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What Do Squirrels Eat?

By Chris Williams on July 15, 2014.

When my husband went up into the attic yesterday, he found a couple of piles of broken nut shells and debris tucked in the corners. Which animal left those, a bat or a squirrel, or something else? We have some squirrels in our yard but I thought they ate plants.  M.O., Merrimack, NH

squirrels dietCertainly sounds like your attic has been visited by squirrels. Bats feed on insects so there would be no piles of hoarded food. Squirrels do hoard food in attics and in wall and ceiling voids. You don’t say which type of squirrels you have. Here in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, we have the gray squirrel, the red squirrel, and the flying squirrel.

All of these squirrels will live in attics and will hide food when they are nesting there. What you describe sounds more like the hoard of a gray squirrel which is primarily nuts, mixed with chewed twigs, bark, and pinecones. The hoard of a red squirrel is mostly broken up cones from pines and other conifers which is their main food source. When a squirrel’s food hoard is left in place in an attic, it can attract insects like Indian meal moths that will feed on the nuts and may eventually invade your living space.

Nuts Are Only Part of a Squirrel’s Diet

Gray squirrels may occasionally damage plants in your garden, but plants make up only a small part of their diet. Three-fourths of the diet of a gray squirrel is made up of nuts: oak acorns, hickory nuts, beech nuts, walnuts, etc. The remainder is berries, fruits, seeds, flowers, and grains.

Red squirrels are associated with conifer trees because their diet is mostly the seeds in cones from pine, fir, spruce, and hemlock trees. They also feed on fungi, buds, bark, nuts, grains, insects, even baby birds. Flying squirrels will feed on baby birds, too, along with a wide range of other foods (see “Will Flying Squirrels Feed at Bird Feeders?”)

Don’t Forget to Squirrel-Proof Your Home

If you’re lucky, your squirrel has left the attic and moved on. You don’t want to ignore squirrels in your attic because they can do a lot of damage with their gnawing on beams, wallboard, even electrical wiring (a fire hazard). They will tear up insulation and other soft items for nest material. They will urinate and defecate in your attic, staining walls and ceilings.

You need to be concerned about how that squirrel got into your attic in the first place. Squirrels commonly will gnaw an opening in weak areas around roof vents, dormers, or soffits. If you find an opening, don’t seal it up unless you’re sure there are no squirrels, especially babies, left in the attic. Ask us about our professional squirrel removal services. We not only remove resident squirrels, we also offer squirrel exclusion services. We will check your home for areas where squirrels could enter and will reinforce, screen, caulk, and repair potential entry points. Our work is guaranteed to keep squirrels (and bats) out of your home. Call Colonial today.

Photo by Whpq (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

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