Squirrels are rodents known for their large bushy tails and agility when jumping from tree to tree. There are many different species of squirrels in various colors, including gray, brown, red, and sometimes even white. They are energetic and nimble little creatures, easily scampering up trees and leaping between branches. Squirrels can be found in a wide variety of habitats and are common in urban environments.
Squirrels are an important link in the food chain. As they are small, herbivorous creatures, squirrels are prey for many larger predators. In this article, we will explore the various animals that prey on squirrels and explain how predators manage to catch these quick and nimble rodents.
What Eats Squirrels?
Squirrels are vulnerable to a wide range of animals looking for their next meal. Birds of prey, snakes, coyotes, domestic cats, and even alligators are all potential predators of this furry little creature! See below for all the animals that hunt and kill squirrels.
Eagles are large birds known for their powerful talons and razor-sharp beaks. Eagles typically have black or brown feathers. While they are not the biggest bird of prey, they have a large wingspan of up to 8 feet wide, are able to grow up to 40 inches tall, and can weigh up to 20 pounds! Eagles hunt for squirrels by soaring the skies and scanning the ground and trees for prey. When they spot the unlucky squirrel, they will catch and kill it using their lightning-fast speed and talons, sometimes eating the squirrel whole!
Besides squirrels, their primary food is fish, followed by rabbits, snakes, and other small rodents.
Hawks are medium to large-sized birds of prey known for their sharp talons and even sharper eyesight. They have broad wings and a hooked beak. Hawks are smaller than eagles, but this doesn’t mean they are any less deadly! They hunt squirrels in the same way as eagles by roaming above the trees and scanning for their next meal. Once they spot a squirrel, they will swoop down and use their talons to catch and kill it.
Hawks also prey on a variety of other animals, including other rodents, birds, and reptiles.
3. Great Horned Owl
Great horned owls are nocturnal birds of prey. They are small to medium-sized animals with very large eyes and the ability to fly extremely quietly. These birds can range from 17 to 25 inches in length and 2.7 to 3.5 pounds in weight. They have beautiful striped coloring of blacks, whites, and browns with distinctive “horns” on the tops of their heads. These owls will hunt for squirrels at night and use their sharp eyesight and sensitive hearing to locate them in their nests. Once a squirrel is spotted, it will pursue its prey and catch it using its sharp talons, and like the eagle, it will generally consume the squirrel whole.
Owls also eat other small rodents, birds, insects, and other small mammals.
Snakes that prey on squirrels include black rat snakes, corn snakes, and other species of tree-climbing snakes. These snakes are usually long and slender, which helps them maneuver through the trees. Additionally, they have smooth scales with pointed heads. These snakes will hunt by scaling the trees and entering squirrel nests or burrows. Once they catch a squirrel, they will constrict it to suffocate and kill it before devouring it whole.
These snakes will also eat a range of other prey, including rodents, birds, or sometimes other snakes.
Foxes are small to medium-sized omnivores that are well known for their bushy tails and long snouts. They have thick coats that are generally brown, red, grey, or white. They measure 35 to 40 inches long from nose to tail, and the adults usually weigh between 7 and 15 pounds. Squirrels are a common meal for foxes, who will hunt for them on the ground or even in the trees, using their speed and amazing agility to catch them. They are even known to dig into a squirrel’s nest to get to the young and vulnerable squirrel babies for a quick and easy meal.
Being omnivorous, foxes have a rather varied diet, including other rodents, rabbits, birds, berries, fruit, and vegetation.
Coyotes are a North American native species of canine. You may mistake these predators for their close relative of the wolf. However, coyotes are smaller than grey wolves and just slightly smaller than the eastern wolf and red wolf. The average male coyote weighs between 18 and 44 pounds, while the average female coyote weighs between 15 and 40 pounds. Their fur is generally light gray and red, but this varies with geography. The coyote has longer ears and a thinner frame than the gray wolf. You can distinguish the coyote from a wolf as it carries its tail downwards when running or walking, while a wolf holds its tail horizontally. Coyotes make great hunters and will catch and eat a squirrel when they get the chance.
Coyotes have a varied diet and will eat pretty much anything they can get their paws on. They will eat rabbits, rodents, deer, insects, livestock, and poultry. Coyotes are also known to eat pet dogs and cats if other food is scarce. Like foxes, these animals are omnivores as well and can eat fruit and berries as part of their main diet.
