You might already have an idea of what squirrels eat, but do you know what eats squirrels? These furry critters have a number of natural predators that they are constantly trying to avoid. There are actually quite a few different animals that target squirrels for a hardy meal in the wild.
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What Eats Squirrels?
It is important to keep in mind that not all squirrels have the same natural predators to worry about. Some of the animals that hunt squirrels include ravens, hawks, owls, magpies, badgers, eagles, raccoons, skunks, snakes, and minks. Even cats and dogs have been known to go after squirrels when given the opportunity.
What Are Squirrels Natural Predators?
What Eats Squirrels? As mentioned, there are several kinds of predators including other mammals that want to eat squirrels. At the top of this food chain are larger birds like hawks and owls, then snakes followed by bobcats and foxes. These predators will vary depending on the types of habitats in which they live.
Squirrels are preyed upon by raptors, wild cats and humans.These types of predators include the Northern harrier, Red-tailed hawk and Great horned owl. Raptors can be found in deciduous or coniferous forests and hunt by swooping down to pick up squirrels in their talons to eat them.
Birds Will Eat Squirrels
There are quite a few different types of birds that go after squirrels, including hawks and owls. These birds have a huge advantage on other predators, as they strike from above. For instance, an owl will fly around or just in a tree looking for an opportunity to dive down and catch their prey.
These animals are extraordinary hunters, and they rarely lose whatever they set their sights on. An eagle has very keen eyesight, which allows them to see even small rodents on the ground from way up in the sky.
Squirrels try to stay away from wide open spaces, as this makes them a big target for avian predators. Whenever they do find themselves in such an area, they are continually looking up and around.
When a bird swoops down to get a squirrel, they will latch onto it with their razor sharp claws and return to their nest. Sometimes a bird will kill one of these animals out of sheer territoriality.
Some Reptiles Eat Squirrels
Some reptiles also pose a threat to squirrels in the wild. Snakes in particular are a big concern for these animals, as they are great at hiding and can strike without warning. Another advantage that snakes have with regards to hunting is that they can move over just about any terrain.
They can easily slither up a tree or through dense foliage with ease. Their bodies are made to constrict when going into tight spots, which can be very helpful in catching squirrels.
Once a snake has a squirrel cornered, it is almost impossible for their prey to get away. Some snakes are capable of spitting venom at their prey, which blinds them and causes paralysis. This definitely gives them the upper hand, even when going up against fast and agile animals like squirrels.
Rattlesnakes in particular often go after squirrels, and they have a fairly high success rate. This is primarily due to their lightning fast movements and highly potent venom. Squirrels can, however, sense the body heat of a rattlesnake that is nearby. These snakes tend to be found in areas where squirrels live and forage for food.
It is important to keep in mind that certain snakes are more effective hunters than others. A non-venomous snake is at a considerable disadvantage.
There are other reptiles that have been known to eat squirrels, including lizards, alligators, and crocodiles. Even the snapping turtle will sometimes go after small juvenile squirrels if given the opportunity. Snakes pose the greatest threat to squirrels, as they are skilled and effective hunters.
Cats and Dogs Also Eat Squirrels
Cats are also impressive hunters with excellent night vision and sharp claws for gripping their prey. It is not uncommon at all for a feline to chase down and kill a squirrel. Unlike a squirrel’s other predators, most cats don’t actually eat what they catch. It’s more about the chase than getting a meal. Even domesticated cats still retain their primal hunting instincts.
Even bobcats will sometimes chase down, kill and eat squirrels. While this is not their preferred choice of food, it does happen on a semi-frequent basis. These big cats are very fast and powerful, allowing them to catch their prey with ease most of the time.
Just because your cat spends most of its time in the house doesn’t mean it can’t effectively hunt down a variety of animals outside. Feral cats are more likely to eat what they catch, as they do not have a steady and reliable food source like domesticated felines.
Many domesticated dog breeds are also natural hunters. Some of the different breeds with strong hunting instincts include the Beagle, Bloodhound, Irish Setter, Pointer, and Labrador Retriever. These canines also love the chase but rarely actually eat any of the animals they manage to catch.
