Most people think of squirrels as these cute little animals that hop around in yards all day eating seeds and nuts. This is partially true, as the squirrels primarily eat seeds, fruits, and other vegetation. However, squirrels are rodents that are also willing to eat meat if need be, even if it means killing the animal they are to eat themselves.
But what type of meat will they eat, do squirrels eat lizards, frogs, and other live or dead animals?
While it may come as a bit of a surprise, squirrels are willing to eat lizards as well as other small critters. In addition to lizards, scientists report that squirrels routinely feast on snakes, bird eggs, mice, and sometimes even their own young.
- Why Do Squirrels Eat Meat?
- Why Do Squirrels Attack Snakes
- Do Squirrels Eat Lizards?
- How To Attract Squirrels Into Your Backyard
- Can Squirrels Eat Frogs?
- Verdict: Squirrels As Meat-Eating Omnivores
Why Do Squirrels Eat Meat?
Squirrels are more opportunistic rather than have an overt preference for eating meat. If they run into a situation where lizards and other critters are available, and they’re hungry, they will eat it.
For example, if they stumble onto roadkill, then they will indeed eat the meat. They will also eat the flesh of snakes or other predators if they were able to defend themselves and kill their attacker.
For the most part, squirrels are content with scavenging nuts and seeds like sunflower seeds, chia, and pumpkin seeds for protein sources. However, if none is available, a squirrel will look to other protein sources like lizards or snakes.
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Squirrels Are Omnivores
Squirrels are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and meat. However, they generally prefer eating plants over meat. On average, squirrels eat about one pound of food per week, consisting primarily of plants and vegetables. Their diet is incredibly varied based on the types of food available to them, including fruits, vegetables, flowers, fungi, and other vegetation native to their habitat.
Of course, different variants of squirrels will consume different foods depending on where they are located. The Eastern gray squirrels, for example, will eat nuts, seeds, flowers, and buds of maple, mulberry, hackberry, elm, and dogwood trees.
On the other hand, flying squirrels gravitate more towards seeds, like pumpkin and sesame, or other tree nuts like almonds, pecans, and walnuts.
Squirrels As Predators
While squirrels mostly stick to eating vegetation, they sometimes actively hunt for the meat of other animals. Although this is more of a rarity, there are various reasons why they may act like a predator.
One of those reasons is that they need supplemental protein in their diet. For example, female squirrels need much more protein when they’re pregnant. Because they are carrying their young, they need extra nutrients and must seek alternative sources for extra protein.
Female squirrels can become pregnant as often as twice a year for more than eight years. This means that females are more likely to be hunting other animals for the nutrients that vegetation cannot readily supply than males for most of the year.
They may also kill their prey for territorial or defensive reasons. Male squirrels will even kill and eat younger males, instinctively knowing that they will later become competition. This phenomenon occurs quite often with Grey Squirrels, a breed of squirrel well-known for being cannibals.
Squirrels will eat meat if the food source is low. For instance, plants and other food sources are much scarcer during the winter. If their initial food stockpile for the winter runs too low, squirrels may have to seek other food sources in the form of small animals.
Finally, being opportunistic creatures, a squirrel will never turn up the opportunity to consume a nearby dying animal. If it can find and catch an injured creature nearby, it will gladly eat it.
Why Do Squirrels Attack Snakes
Typically, squirrels only attack snakes to defend themselves or their family. Often, snakes will attack juvenile and baby squirrels, which will lead the adults to retaliate. While squirrels are rarely preemptive about attacking a snake, they will take action and kill the attacker if they or their family is threatened.
How Do Squirrels Kill Snakes?
While you may think that snakes would have a leg up (pun intended) in a fight against a squirrel, squirrels are incredibly resourceful and have different ways they can launch a counterattack against snakes.
Squirrels have quick reflexes, which can allow them to avoid a snake’s attack. Additionally, squirrels can also use their hands and feet to cause deadly harm to snakes by kicking gravel, dirt, and pebbles at snakes. Further, they can also bite the attacking snake, with their sharp teeth delivering a lethal blow.