Bobcats are another North American native species. These medium-sized wild cats have a wide range and are found all over the United States. These predators live in wooded areas, forests, swamplands, semi-desert environments, and even on the edges of urban settings. The adult bobcat is around 18.7 to 49.2 inches long and weighs from 8.8 to 40 pounds. The most distinguishing feature of the bobcat is its tail. The tail is between 3.5 to 7.9 inches long, with a “bobbed” appearance — which is what gives the species its name! Bobcats are skilled climbers and extremely stealthy hunters, so squirrels don’t stand a chance against these predators.
In addition to squirrels, the bobcat’s diet consists of rabbits, hares, insects, chickens, other rodents, and deer. The prey they eat depends on location, season, and abundance. The bobcat is an excellent hunter with excellent stalking skills. That, combined with their speed and climbing ability, make them perfect predators for catching and eating squirrels!
8. Domestic Cat
The cute and small domestic cat is a predator and more than capable of hunting squirrels. Their strong, flexible bodies, sharp teeth, quick reflexes, and claws help them hunt. Domestic cats come in a range of different colors and patterns. Some domestic cats have long hair, while others have short hair, and some even have almost no hair! The domestic cat averages around 18 inches in length and typically weighs between 9 and 11 pounds. Even though these animals are small, their hunting skills are superb!
Domestic cats are known to hunt small rodents and birds. Although hunting squirrels is rare, these capable hunters do sometimes catch and kill them.
The weasel is a small carnivore that is part of the Mustelid family, which includes ferrets and otters. The members of this family are characterized by their long, slender bodies and short legs. Weasels usually have red or brown coats and white bellies. In the winter, however, their fur changes to white! The length of an adult weasel is generally between 10 and 12 inches. Adult weasels can weigh as little as one ounce, but some species may weigh up to half a pound. Their sharp teeth and agility make these small carnivores successful hunters.
Although the weasel is small, they are great hunters — this is evident in the fact that they can catch squirrels. The weasel’s diet includes rats, mice, rabbits, birds, and frogs. One way they hunt is by squeezing themselves into small crevices to reach hiding targets! This is where the term “weasel your way in there” comes from. They will also follow squirrels into their nests or burrows and even climb trees to catch them.
Alligators are enormous reptiles, measuring up to 12 feet long and weighing up to 1000 pounds! They have long, powerful tails, broad snouts, and sharp teeth. They have the fourth strongest bite force in the animal kingdom, making them terrifying predators to all species, including humans (although attacks on humans are rare)! Alligators have strong armor-like skin, which is typically grayish green in color. Alligators are known to eat anything they are fast enough to catch, including squirrels, particularly in wetland areas. They can catch squirrels with their lightning-fast reflexes and powerful jaws and will consume them whole. Alligators hide in the water or disguise themselves and stay eerily still while they wait for their prey to draw near, before quickly acting.
Other animals that alligators eat include fish, turtles, several mammals, and birds.
Summary of 10 Animals Are Crafty Enough to Kill and Eat Squirrels
Here’s a recap of the 10 animals we looked at that hunt and kill squirrels.
|Number||Animal||Hunting Methods||Diet Other Than Squirrels|
|1||Eagle||Catch and kill squirrels using lightning-fast speed and talons; sometimes eat squirrels whole||Fish, rabbits, snakes, and other small rodents|
|2||Hawk||Swoop down and use talons to catch and kill squirrels||Other rodents, birds, and reptiles|
|3||Great Horned Owl||Hunt at night, using sharp eyesight and sensitive hearing to locate squirrels in nests; often consume squirrels whole||Other small rodents, birds, insects, and small mammals|
|4||Snake||Black rat snakes, corn snakes, and other tree-climbing snakes scale trees and enter squirrels’ nests or burrows; constrict to suffocate the squirrel before eating it whole||Rodents, birds, and sometimes other snakes|
|5||Fox||Commonly hunt for squirrels on the ground or in the trees, using speed and agility to catch them; dig into a squirrel’s nest to get to young squirrels||Other rodents, rabbits, birds, berries, fruit, and vegetation|
|6||Coyote||Great hunters that will catch and eat a squirrel if given the chance||Rabbits, rodents, deer, insects, livestock, and poultry|
|7||Bobcat||Excellent stalking skills combined with speed and climbing ability make them perfect predators of squirrels||Rabbits, hares, insects, chickens, other rodents, and deer|
|8||Domestic Cat||Although hunting squirrels is rare, cats do sometimes catch and kill them.||Small rodents and birds|
|9||Weasel||Can squeeze into small crevices to reach hiding targets, following squirrels into nests or burrows and climb trees to catch them||Rats, mice, rabbits, birds, and frogs|
|10||Alligator||Catch squirrels, particularly in wetland areas, with lightning-fast reflexes and powerful jaws; will consume them whole||Fish, turtles, several mammals, and birds|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Johann Knox/Shutterstock.com
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