Do Snakes Eat Squirrels? Or They Eat Each Other? 5 Facts You Should Know

Like other small mammals, there are a lot of natural predators that prey on squirrels. This is why most squirrels are usually on alert, as they can be attacked from any direction at any time. Furthermore, they only go out to look for food when they are sure predators are not around.

Snakes are one of the natural predators of squirrels. They are carnivorous animals, and they get most of their nutritional needs by eating other animals that can pass through their mouth.

In this article, we will break down everything you need to know about how snakes eat squirrels and how squirrels protect themselves from snakes.

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Cute Reptiles as Pets

Do Snakes Eat Squirrels?

Yes, snakes are predatory animals and can eat squirrels. However, they don’t prey on adult ground squirrels as they are usually resistant to snake venom. Snakes prefer to prey on baby ground squirrels that are just a few months old.

Snake Vs. Squirrel: Which Species Wins?

Although snakes can eat squirrels, this is not always the case every time. Adult squirrels can fight with a snake when they feel threatened.

This is because adult ground squirrels have a protein in their blood that makes them resistant to snake venom. Furthermore, they can also attack snakes and injure them by biting and kicking them. They also have a quick reflex which they use for avoiding snake strikes.

do snakes eat squirrels
An adult squirrel eating a snake
Photo credit: Eyewitness News

Defense Tactic Of Squirrel

Some of the ways that squirrels can protect themselves from predators are stated below.

Alarm Calls

Squirrels have lots of alarm calls used for alerting each other that a predator is around. These calls range from short and sharp sounds to whistle-like tonal moans. Squirrels also make specific tail signals to each other.

According to researchers, squirrels use combinations of sound and tail motions to alert each other of a specific predator. Although these alarm calls are not to scare off predators, it helps to let other nearby squirrels know of the danger ahead and let the predator know that they have been spotted.

Resistant To Snake Venoms

As stated in the section above, snakes don’t usually prey on adult ground squirrels. This is because they have a protein in their blood that makes them resistant to snake venom.

Dropping Of Their Tail

Apart from using their tail to warn other squirrels, they can also wave their tail to distract predators. Once their predator catches their tail, they can drop their tail to help them escape. Although squirrels cannot grow their tail back, they can cope without a tail.

Camouflage

Squirrels usually blend well with their surroundings and usually try to forage close to their trees. Some squirrel species like ground squirrels and rock squirrels now camouflage from snakes using snake smells. 

They do this by chewing up rattlesnake shed skin and then smear it on their fur. This helps to mask their scent, especially when they are sleeping in their burrows.

Speed

Squirrels are one of the quickest ground animals, and they use their speed to run from prey. They can also climb a tree faster than most predators, which makes it hard to catch them. 

Furthermore, they can move from one tree to another with relative ease, making it harder for predators to keep up with them.

Heating Up Their Tail

Squirrels usually use this defense mechanism against rattlesnakes. This is because rattlesnakes have pit organs, and they detect their prey with infrared radiation emitted by the animal. 

Squirrels usually heat up their tails to mimic a more aggressive animal, making the snake recoil in a defensive position and will not attack. This defense mechanism usually works best at night because of the cooler temperature in the air.

Not Only Defend, Squirrel Attack Snakes

Although this is rare, squirrels can attack snakes when threatened. However, it is more likely for a nursing mother squirrel to attack, especially when they feel that their nest is under threat. 

Squirrels usually fight to the death with snakes, and they will stand on their feet while making aggressive noises and gestures to look bigger. Furthermore, a squirrel with rabies can attack snakes and other reptiles with little motivation.

What Animal Eats A Squirrel?

Squirrels are small mammals and can occupy a wide range of habitats. This is why they are usually at risk and have a wide range of predators that prey on them. Some of the animals that prey on squirrels are stated below.

Flying Predators

Ground squirrels are usually found in fields, agricultural lands, prairies, and so on, and this makes them prey to large predatory birds like hawks and owls. The birds can easily swoop down on them while the squirrel is feeding on insects and acorns.

a bird preys on squirrel
While eating nuts, ground squirrels can be preyed on by birds

Foxes And Other Four-Legged Predators

Foxes and other four-legged predators can find and catch squirrels. Four-legged predators like foxes, bobcats, coyotes, etc., can easily chase squirrels and catch them. However, predators like weasels and raccoons usually lay ambush when they are attacking squirrels.

However, there are times when squirrels are lucky and escape from their predator by confusing the enemy or entering into holes.

Snakes And Other Reptiles

The shape of the snake’s bodies makes it easy for them to catch their prey, and they can be found in a wide range of habitats. Furthermore, the chance of snakes preying on a squirrel will be based on their size. Another reptile that can feed on a squirrel is the alligator and crocodile.

Rex lizard eats squirrel [source: Reptile Channel]

Human

The most creative animal is the primate family and can easily catch squirrels. There are lots of places in the world where humans feed on squirrels. They will use modern methods and hunt down squirrels.

Humans can easily locate a squirrel hideout, set out traps, throw sharp objects, and use other animals or guns to hunt them.

Fish And Other Water Predators

It is hard for a squirrel to get into the water, but they will when necessary. They usually go to a water source like a river or stream to get water, but you will not find them going beyond the shores. 

However, they can be attacked by predators in the water if they mistakenly go to deeper areas. Large fish can eat them alive, while smaller fish will wait until they drown before feeding on them. They can also be attacked by crocodiles and alligators when drinking at the shore.

Cats And Dogs

Cats and dogs are other predators of squirrels. Domesticated cats and dogs don’t usually feed on squirrel species but can hunt and chase them. However, they can eat squirrels when hunting under wild conditions.

Parasites

Parasites can be regarded as squirrel species predators. This is because squirrels are susceptible to various parasites and skin diseases that can be fatal. Furthermore, squirrels will not have the power to fight off predators or elements when parasites infect them.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

What kind of snake eats a squirrel?

There are several snake species that feed on a squirrel. However, the most common snake species that prey on squirrels are rattlesnakes, rat snakes, Gopher snakes, and garter snakes.

Are snakes afraid of squirrels?

Snakes usually try to avoid adult ground squirrels as they are resistant to snake venom. Furthermore, snakes like rattlesnakes are afraid of squirrels when they warm up their tail, making them more conspicuous.

Squirrels do this because rattlesnakes can sense infrared radiation and use this to signal that they have been discovered and may attack the snake.

Do squirrels keep away snakes?

Adult squirrels can be used to keep snakes away. This is because they have quick reflexes that they can use to avoid a snake strike. Furthermore, adult ground squirrels are resistant to snakebite and can take a defensive position to warn snakes to leave them alone.

Will a rat snake eat a squirrel?

Adult rat snakes usually prey on rodents like mice, shrews, chipmunks, squirrels, etc. However, young rat snakes cannot prey on squirrels and only feed on frogs, lizards, and young mice.

Wrapping Up

Snakes are carnivorous reptiles and will feed on anything that they can roll around. They will feed on any animal that can fit through their jaws. However, snakes prefer preying on baby ground squirrels instead of adult ground squirrels.