathers that muffle the sound of the air flowing over their wings. They have keen eyesight, and directional hearing which will help them locate their targeted squirrel.
- Foxes: Foxes usually hunt at night and rest during the day. While they are more likely to go after smaller prey, they occasionally like to dine on a juicy squirrel. They slowly and quietly stalk their prey until they are within striking distance. Then they pounce. Only the luckiest of squirrels will get away.
- Coyote: These mammals do not discriminate against smaller prey like squirrel. If they are hunting large prey like deer, they will team up and hunt in packs. However a lone coyote will stalk and pounce on any unsuspecting squirrel.
- Wildcats: Wildcats use their sight and hearing when hunting for a squirrel-shaped meal. They like to lie in wait, and then capture their prey with a few majestic leaps. They kill their prey by biting their neck. If a squirrel manages to escape, wildcats will not chase after them in pursuit.
- Weasels: Weasels are cunning hunters that search for prey day and night. They are skilled climbers, runners, and swimmers. Any squirrel they choose as their next meal could have a hard time escaping. Weasels wrap their long, slender bodies around larger prey to hold them still. This controls even the most energetic squirrel.
- Snakes: Snake use their flicking tongues to pick up chemical information that leads them to their next squirrely treat. Depending on the type of snake, they may use venom, constriction or a combination to subdue and eat their prey.
- Fishers: The largest member of the weasel family, fishers are omnivores that will eat basically anything. They love to dine on squirrel (and even the occasional house cat) so it is important to be alert for them. They are shy and elusive, hunting mostly at dawn and dusk. While they will do most of their hunting on the ground, they will chase a squirrel into the trees in order to capture this delicious meal.
- Pine Martens: These solo hunters usually hunt through the night, especially at dusk. These are one of the creatures squirrels need to look out for in the trees because pine martens are excellent climbers. They dig their claws into the trunks of trees and bound up in jerky movements. Squirrels might have no escape.
While this list includes some of the basic predators of squirrels, there can be some variety depending on the type of squirrel. Keep reading to learn more.
What eats ground squirrels?
Ground squirrels are often seen as pests by gardeners, and they show up in many places. Some predators help out by feeding on them. These include hawks, eagles, rattlesnakes, and coyotes. However, if you are hoping their meals will keep the ground squirrel population down, you are out of luck. These predators cannot eat enough to keep the population of pests under control.
What eats red squirrels?
Another abundant species, red squirrels are not at risk of disappearing even if they feed predators like raccoons, foxes, weasels, bobcats, coyotes, minks, fishers, owls, hawks, and martens.
What eats flying squirrels?
Unlike their squirrel brothers and sisters, flying squirrels are clumsy on the ground. This means that their biggest predators are the ones who can capture them in the air or the trees. This includes owls, hawks, martens, weasels, coyote, and domestic cats. Flying squirrels try to avoid predators by being active at night, and staying alert as they use their agility to fly through the trees. Unfortunately, the greatest risk to flying squirrels is humans, as their population has diminished because of deforestation.
What eats gray squirrels?
Gray squirrels attract many different predators, including black snakes, rattle snakes, weasels, skunks, and red foxes. According to the Virtual Nature Trail at Penn State New Kensigton, a squirrel was once found in the stomach of a large mouth bass. Their predators also include the usual birds of prey like hawks and owls.
What eats baby squirrels?
There is one disturbing addition to the usual (and long) list of culprits when it comes to baby squirrels–other squirrels. Sadly, its true that neighboring baby-killing cannibal squirrels will sometimes eat babies (but not their own young). The theory is that once all the babies are dead, the female squirrel will stop lactating and be ready to mate again. The danger to baby squirrels from other natural predators seems a little kinder somehow.
Worried about the Squirrels?
As you can see, squirrels have a lot of enemies. They may not be at the bottom of the food chain, but they don’t have the skills to fight off attacks. Still, they’ve got other skills to avoid predators, including speed, the ability blend in with their surroundings, and the ability to have multiple litters of pups. Although they themselves mostly eat fruits, nuts, and seed, they have been known to nibble on the occasional egg or protein-filled meal. Still, ifor those of you interested in learning how to protect your favorite squirrel friends, we’ll write about in future posts.