Squirrel deterrent for trees

Squirrels Fruit Tree Protection: Using Squirrel Deterrents For Fruit Trees

Squirrels may appear to be cute fluffy tailed little critters, but their damaging feeding behaviors and digging can cause problems in the home landscape. In spite of their non-threatening demeanor, squirrels eating fruit tree buds limit production and stunt new growth. They dig up bulbs and eat tender new plants. In extreme cases, the rodents can jump from trees and find ways into your home, nesting in your attic or crawlspace. Knowing how to keep a squirrel out of fruit trees and other tall plants will help you enjoy their antics without worrying about their destructive natural habits.

Why Worry About Squirrel Proofing Fruit Trees?

There are numerous varieties of squirrels throughout the United States and North America. Most of them are not considered pests but some find nesting, feeding and playing in your fruit trees utterly irresistible. This poses no problem for the gardener who has an excess of fruit and where the rodents aren’t displaying chewing behavior. But in some cases, squirrels eating fruit tree buds may also chew on bark, causing tree wounds that invite decay and fungal diseases.

Squirrel proofing fruit trees can protect young fruit and prevent the rodents from accessing power and phone lines, disrupting service. They will also chew on siding and gain entry to your home.

Squirrel Fruit Tree Protection

Most gardeners are familiar with squirrel baffles for bird feeders and some forms of tree barriers. Many a homeowner has lost the battle with the cunning local squirrel. Squirrel proofing fruit trees starts with management and planning.

Keep limbs away from the home where they will often gain access to the tree. Consider better planting sites at installation of trees. It is difficult to achieve total squirrel fruit tree protection due to the animals amazing climbing ability.

Try simple things like netting the crown of the tree to protect new buds and young fruit.

How to Keep a Squirrel Out of Fruit Trees

When the pests have gotten on your last nerve, it is tempting to attempt lethal methods. This is inadvisable unless you know your species. Some squirrels are protected species and killing them may hold a fine. Poisons and traps can inadvertently harm children or pets. Trapping is sometimes effective, but you will have to release the animal into a wild and appropriate habitat as part of good animal management.

Extreme problem animals will require extreme squirrel deterrents for fruit trees. Scaring the heck out of them is a good way to reinforce the notion that your yard is not a good place to stay and live. Fluttering flags or streamers in the trees can be a preventive measure that is simple and not dangerous to other animals.

Common squirrel deterrents for fruit trees include Ro-Pel, capsaicin or hot pepper oil and sticky topical applications for trunks and limbs. A simple metal collar 2 feet wide around the trunk of a tree prevents entry to the canopy of the fruit tree too.

Squirrel fruit tree protection is a challenge and may be a losing battle, but it couldn’t hurt to try some of these simple methods and maybe your favorite tree will produce beyond your wildest dreams.

How to Protect the Fruit on Fruit Trees

Fruit trees are an ideal addition to any garden, for their shade, beauty and delicious harvest. Unfortunately, humans aren’t the only ones that like the fruit trees’ bounty, so it can be difficult to get to the fruit before birds, animals or pests do. Keep some important things in mind when trying to protect fruit trees from pests such as birds, squirrels and raccoons.

Scare off birds by tying shiny objects to tree branches around the fruit. The shiny glares or rainbow prisms the objects throw off makes birds nervous and frightened. You can hang these things up during harvesting season, then remove them.

Use netting for the most efficient way to deter birds and critters. But although it is efficient, it is tricky and takes time to do correctly. For young fruit trees, it is simple to throw netting over the top, but mature fruit trees can be hard to cover. Use a ladder or multiple helpers depending on the type of netting you purchase. Also make sure there are no holes at the bottom where the net meets the tree trunk, as animals can squirm underneath and get through.

Distribute predator scents around the fruit tree to deter animals, such as wolves, owls or snakes. They come in liquid or dry forms and are quite easy to apply. These need to be applied regularly though, especially in a wet season where they may not be as effective.

Discourage climbing animals such as raccoons and squirrels by wrapping a 3- to 5-foot band of thin sheetmetal around the trunk. Cut away any small twigs or footholds for animals on the trunk of the tree. Raccoons give up especially easily, so they won’t try too hard if they have no way to get up the fruit tree.

