Do Squirrels Eat Pine Cones? Yes – They Even Collect Pine Cones

Pine cones provide excellent natural mulch and are useful for decorating purposes, They also play an important role in the food ecosystem. What do you think? Do squirrels eat pine cones?

We are what we eat, and so are squirrels. As my adorable pet, I have to ensure that my squirrel eats what is beneficial, and I trust that this applies to any squirrel lover.

You might be wondering, are pine cones good for squirrels, and do they eat them? Well, continue reading and learn more about squirrels and pine cones.

Cute Reptiles as Pets
Cute Reptiles as Pets

What is Pine Cones Good for?

Pine Cones
Pine Cones

As the name suggests, we get pine cones from the pine tree. There is a lot behind pine cones that you probably didn’t know. Did you know that you can eat pine cones? Probably not.

Pine cones may not seem desirable to eat as they are tough, but the truth is that you can eat them. Moreover, these cones are a favorite food source to a group of animals, including crossbills, woodpeckers, squirrels etc.

The role of pine cones is to carry and protect the pine nuts or seeds from unfavorable temperatures, predators, and wind. It is the female pine cone that does this beautiful job.

On the other hand, male pine cones are responsible for releasing pollen, which gets to the female through breezes. The male and female pine cones grow on the same tree.

Pine cones also play an excellent role in decorating and act as a natural mulch for our flower gardens. However, let’s see whether pine cones are suitable for squirrels.

Do squirrels Eat Pine Cones?

squirrels do eat pine cones
squirrels do eat pine cones

Pine cones are edible, thus, a food source for different animals, including squirrels. Many people noticed that some backyard squirrels store green pine cones and eat them later.

I created a poll on Facebook Everything Squirrels Group and 57% of the users say that their backyard squirrels eat pine cones. 40% don’t see squirrels touch pine cones and 3% say that squirrels ignore pine cones. 

But why do squirrels eat pine cones? Is it because of lack of choice due to hunger or do they indeed like them? And are pine cones nutritious?

Before you decide that you want your lovable pet squirrel to have some pine cones, it is good to know the nutritional impacts. Eating healthy is necessary for good health and our well-being, and this is true for squirrels.

Therefore, you don’t just wake up and decide this is what to feed your pet, without considering its health benefits? Of course, you have to be cautious of what your pet eats.

Squirrels possess sharp and strong teeth and, thus, don’t mind the toughness of pine cones, and they will happily munch on them. Both the brown and green pine cones are edible to squirrels.

However, these stunning creatures would prefer to have green pine cones as they are more nutritious. They also store these cones and eat them later.

Do Baby Squirrels Eat Pine Cones?

Do Baby Squirrels Eat Pine Cones?
Do Baby Squirrels Eat Pine Cones?

Baby squirrels, especially around ten weeks old, love to chew and eat some solid foods. Unfortunately, these babies don’t know what food is edible or poisonous.

You have to be careful about the food that your squirrel is eating; make sure to confirm that it is good for them. So, are pine cones suitable for baby squirrels?

Young tender green pine cones are a good thing to feed baby squirrels. However, avoid the cones on the ground in the moisture since they may contain aflatoxins which are poisonous to squirrels.

What are the Nutritional Benefits of Pine Cones to Squirrels?

Green pine cones, which are favorable to squirrels, tend to be soft since they are yet to dry or mature, and it’s easy to extract nuts from them. Squirrels will not only eat the cone but the nuts as well.

They love the distinct flavor and enjoy the crunchiness of the pine seeds. The cone’s soft part tends to be delicious. But that doesn’t mean that squirrels will not eat brown cones; they do.

They will eat the brown pine cones when they are the only ones available. Squirrels can handle their hardness and sharp edges.

Green cones are high in nutritional value, and it’s easy to store them. Pine cones are excellent sources of fiber and vitamins, however, the seeds are way more nutritious.

The nuts are good sources of protein, vitamin K, thiamine, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium. The squirrels need all these minerals and vitamins, as well as protein, for their well-being.

Why Do Squirrels Collect Pine Cones? 

Squirrels are classic examples of scatter-hoarding. As scatter hoarders, they hide food in a bunch of different places throughout their territory. They spend most of their summer gathering nuts, pine cones, berries, etc., and store them in different caches.

It’s not surprising that a squirrel can store up to about 10,000 nuts in one year. They eat these foods later, particularly during winter. Squirrels have good spatial memory, which helps them to recover as much as 80% of their different caches.

Winter is associated with food and water scarcity, and in most cases, this is not a problem for squirrels as they have enough in store. A squirrel can hoard food and keep it even for up to three years.

Another interesting fact about squirrels is that they know how green pines can be stored for long periods. You may see them collecting these cones on the ground or harvesting them from the pine tree.

Believe it or not but these animals know how to prepare the cone for storage and in a manner that they don’t rot. They tear the cones apart until they get to the center.

That way, the cones can’t rot nor get damaged by the water or low temperatures. Now you know why you see squirrels around collecting or harvesting pine cones and other foods edible to them.

A squirrel hiding/burying some nuts against winter. [source: James Soden]

Wrapping Up

Squirrels eat pine cones and, but usually, they will go for the green pine cones, which are high in nutrition. Brown pine cones are also edible to squirrels and provide some nutritional benefits.

They prefer the green cones as they still have the seeds. The nuts are outstanding when it comes to nutrition and their crunchy texture makes them more desirable.

Moreover, squirrels are scattering hoarders, meaning that they can store foods in different caches to eat them later. I hope you found this article helpful.

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