Do Squirrels Eat Snakes
After a squirrel kills a snake after protecting themselves or their family, squirrels do indeed eat the snake afterward for an extra dose of protein. As mentioned, squirrels do prefer other types of food beyond meat, but if they have just spent the time and energy on killing a snake, chances are they will eat it afterward.
In rare situations, witnesses have even reported seeing squirrels actively seeking and attacking snakes unprompted. This was likely due to a shortage of food nearby. While squirrels primarily eat snakes out of defense and protection, such a situation is not unheard of.
What Kind Of Snakes Do Squirrels Eat?
As you may have guessed, squirrels stick to eating smaller snakes like garter snakes or green snakes. However, there is video footage of squirrels eating snakes as large as two or even three times their own size.
Unfortunately, because this situation is so out of the ordinary, there isn’t much information on what type of snakes squirrels prefer to eat.
Are Squirrels Immune To Snake Bites?
According to a recent report, California ground squirrels have developed an adaptive variation gene that makes them immune from venom released by a rattlesnake. This mutation was discovered by examining their blood. While squirrels with this gene are not entirely immune, it helps them survive moderate amounts of venom from a bite.
However, the amount of resistance they have depends drastically on their geographic disposition, meaning squirrels found in areas without a high density of rattlesnakes are less likely to have this protein. Because of this, not all squirrels are immune to snake bites – just the populations that live in areas that are highly dense with rattlesnakes.
Are Snakes Afraid Of Squirrels?
Snakes aren’t afraid of squirrels, but they tend to stay away from grown adults because of their fighting abilities. They also instinctively understand that some squirrels are resistant to their venom, further deterring them from attacking.
This trepidation against adult squirrels does not translate to baby squirrels, however. Snakes will often prey on baby squirrels for food and nourishment.
Do Squirrels Eat Lizards?
Squirrels regularly eat lizards, as these critters are easier to catch than catching and killing a snake. Therefore, when squirrels do need supplemental protein, lizards are typically their first target.
Lizards are typically smaller than snakes and therefore present a lower risk to squirrels during an ambush, so make an easy target for a protein-rich meal.
Ground Squirrels Catch Lizards
When squirrels hunt for lizards, they often quickly descend on their prey from above using a tree branch, house, or other tall structure. Ground squirrels are no different. Despite their name, ground squirrels have the ability to climb trees. Squirrels have a much better vantage point when they’re higher up, and they use this to their advantage when hunting.
However, squirrels do not always need such an extensive strategy – regularly, a ground squirrel will simply run up from behind, grab the lizard, kill it, and then eat it afterward.
How To Attract Squirrels Into Your Backyard
Squirrels are always hungry. To attract squirrels in your yard, increase the amount of spare food in your yard. You can achieve this by sprinkling birdseed around nuts or food scraps (although doing this may attract other rodents and bugs, too, so beware).
Soft fruits attract squirrels such as strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries growing on canes or as runners.
While increasing the food in your yard may take up to two weeks to attract squirrels to your yard, you’ll eventually have a healthy number of critters in your yard to admire.
Here’s an article about getting rid of copperhead snakes you may find of interest.
Can Squirrels Eat Frogs?
Squirrels eat frogs on occasion, depending on how much meat they need and what’s available. However, while squirrels have been recorded eating frogs, they prefer almost any other meat.
Because squirrels are so agile and quick, they can catch frogs with ease. They will use their hands to catch a frog out of the air or jump on the frog to catch and kill it.
Verdict: Squirrels As Meat-Eating Omnivores
So looking into the question ‘Do squirrels eat lizards?’ has uncovered the secret diet of these omnivores. While they might appear to be cute and harmless, squirrels are capable of hunting, trapping, and killing various creatures for their meat. However, squirrels naturally prefer having a plant-based and vegetarian diet, primarily munching on seeds and nuts during their lifetimes.
However, when the situation presents itself – such as food being scarce when their bodies require extra protein when they’ve just fended off an attack, or they simply find injured prey – squirrels can and will eat lizards and other reptiles.