How to keep hungry squirrels out of fruit trees | The Sacramento Bee

Garden Detective: The Western gray squirrel is native to oak-pine forests in California’s foothills, but it likes backyard fruit trees, too. Matthew Vander Haegen

Experts tackle readers’ garden questions.

Q: They’re furry, cute, cuddly and fun to watch, but gray squirrels can also be very destructive around the house and in the yard. Is there a humane way to keep them away without doing them any harm? We’d like to enjoy a few Golden Delicious apples this summer; last year, the squirrels were very greedy and didn’t leave us a single one!

Bob Sloan, Auburn

Bee garden writer Debbie Arrington: I feel your anguish. The squirrels over-run our fruit trees, too. It’s a continuous battle over our backyard harvest. Squirrel patrol keeps our German shepherd busy!

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A dog with full run of the backyard is likely your best non-lethal defense against these invaders. But there are some ways to at least dissuade their fruit thefts.

According to the University of California Integrated Pest Management Pest Notes, four species of tree squirrels – two native, two non-native – inhabit California. Because of where you live, your apple eaters are likely Western gray squirrels, which are native to oak and pine-oak woodlands in the foothills. These squirrels have fluffy gray tales and white chests. In the wild, their diet is mostly acorns, seeds, fungi and other plant material.

(The other gray squirrel in our area is the Eastern gray squirrel, which has a flatter tail and red-brown flecks in its gray coat. It was introduced to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, but has established itself in Sacramento and San Joaquin counties.)

Western gray squirrels are considered game animals by the California Fish and Game Code and can only be controlled under hunting regulations. Before attempting to trap or remove these squirrels, a permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is needed along with “satisfactory evidence of actual or immediately threatened damage or destruction” of your property. (Take photos of those half-eaten apples.)

When a permit is issued, it may designate what kind of trap may be used and where a squirrel can be released, such as in a park.

It’s illegal in California to use poison bait (such as rodenticide) to kill any tree squirrels. Also, you may not trap and release a tree squirrel elsewhere without a CDFW permit.

To discourage squirrels (without a permit), make your apples harder for squirrels to access.

“Anything that can be done to make a garden less attractive to squirrels is helpful,” say UC pest experts.

Cut branches away from the roof, fencetop or telephone lines. That can slow the speedy squirrels as they try to jump into the apple tree.

Sacrificing the harvest on one fruit tree may save another. Leave one fruit tree unprotected while using bird netting to protect the fruit on the other. Although the squirrels can chew through plastic netting, it’s less work for them to go to the unprotected tree’s open buffet.

As for repellents, it’s hard to protect the fruit while it’s hanging on the tree with a spray. You could try repellents on the route the squirrels use to access your tree, such as along the top of a fence. Grannick’s Bitter Apple spray, available at PetSmart and other stores, repels squirrels (they don’t like the smell or taste). Cayenne pepper, sprinkled across the squirrels’ likely paths, also works as a deterrent (they hate hot stuff), but remember – red pepper may stain.

For more information on tree squirrels and possible controls, see the UC IPM Pest Notes at ipm.ucanr.edu.

The Bee’s Debbie Arrington is a consulting rosarian and lifelong gardener; [email protected], 916-321-1075, @debarrington.

Garden questions?

Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties. Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h&[email protected] Please put “Garden Detective” in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact UC Extension directly, call:

Request to Master Gardeners of Contra Costa’s Help Desk: I discovered today that aprox 10-15 upper branches on my large ( 8 ft) Rose of Sharon tree (Hibiscus syriacus) have large sections of bark chewed off, likely by a grey squirrel (yard is fenced in, so no deer in the area). Is there a way I can cover the wounds before the tree dries out? Also, what is a recommended way to repel squirrels without scaring off the birds?