Foxes and Coyotes Eat Squirrels
It is fairly common for foxes and coyotes to target squirrels in the wild. These predators are very quick and have excellent hearing, which enables them to catch their prey easily. They always eat the animals they catch, but they don’t always succeed. A fast squirrel might not be able to outrun a fox or coyote, but it can dive into a hole in the ground to escape. They can also run up a tree, which will stop these four-legged animals in their tracks.
Parasites Eat Squirrels
Squirrels can also be adversely affected by a number of different parasites. These organisms do not actively hunt down animals to latch onto, as they are purely opportunistic.
Some of the more common parasites that can make trouble for these animals include roundworms, blowflies, and even ticks. While it is true that squirrels can carry quite a few different diseases, only handful of them can be passed onto humans.
Humans Eat Squirrels
It doesn’t stop there though. Some people, I know you won’t believe this, but it’s true… some people breed and raise squirrels for their meat.
Can you imagine eating your cute little pet squirrel? I hope you never have to experience that nightmare.
We might not think of ourselves as being a natural predator of the squirrel, but many human beings kill these animals each year. Squirrel hunting is quite popular across the United States, but there are other ways in which we affect them.
Some people put out traps to kill squirrels, as they are often seen as pests those with farms or gardens.
Which Defense Mechanisms do Squirrels have?
Squirrels possess a number of natural defense mechanisms that allow these animals to protect themselves against predators.
The dark coloration of squirrels makes it easy for them to blend in with their natural environment. This defense mechanism can be particularly effective when they are in trees. It can make it difficult for even the most keen-eyed predators to spot them. Camouflage is definitely among the best defense mechanisms an animal can have.
Believe it or not, even a squirrel’s tail can help them escape the clutches of a determined predator. These animals move their tail around rapidly to scare off other animals that pose a threat to them. It also serves as a means of distracting predators so the squirrel can make their escape.
A squirrel can turn its feet 180 degrees on a dime, allowing them to get up a nearby tree and evade predators quite effectively.
Perception of Sounds
Squirrels are very skilled at differentiating the sounds and vocalizations of other animals that are considered predators. This allows them to assess the level of danger when encountering a variety of animals in the wild. It helps them collect valuable information so they can respond accordingly.
How to Protect Squirrels Near Your Home
I know that they can be pests if you are finding them eating the birdseed in your backyard. We felt this way too before we decided to feed them, but there’s no reason why you cannot help shelter and protect them when they are in your yard.
If you want to do your part in keeping the squirrels in your area safe, you might want to build a shelter or two for them. It doesn’t take much time or skill to build a squirrel house. You also have the option of buying these little houses online or at a local pet store.
There are different types of squirrel houses to consider. A squirrel den will house a whole family of these animals, while a nesting box will give them a place to have their offspring and raise them.
Squirrel houses will provide these cute furry creatures a refuge from the harsh elements during the winter, as well as predators. Winter can be a brutal period of time for these animals. Even with a well-made nest in a tree, they can still struggle to keep themselves and their babies warm. Take the time to look into some of the different squirrel house designs online before you build one.
One huge benefit of providing the nearby squirrels with their own accommodations is that they will stay out of your house. Squirrels have been known to work their way into people’s attics, chimneys, and garages. They could even get inside of the walls of your home. If you put out one or two of these houses in your front or backyard, you might be able to avoid this altogether.
Frequently Asked Questions
What animals eat grey squirrels?
Grey squirrels are considered an invasive species in North America, meaning they’re classified as being harmful to our environment. They were originally introduced into the United States from England by people who wanted them for pets or fur farming.
What animals eat grey squirrels? Animals that eat gray squirrels include foxes, dogs, wolves.
Do raccoons eat squirrels?
Raccoons will eat squirrels or any other animal they come across on their foraging expeditions, but it appears as if they prefer to leave them alone as babies since they’re too small to be worth catching.
There are many different answers to the question of what eats squirrels, but they can vary depending on a number of factors. Some of these factors include the type of squirrel, geographic location, and availability of food. Squirrels are often hunted by snakes, lizards, cats, dogs, hawks, eagles, and other animals. While the squirrel may have quite a few natural predators, they also possess a handful of very useful defense mechanisms. If you want to do your part in protecting your local wildlife, you’ll want to think about building a couple of squirrel houses. These shelters will give the squirrels in your area a place to stay warm throughout the winter and avoid predators.