Do Squirrels Eat Snakes?

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: April 21, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Dgwildlife
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When you think of squirrels at their mealtimes, you probably picture a cute squirrel happily and safely munching on a sizable nut. You probably don’t imagine it tearing a snake’s insides out to get to its guts. However, there’s been a lot of talk about squirrels eating snakes. This article dives into their diets to answer the question: “Do squirrels eat snakes?”

Do Squirrels Eat Snakes?

Eastern Gray Squirrel
Squirrels are omnivorous and sometimes eat snakes.

iStock.com/Helen Davies

Squirrels are omnivorous animals. This means that they feed on both plants and animals. They eat green veggies, fruits, fungi, buds, and seeds. They also feed on flesh and so, in simple terms, yes, squirrels eat snakes. However, due to their size, they mostly go for small snakes that they can hunt down, fight, kill, and then eat.

Squirrels also eat bird eggs and even small birds or chicks. Their diets even contain the occasional insect and small animal.

Squirrels and Rattlesnake Venom

uinta ground squirrel eating blade of grass
Ground squirrels have a certain level of resistance to the venom of rattlesnakes.

iStock.com/Michael Chatt

Squirrels often fight venomous rattlers and win. This isn’t simply by chance or just because they are good fighters. Instead, their venom resistance also helps.

Various research has proven that ground squirrels have a certain level of resistance to the venom of rattlesnakes. The level of resistance depends on the size and age of both the squirrel and the snake as well as the snake’s venom yield per bite. 

Having a level of resistance to the venom of rattlesnakes allows squirrels to hunt, fight, and kill snakes. It also enables them to protect their young.

Squirrels and Rattlesnake Perfume

Rattlesnake Inside Mouth
Ground squirrels often coat themselves in rattlesnake perfume.

iStock.com/DaveGartland

Apart from hunting down rattlesnakes for food, squirrels have other tricks up their sleeves. Ground squirrels are often found chewing on the old skins of rattlesnakes and coating themselves in the rattlesnake’s scent. They coat themselves by licking their furs right after chewing on the snake’s old skin.

Doing this makes them less appealing to other rattlesnakes and it’s easy to see why. Snakes are less eager to prey on ground squirrels that smell like they’ve eaten a rattlesnake. This method is one of the many used by ground squirrels to survive in the wild.

5 Animals That Squirrels Eat

Squirrels’ diets consist mainly of veggies even though they are omnivores. They seem to prefer hunting for veggies and this is probably because it is easier. Mostly, squirrels eat meat when the opportunity arises. This means that they might not go in search of meat if they have a supply of nuts and vegetables.

They are quick to raid unguarded bird nests, unwatched baby chicks, or baby snakes when they are hungry. This is why they are often referred to as opportunistic foragers.

Squirrels do not only feed on snakes when their desire for meat arises. They get their proteins from several animals. You already know that squirrels eat snakes but here are 5 more animals that squirrels eat.

Birds

A male Savannah Sparrow perching on a weedy plant
Squirrels love to munch on stolen eggs and birds.

Frode Jacobsen/Shutterstock.com

Squirrels love to munch on stolen eggs and even stolen baby birds. They are adept hunters when the need arises and can snatch birds right out of their nests. Although they mainly go for smaller birds, it isn’t unusual for a squirrel to catch an adult sparrow. Squirrels are also quick and fast on their feet which allows them to compete with birds and often win.

Mice and Other Rodents

Species Of Mammals
Rodents can be hunted by wild squirrels.

iStock.com/alkir

Squirrels, especially wild ones, often hunt mice and other rodents. Mostly they aim for small rodents that are similar to mice such as kangaroo rats and pocket mice. Squirrels even hunt and kill rabbits. Their teeth are strong enough to tear into flesh and break bones. Remember that squirrels can chew through a piece of wire and so a bite from them is definitely painful and capable of drawing blood.

Insects

close up of grasshopper on blade of grass
Squirrels eat insects such as grasshoppers and butterflies.

iStock.com/Eileen Kumpf

Squirrels are no strangers to munchy insect grub. They are known to feast on grasshoppers, caterpillars, butterflies, crickets, larvae, and winged bugs. These smaller insects are much easier for them to hunt as well and while they might not be a squirrel’s first choice, they are definitely on the menu.

Other Squirrels

As twisted as it might sound, squirrels do eat other squirrels though this happens more opportunistically. They aren’t likely to attack and eat other squirrels without cause, however, and only do this in cases of extreme hunger.

Chickens

Apart from raiding nests, squirrels sometimes go for chickens and chicks. Mostly larger chickens are usually avoided except the squirrel is wild, hungry, and determined. It is more common for smaller chicks to be stolen away from their mothers and eaten.

5 Amazing Facts About Squirrels

  • Squirrels Plant Trees:  A lot of squirrels bury nuts that they do not end up digging out of the ground. These nuts often turn into trees.
  • Squirrels Are Really Fast: Squirrels can run at a speed of up to 20 miles per hour!
  • A Squirrel’s Front Teeth Never Stop Growing: Squirrels have full sets of teeth. Gray squirrels have 22 teeth while other breeds have 20. However, squirrels also have two prominent front teeth that never stop growing! Their front teeth, which are their four incisors, grow about 6 inches each year. Squirrels keep this growth in check by gnawing and chewing on hard nuts and seeds. 
  • There Are Over 65 Different Types of Squirrels Living In The US: Of the known 200 species of squirrels, the USA is home to 65. The red squirrel which is mostly found in North America is the most popular squirrel breed.
  • Squirrels Are Amazing Foragers: Squirrels spend a large chunk of their lives burying food and another large piece searching and discovering food. Since they act according to the optimal foraging theory, it is safe to refer to them as foragers. Squirrels are really good at foraging. A squirrel can find food hidden beneath up to 1 foot of snow. They are also amazing acrobats and this helps them as they find food. 

Eastern Gray Squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel
iStock.com/Dgwildlife
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