Advice From MGCC’s Help Desk: Thank you for contacting the Master Gardener help desk. Squirrels are very likely the culprits. They frequently chew bark on a wide variety of trees and shrubs to get at the sweet sap running just below the bark. This usually happens in the spring. The sap, running in what is called the phloem, contains nutrients made by the leaves that are being transported to other parts of the plant. The bark is the “skin” covering this vascular system.
Your garden buddy…NOT!! If the squirrels ate the bark only on one side of the branches (less than one quarter of the circumference), the branch will survive and the wound will eventually heal over without intervention. With more than one quarter eaten, the odds of survival decrease (if it’s chewed all the way around, there’s no hope). So, examine the branches carefully, prune back any with a lot of damage, and leave any with less damage. Don’t use anything to cover the wounds. Research has shown that covering wounds can delay healing and encourage fungal growth. The tree can seal the injury and then cover it in time.
Here is a link to information from the University of California on tree squirrel management: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74122.html. You will find a section that talks about exclusion, which is almost impossible in trees, but is really the only non-lethal method for keeping squirrels out of an area. While there are many squirrel repellents on the market (many licensed for use in California), they are not particularly effective. Also, tree squirrels become acclimated to sound and lights, so these don’t work as deterrents, either. The information also talks about trapping and killing squirrels, but another squirrel may move into the open territory and continue the damage. It is not legal in California to trap and relocate squirrels (or any other animals).
One possible solution to prevent the squirrels from eating the tree bark might be to use a motion-sensing water sprinkler (for example http://amzn.to/1IgUT3V)) aimed at where the squirrels access the tree. Squirrels don’t like water, so this may work to keep them away. You should only need this in the spring and early summer while the sap is most attractive. Another possible solution is that if the only access to the tree is up the main trunk you might consider a sheet metal wrap of the main trunk covering at least 18″, but it won’t work if the squirrels can bypass by jumping from the ground or another source (fence, etc.)… and it wouldn’t look too great (maybe paint it?).
Good luck!
Master Gardeners of Contra Costa Help Desk

Note: The Master Gardeners of Contra Costa’s Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we’re open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: [email protected], or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/

DEAR JOAN: We have a lovely Japanese maple tree in our front yard. I noticed the other day a squirrel was tearing away the outer bark on the tree.

When I went outside to further inspect, there are several areas on the tree that are now missing bark. I am afraid that this might damage the health of our beautiful tree.

I was thinking of ways to keep the squirrels away from the tree itself, but that would be rather problematic as they tend to jump down onto the tree from the roof of our house. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can keep these guys from killing our tree?

Lisa Verley, Bay Area

DEAR LISA: The squirrels have certainly been making a nuisance of themselves. I get a few letters every day with some new atrocity they have committed.

How much damage they will do to your maple tree depends on the age of the tree, its general health and how much bark has been removed. All trees can withstand a little bark removal is they are well established, but stripping bark from the circumference of a limb will cause the limb to die.

Squirrels have a particular fondness for maples, using the bark to line their nests but also to chew on when food is scarce. Gnawing on the tree also helps keep their teeth from growing too long.

Most damage occurs in the early spring or early winter, so if you believe in such things, this could be a sign that we’re in for a long, cold winter.

Exclusion is your best hope. Trim the tree away from the house and wrap the trunk in metal flashing. It should go up 4 to 5 feet, and be snug enough to keep the squirrels from getting in between the metal and the tree, but not so tight as to restrict the tree’s growth. The smooth metal will prevent the squirrels from climbing into the tree from the ground.

You also can try hanging reflective discs in the tree. The flashes of light can discourage the squirrels. Another idea is to wrap the tree’s trunk and limbs — as much as you can — in gopher wire, which is like chicken wire but with much smaller openings. The wire won’t stop the chewing, but it can help stopping them from stripping off large pieces.

You also can give the squirrels an alternative to your maple tree, perhaps by leaving an offering of wood and bedding material for them to use instead of your tree.

Pet Pal Connection

I’m excited to announce a new online page for pet lovers. We’ll have some columns from experts on topics related to aging pets and pet finances; I’ll be writing about why our pets do all the strange things they do; and you’ll have a chance to have your pet’s photo featured on the site.

Pet Pal Connection will launch next week on all of our Bay Area News Group websites, and I’ll be writing a weekly newsletter that will arrive in your inbox once a week with links to stories and other fun things.

Sign up for the newsletter here and send us your cutest pictures of your napping pets here. Check out the sweetness on Tuesday, and look for information on our next photo request.

Why do squirrels strip tree bark?

A: According to university and wildlife sources, it’s not clearly known why squirrels strip bark from trees, but some believe they might be gnawing for minerals. Pregnant squirrels strip bark more often than other squirrels. Porcupines also gnaw tree bark, but the teeth marks are larger, and squirrels often leave a pile of bark below the tree, while porcupines consume most of it.

