We all know that squirrels have a natural appetite for many foods such as veggies, fruits, insects, flowers, etc. But do squirrels eat acorns?
As opportunistic eaters, squirrels will eat just about anything. They don’t know how to select foods that are good to eat and those that are not. Thus, as a responsible squirrel owner or enthusiast, it’s healthy to know squirrel’s ideal food.
If you wonder if acorns are good for squirrels or not, this article is for you. Keep reading for more and interesting information.
What is Acorn?
Acorn or oaknut is a nut from the oak tree. Typically, an acorn is surrounded or seated by a woody capsule. Acorns are alive, but since they lack claws and teeth, their defensive weapon is tannin.
Tannin is a chemical that is bitter for animals, both domestic and wild animals. However, the wildlife can tolerate tannin more than our livestock. With tannins, acorns are somewhat safe from becoming food.
Moreover, acorns are packed with nutrients and are a favorite food for wildlife. But despite their high nutrition, tannins give them a bad reputation. And that’s why they are often debated whether they’re safe for squirrels.
Acorns are Highly Nutritious
There are several species of acorns, and all of them are loaded with essential nutrients. Squirrels need to eat well and receive the best care from you to survive. That’s why you should know what food is suitable for them.
The following list contains information showing the nutrients in acorns per 100g, and this is according to USDA.
- Water: 27.9g
- Energy: 387kcal
- Protein: 6.15g
- Calcium: 41mg
- Magnesium: 62mg
- Phosphorus: 79mg
- Vitamin A: 2µg
- Folate: 87µg
- Total lipid: 23.86g
- Potassium: 539mg
- Iron: 0.79mg
From the list, we can see that acorns are pretty high in calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, folate, protein, and several other essential nutrients.
Do Squirrels Eat Acorns?
Yes, squirrels eat acorns. Generally, a squirrel’s main diet comprises acorns, of course, seeds, berries, and nuts. If you live near areas with squirrels, you may be lucky to see how they enjoy eating acorns or simply burying them.
Acorns are rich in energy, at 387kcal per 100g, and other nutrients, plus they are easy to open. Hence, squirrels take less time to eat acorns compared to other harder nuts.
Squirrels are smart at storing food to eat later in the year. If they are not eating an oak nut, they are busy storing them for use during winter.
Like the way you and I would differ in the flavor of yogurt we like; this is also true with squirrels. Although there are hundreds of species of oaks, squirrels will only eat and store a certain type.
Squirrels commonly eat white and red oak acorns. They eat around 85% of white oak tree nuts and hoard 60% of acorns from a red oak tree. That may be due to the high content of tannin in a red oak nut.
Are Acorns Poisonous?
Are you wondering whether oak nuts are poisonous? The truth is that it depends on the amount a squirrel consumes. Acorns have tannins, and these defensive chemicals can be toxic in larger amounts.
Typically, tannins are antinutritive substances, thus reduce the body’s ability to absorb important nutrients from food. Therefore, giving too many acorns to squirrels is dangerous and has negative health impacts.
Now you see that although acorns are favorite nuts for squirrels, you have to limit their consumption for the well-being of your friend. It would help if you considered feeding other edible nuts such as pine nuts, peanuts, etc.
Why Do Squirrels Love Acorns?
The top part of the oak nut is like a fruit, which attracts squirrels and other wildlife species. The white oak tribe also has the oak species with more palatable nuts, and squirrels consume the greatest percentage of these nuts.
Squirrels have sharp incisors that can easily peel the shell of acorn open and eat the seed inside. Oak nuts are also rich in nutrients, containing large amounts of carbohydrates, fats, protein, calcium, and other essential minerals.
Acorns are large, and squirrels can efficiently consume them. Apart from eating, squirrels also strongly influence the distribution of oak trees. When winter approaches, squirrels begin to bury acorns to prepare for the cold weather in great numbers.
Food is almost scarce in winter, and squirrels spend almost the entire winter eating and sleeping. They occasionally look for foods from trees or other sources. But do they eat 100% of the food they hoard in different caches?
The answer is no; squirrels usually recover about 74% of their stored food, the remaining acorns manage to spout and survive, therefore producing the next generation of oak trees. See, squirrels also have a significant role in the environment.
How Often Should Squirrels Eat Acorns?
Many wildlife consumes oak nuts, which play an important part in their diet. They depend upon these highly nutritious acorns for survival. Thus, when acorns are in season, that means many animals will be competing for the nuts.
Fortunately, squirrels eat a variety of food. They eat a few acorns and then get busy hoarding many of these nuts to different places. Acorns are healthy to eat and nutritious; however, they are toxic if eaten in excess.
Therefore, in captivity, you have to reduce the number of acorns to feed squirrels. You can feed preferably two nuts every day as part of the squirrel’s diet. That way, the squirrel will not have a problem with tannin toxicity.
Acorns provide many nutrients to different animals, including birds, squirrels, and many other rodents. They are rich in potassium, iron, energy, calcium, vitamins, magnesium, and the list continues.
In most cases, squirrels have a good taste for white oak nuts than red oak acorns. The major reason behind this is because white oak acorns have low tannin content, hence are less bitter than the latter nuts.
Squirrels store large amounts of red oak acorns at a good depth on the ground and eat them later when tannins’ level decreases. Also, note that squirrels should only eat a few acorns to avoid their toxicity.