It’s not easy to exclude squirrels if the canopies from surrounding trees intermingle with your trees. If trees are isolated, metal trunk bands can work. Once the damage is done, research has shown that pruning paints or dressings don’t help. Leaving the wound open promotes better healing. If the edges are ragged, they can be trimmed smooth with a knife for a cleaner wound that heals neater.

Q: Can you transplant the whole plant of asparagus after the spring harvest? — Chuck Vancura

A: If asparagus is older and well-established, it can be difficult to move successfully because the roots are deep and extensive. Younger plants are easier to move. Transplanting in early spring before any growth begins is less stressful on plants than moving during the active growing season. Even though the asparagus has been harvested, the roots and underground stems are still active. Allow the fern-like tops to grow, and leave them on the plant through winter.

If you have no other choice or are willing to take a risk, then the asparagus could be moved now, although next spring would be better before growth begins. If you decide to move it now, increase the success rate by preparing the new planting site and digging the hole in advance. Move the asparagus as quickly as possible, protecting the roots from drying out during the relocation. Then plant and water immediately.

Q: I am having my house resided, and my peonies are along the back side. If I cut them down this time of year, will they come back next year? The plants are about 20 years old. — Joanne, West Fargo.

A: Peonies need their foliage after blooming to feed the roots, replenish the plant and form buds for next year’s growth and flowers. Cutting it back before September could diminish next year’s bloom, and could stress next years’ regrowth of the plant itself. If there is any way to protect the plants, that would be preferred. Even if the plants get mistreated a bit during the construction it might be better than cutting them back too soon. Moving peonies is also difficult in mid-summer, as September is the best time.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at [email protected] All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

Every year backyard fruit trees are robbed of their bounty, frustrating gardeners. Here are five tips for protecting your trees.


Critters can’t eat what they can’t reach. Prune trees about 6 feet away from buildings and fences. This might not be possible in smaller lots where trees are planted alongside structures, but do what you can and take that into account the next time you plant trees.

Climbing deterrents

When delicious fruit is the reward, even poor climbers can find the motivation to scale a tree trunk and get to it. To stop the climbing, loosely wrap trunks in metal flashing, extending about 4 feet above the ground.

The flashing should be tight enough to keep animals from slipping in from the bottom and squeezing between the flashing and trunk, but loose enough that it gives the tree room to grow. You also can take the guards off during the dormant seasons.

Baffles also can work. Install the umbrella shaped baffle just below the first branches on the tree. The animal may climb the tree, but won’t be able to get around the baffle to access the rest of the tree and the fruit.

Other barriers

Netting can be effective for some animals, but it depends on your fruit thief and the type of fruit you’re trying to protect. Squirrels and rodents can gnaw through plastic netting, and birds can peck through openings in the net.

Nets also are difficult to install, especially on very tall trees. They can, however, preserve much of the fruit. If you keep your fruit trees small with pruning, you can more easily cover them.

Some gardeners use PC pipes to build structures over the trees that can then be draped with netting, or covered in wire mesh for added protection.

Getting creative

To discourage birds and some animals, hang reflective ribbons in trees. The movement of the ribbons in the wind, coupled with random flashes of light, can help keep animals out of your trees.

Chemical warfare

If the fruit thief is a rodent, you also can try spraying the tree and the fruit with a hot pepper spray that you make yourself or use a commercial spray. Squirrels have a particular dislike for the smell of capsaicin, the stuff in peppers that give them their heat.

  • Recipe: You’ll need powdered red pepper (the hotter the better), water and some liquid soap. In a large jug, stir 2 tablespoons of the pepper into a gallon of warm water, then add six drops of liquid soap. Stir well, put the lid on and let it sit overnight. Early the next morning, pour some of the solution into a spray bottle, shake well and spray your plants, fences, or whatever the squirrels are after. At dusk, you can apply a second coat. Continue this for a few days or until the squirrels get the idea. After that, you may only need to spray once a week. The mixture will keep for two to three weeks in the refrigerator.

Some critters also have an aversion to the smell of mothballs. As mothballs can be toxic, use caution. The balls should be placed in a mesh bag — old pantyhose is a good material — and hung in trees.

Imagine waiting an entire season for the fruit to ripen on your backyard tree, and then going out one day to find all the fruit gone.

Below is a list of 5 things you can do to keep squirrels out of your fruit trees. But before getting into the list, here are some tips to remember:

Experiment with various squirrel control methods. What works for one person’s circumstances may not be as effective for another. Try using several deterrent methods at once. If one particular deterrent doesn’t scare away hungry squirrels, two or more methods implemented together might be enough to cause the average squirrel to change his mind and look elsewhere for ripening fruit.

Also, some squirrel deterrent methods work only for a short time before the squirrels figure them out, so you may need to mix things up and alternate between methods in order to keep squirrels out of fruit trees.

From simple to complex, here are 5 methods for keeping squirrels out of fruit trees:

1) Do nothing. Surprisingly, I have seen instances where squirrels will eat all the fruit from a tree one year but the next year will hardly touch it. This is most likely due to the culprit being deceased and subsequent generations looking elsewhere for food.

2) Let your dog out. Assuming you have a fenced in yard, this method can work well because nearly all breeds of dogs love to chase squirrels. However, it won’t work if the squirrels can gain access to your fruit tree from the branches of neighboring trees or from a roof, fence or any other structure that would allow the squirrels to stay above the ground and out of your dog’s reach.

3) Give the squirrels an alternative food source located away from your fruit tree. place squirrel feeders in some other part of your yard and keep them well stocked. This will not eliminate the loss of fruit from your tree but can greatly reduce it. Remember also that squirrels are very territorial: the idea that feeding squirrels will bring more squirrels into your yard is not true.

4) Use Christmas ornament hooks to hang shiny, wavy and noisy things in your fruit tree. This can be anything from old CDs that will spin in the wind and make shiny flashes of light, to simple ribbons of brightly colored material that will blow in the wind and create motion and movement in the tree that squirrels are not accustomed to. Again, as mentioned in my tips above, squirrels will eventually figure out there’s no danger, so switch them out for other items every couple of days (thus the reason for the Christmas ornament hooks, which make it easy to swap out the hanging items.) Also try strips of aluminum foil, aluminum pie trays, wind chimes, Styrofoam cups, empty one gallon water jugs, wind socks, etc. Just be aware that your neighbors might think your yard is beginning to look like a garbage dump.

5) Attach a metal barrier around the trunk of the tree to prevent squirrels from being able to climb up the trunk. Then trim low hanging branches, and the connecting branches from adjacent trees in order to isolate your fruit tree.

Make the metal barrier using sheet metal such as tin or aluminum.
It should cover a section of the trunk at least two feet tall to prevent the squirrels from climbing past it. It should be situated about six feet from the ground so that squirrels can not leap beyond it from the ground. It’s best not to drive nails or screws into the trunk of your tree, instead try rolling the sheet metal into a circumference smaller than that of the tree trunk so that the metal has to be expanded when installed on the trunk and when released will then grip the tree trunk itself by trying to return to its smaller diameter. You can also bend inward, the two corners that contact the tree’s bark, the same way you would dog-ear the page of a book. This will cause the sheet metal to grip the bark with greater strength, (when working with sharp metal, wear gloves.)

It’s extremely important that you remove it at the end of the fruit season, otherwise it will eventually deform the tree. The trunk above and below the metal barrier will continue to grow and increase in diameter while the portion of the trunk that is wrapped in metal will not grow. You can use the same piece of metal for next year’s fruit season it’s just that it can not remain on the tree all year long.

Also keep in mind that this method will not work if the tree is close to your house where squirrels can jump from the roof into the tree. The same thing goes for fences or any other structure from which a squirrel could leap to a branch of the tree.

Here’s hoping for baskets of fruit you and your family will be enjoying this year.

For more information, check out the home page of How To Stop Squirrels.

Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.

— Gary Snyder, poet

Dear Gary:

I read your March 23 column on “Who’s eating the oranges?” You said roof rats. I heard it could be both squirrels and roof rats. Two days ago, I looked into my yard and saw with my own eyes, a squirrel eating the inside of an orange. Sounds to me like it’s whoever is hungry. The thought of roof rats in my yard gives me the creeps.


Los Altos

Dear Barbara:

Squirrels will occasionally eat oranges, but it’s usually roof rats. Way to tell them apart is what time of day the oranges are being eaten. If it’s during the day, blame the squirrels. If the oranges get eaten at night, it’s roof rats.

Check your orange tree first thing in the morning, and again just before dark. That way you can tell when the oranges are getting munched.

Dear Gary:

We have a cat and a kitty door as we don’t like litter boxes in the house.

We have lived in this house for years and never had a problem before with raccoons using the kitty door to come in and eat the cat’s food. Now they come in and they even tried to drag out the cat food container, but it didn’t fit through the kitty door!

We now close the kitty door at night as kitty is content sleeping with us. But occasionally we forget and find evidence that a raccoon came into the house to eat!

What do you suggest we do? We have a pool and the raccoons also like our backyard. Please help!

Gloria & David,

San Jose

Dear Gloria & David:

First: Leave a note on your bedroom door to remind yourself to close the cat door at night!

Second: Send me an email or write a letter with a legal-size SASE (with two stamps) enclosed, and I’ll send you a copy of my free, seven-page “Gary’s Raccoon Help.” It’s full of ideas on humane ways to deal with raccoons.

Dear Gary:

Where can we find fireflies to watch in San Jose?

Theresa Rodgers,

San Jose

Dear Theresa:

There are no fireflies in California, which of course means none in San Jose.

Most fireflies are found east of Kansas. They are occasionally spotted west as far as the Rockies, but none west of the Rockies. They like to do their sparking in hot, muggy areas.

Contact Gary Bogue at [email protected]; or write Gary, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.

What Do Squirrels Like To Eat?

There are many varieties of squirrels found across America, including red squirrels, ground squirrels, grey squirrels, fox squirrels, flying squirrels, black squirrels, striped squirrels, and many more. Squirrels are part of the Sciuridae family of mammals, closely related to chipmunks, prairie dogs, and woodchucks. What do squirrels eat? Well, squirrels just happen to eat a lot of things. Squirrels are not picky eaters. If you have spent any time observing the eating habits of common squirrels, this is clear. Squirrels have a natural appetite for many native fruits, flowers, veggies, fungi, nuts, tree, plants and insects to their habitat. But there are not many boundaries in relation to the squirrels dining habits. They will curiously try just about anything, and have in fact become fond of many foods that they probably should not be eating, such as kids’ favorite sugary snacks and cereals. Squirrels are open-minded when it comes to food. If you are looking to provide food for squirrels check our squirrel feeder article.

Having expanded their palates, they’ve picked up some strange new eating habits as humans and squirrels have come to share more and more space together. In addition to the usual suspects: acorns, pecans, berries, and veggies, squirrels are accepting of food remnants discarded in parks, or anywhere for that matter. Things such as sandwiches, old lunch meat, burger scraps, are just a few things squirrels may nibble on. With the tenacity to purloin treats meant for other animals, such as Fido’s dog food, Kitty-Cat’s kibble, and that bird seed you put out for, well, the birds, squirrels seem to get more than their fair share. Below, you will find a smorgasbord of snacks that squirrels enjoy eating:

What Do Squirrels Eat?

Squirrels eat fruit with enthusiasm. If you happen to live near a fruit tree, or fruit bushes and vines, you’ve most likely noticed squirrels happily munching and hoarding these delicious goodies for themselves. Squirrels can climb fruit trees with ease to snatch their fruits. Squirrels consume the harvest from a variety of fruiting trees, including but not limited to pears, grapes, apples, kiwi, avocados, peaches, nectarines, figs, plums, mangoes, and citrus. Squirrels will also eat any berries they can get their hands on such as strawberries, blackberries, blue berries, raspberries, mulberries, and more. Squirrels also love bananas, watermelons, cantaloupe (any melon, in general), and cherries! The benefit of eating fruit for squirrels is that it gives them a major sugar-boost and provides lots of energy to keep scrambling around and foraging for more goodies.


Squirrels eat a variety of vegetables, and gardeners know this all too well. If a squirrels happens upon any leafy green such as lettuce, chard, kale, spinach, or arugula, they will chow down. Squirrels will also eat other delicious veggies such as tomatoes, radishes, corn, squash, beans, corn, peas, root vegetables, greens (such as beet greens and the greens of any root vegetables), okra, eggplant, brusssell sprouts, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, celery, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks–basically anything they can get their hungry little paws on!


Many backyard squirrel-watchers feed cereal to squirrels. Squirrels naturally love the grains and nuts incorporated into most cereals. Chex, Cheerios, Cap’n Crunch, shredded wheat, corn flakes, grape nuts–squirrels devour these tasty treats. An added perk to many cereals for squirrels is that they’re typically loaded with sugar, which gives the squirrel a boost of energy to keep busy finding more food to eat and stash away for later. Unnaturally sugary cereals aren’t exactly Mother Nature’s idea of a perfect squirrel snack, but the squirrel has a rather devil-may-care attitude towards what it puts in its bottomless belly.


Of course, a squirrel wouldn’t normally come across cheese in a natural setting, but with humans leaving all sorts of savory treats behind when eating outdoors, and when tossing kitchen scraps, squirrels have developed a keen taste for cheese. Squirrels aren’t picky about cheese. They’ll busily munch away on chunks of cheddar, swiss, provolone, mozzarella, and anything else that they come across. Sure, they’ll even eat you cheesy pizza scraps if it’s available! Squirrels aren’t picky about how they consume their cheese either, whether it’s in a discarded grilled cheese sandwich, left-over cheese and cracker sandwiches, or whether it’s simply a hunk of slightly moldy cheese discarded in a residential compost pile. A good piece of cheese can give a squirrel an extra bit of fat to store for leaner times, such as during the winter months.


Squirrels are absolutely fanatical about nuts. Nuts about nuts, if you will! If you live near a nut tree, chances are good that you can quickly spot a busy squirrel, bustling around in the branches, with a nut or two–or more–that it will store for later. If you’re hoping to eat those nuts yourself, you may resent the squirrel’s busy, greedy habits. In this case, you may need to install something to deter the squirrel from hoarding your nut harvest, such as a metal sheet wrapped around the tree trunk that will keep the squirrel from being able to climb it. On the flip side, the squirrel’s activity can be good for the tree species, as squirrels help spread seeds far and wide, helping to ensure the chances of certain tree species’ growth and survival. Nuts may be one of squirrels most naturally desired foods. Squirrels will eat nuts and will also stash them away in caches for eating later on. As far as one of their favorite foods go, what do squirrels eat? Squirrels enthusiastically collect and eat pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, acorns, cashews, chestnuts, hickory nuts, pine nuts out of pine cones, and macadamia nuts. Nuts are an optimal source of fat and protein for all types of squirrels.


Most backyard bird-watchers have a plentiful supply of birdseed available in their yards for birds, of course. But another critter satisfied by a hearty meal of birdseed is the common squirrel. Even when birds are present, a squirrel will not hesitate to get in on the birdseed action and will stuff their bellies with this readily available snack that humans are all to happy to provide. Of course, birdseed contains a mixture of some of squirrels favorite edibles, such as seeds, grains, and nuts.


If fruits and nuts aren’t readily available, a squirrel will resort to eating small insects to satisfy their need for protein. Some insects devoured by squirrels include caterpillars, larvae, winged bugs, grasshoppers, injured butterflies, and crickets, to name a few.


Squirrels are foragers, and love foraging for mushrooms. In more natural environments, such as forests, squirrels can find a variety of great fungi depending on climate. Some favorite fungi include acorn truffles, truffles, oyster mushrooms, and more. In fact, squirrels may sometimes leave mushrooms and fungi out to dry in order to eat it at a later period. Squirrels will also elect to eat lichen, which is the smaller fungi that tends to grow in moist areas on the bark of many, especially mature, trees.


When other food sources are hard to find, a squirrel may have to take what it can get. This sometimes includes stealing eggs from other animals, or even eggs from your chicken coop. When necessary, squirrels may prey on robin eggs, blackbird eggs, and more. Also when necessary, squirrels will not short stop of eating hatchlings, young chicks, baby birds, and the carcasses of unfortunate chicks that have fallen from their nests.

Plant Material

Squirrels will forage for and eat roots, leaves, grass, plants stalks, and anything else with sufficient nutritional value to them. Squirrels tend to go for the most tender and/or young stalks and branches of plants, soft twigs, and supple bark. Soft tips of new growth, newly unfurled leaves, sprouts, and succulent flower buds are also sure to catch the attention of a passing squirrel who is scouring the land for a food opportunity. Mentioned above was the squirrel species’ love of nuts and bird seed, so naturally, they also love to eat seeds from plants, such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, safflower seeds, poppy seeds, and any other available seeds. Also, if it’s any surprise at this point, squirrels will eat your prized poppy blossoms, they’ll chomp you hibiscus blooms, the petals of your passionflower, and the plant bulbs that you were hoping would break ground in the spring.

Dog and Cat Food

Being the omnivorous scavengers that they are, squirrels have picked up a few strange eating habits along the way and will not hesitate to pack away a few dozen pieces of dog or cat kibble, and will most likely come back for more, if they find an established spot where it’s readily available. The hungry, opportunistic squirrel may even be so bold as to snack on wet cat food, or canned dog food although it is not good for them.

Scraps and Waste

Next time you take out the garbage, or leave the remnants of your weekend picnic in the garbage can at the park, you might keep in mind that in addition to other scavengers, a hungry squirrel might be rooting around in there later, sampling you frosted birthday cake scraps, or tossed sandwich crusts. It’s undeniable that squirrels are great at recycling and composting our sometimes excessive food waste. On the other hand, certain processed, sugary, and unnatural foods can be detrimental to the squirrels digestion and health.

Is There Anything They Don’t Eat?

At this point, you may wonder if there is anything that squirrels won’t eat! Is nothing safe, nothing sacred? Fortunately, there are a few things that they simply do not prefer. Raw onions, for example, and raw garlic. They certainly don’t like hot peppers–such as jalapeños, serrano peppers, anaheim peppers, these spicy varieties growing from bushes are logically passed over. In fact, pepper spray is widely used as a deterrent in gardens to keep squirrels from eating prized vegetables and fruit. Garlic spray is also used as a deterrent for hungry, brazen squirrels. Dogs and cats with a tendency to hunt will also keep at least a portion of squirrels at bay as well. In addition to what they don’t like, there are also things that squirrels shouldn’t eat; for example, dairy products, chocolate, junk food, candy, highly processed foods they may find in trash cans, and even many of the foods that they love such as sugary cereals would not normally be eaten by a squirrel in a perfect world. However, a squirrel is a busy animal, and because it is so busy, plenty of fuel is a must. Squirrels are the ultimate foodies, enjoying a healthy serving of fruits and veggies, nuts, and grains when available, and getting by on more questionable eats when necessary. Especially when times are rough, the hungry squirrel is not about to snub his nose at that stale pizza crust, or discarded avocado skin. So, next time you see a busy critter hustling around, in the city, or in the garden, and you wonder what do squirrels eat, exactly? Well, just about anything.

Thread: Citrus seeds and skin question

I give my squirrels citrus – mainly oranges and limes. With the oranges I feed segments with the seeds removed unless it is the seedless clementine and then I just give them the segment. With the limes, I cut in quarters and remove the seeds, leaving the skin on.
I recently bought some kumquats; I have never eaten them but had always heard how you can eat the skin and all. Well I discovered they have seeds in them. Can the seeds be eaten as well? by humans? by squirrels. It is heck trying to get all the seeds out of a kumquat, they had a lot!
I have wild oranges growing on our property. They are too sour to eat for most people to eat unless you are one of those people who love sour things. They are smaller than a lime but bigger than a kumquat. I have not seen the wild squirrels eating these although I suspect they do. I do not have much luck witnessing the wild squirrels eating anything except for when they come to us for a nut or if they make mad dashes for the corn we give to the ducks and geese!
Would it be a safe thing to let my squirrels try a whole orange? My thought is that I have three that will be released in the spring so I would like to introduce them to this if it will be something they need to know about. I imagine they will spit any seeds out but is there anything horrible in the seed if a silly squirrel were to eat it or chew on it? Anything horrible in the skin?
Just some additional information on my trees. I believe they are what is considered the original orange trees and what the current orange trees are grafted onto. They are supposed to be a lot more hardy than other orange trees and that is why the growers use the sour orange root stock for the base and graft the nice sweeter oranges to them. They grow tall and skinny
and the trunk is covered in 2 to 3 inch barbs. When the blossoms are blooming, I swear they smell even better than the other citrus trees. I think this fruit is sought after by the Hispanic community and I think the Asian community for use in sauces for cooking.

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