Why do squirrels eat pine cones?

  • By: Alex
  • Date: July 29, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Some mammals eat pine cones for the nutritious seeds that they contain. Others, like squirrels and chipmunks, may also consume them for their high-fat content during winter when food sources are scarce.

Some mammals eat pine cones for the nutritious seeds that they contain. Others, like squirrels and chipmunks, may also consume them for their high-fat content during winter when food sources are scarce.

Pinecone eating is not unnatural in these animals; it has been observed in many rodents worldwide.

But why do you think squirrels eat pine cones?

They can be a source of protein and fats, which help provide energy to sustain life during periods where other food sources are unavailable or too difficult to find. They’re also rich in vitamin C and fiber! 

  • Some scientists believe that because some rodents have evolved to eat them, they may prefer the taste over other foods! This would explain why squirrels often bury a stash of pinecones to munch on later.
  • Some think it is because they’re hungry and need more food, while others have a different idea in mind. Scientists believe in preparing for winter when food is scarce, while others think they simply do it because they can!

In short, nobody really knows why squirrels eat pine cones. Some scientists speculate this helps them survive during harsh winters when there’s not much food around. But no one can really pinpoint the exact reason.

Can Squirrels eat pine cones?

Can Squirrels eat pine cones?

The answer to this question is yes, squirrels can eat pine cones. That being said, there are a few things that should be known before feeding pine cones to squirrels:

  1. Pine cones will always contain seeds, and these seeds can and will sprout and grow into new plants
  2. Squirrels cannot digest the scales of pine cones and, as a result, will often need to eat many seeds before they find one that is digestible.
  3. Squirrels would better prepare foraging pine nuts or munching on a dried apple slice. If you really feel the urge to feed a squirrel a cone, it should be first soaked in water overnight so that the scales can separate from the seeds.
  4. Using pine cones to feed squirrels should be given in moderation only when other food sources are unavailable.

What are the nutritional benefits of pine cones for squirrels?

In the fall, when pine cones start to open and spill out their seeds in readiness for the coming winter, it is only a matter of time before a squirrel arrives in search of its crunchy goodness.

Almost every kind of pine cone is sought after by squirrels who will spend long periods filling up their cheeks with them before returning to their cozy nests.

So if your garden features a conifer, it is only a matter of time before you have a squirrel in residence, and that might be great news for you because the benefits to the squirrel bring health benefits to their human neighbors too.

Pine cones are high in fat.

Squirrels store this up as energy when fat becomes their primary food source during the winter months. This, in turn, benefits the human, who can then share in that energy through eating the squirrel.

Not only are pine cones high in energy, but they are also rich in Vitamin C, which helps produce collagen and absorb Iron. Collagen keeps our skin supple while Iron assists with the formation of blood cells in the body. 

For a squirrel with a very high metabolism, these benefits are invaluable to survival in cold winter, particularly when food is low or raising young.

These tiny creatures burn calories three times faster than an inactive human, meaning they need far more sustenance. Pine cones provide them with an excellent source of nutrients.

However, squirrels will eat other nuts in the fall and pine cones, so it is not certain that these benefits can be entirely attributed to this one food item, but they do play a significant role in their diet at this time of year.

In fact, their true strength lies in harvesting and storing them for later use.

Why is the pine cone so unique in this regard?

Why is the pine cone so unique in this regard

There are hundreds of pine species, and each one will create a different type of cone with slightly different nutritional benefits to the squirrel.

It is difficult to accurately determine how healthy they really are, but we can be sure that they play a crucial role.

Nutritional benefits aside, the pine cone is also widely used as an ornament and decoration in Autumn and Winter, so squirrels offer a double help to gardens.

They will not only seek out their favorite food, but they will also provide hours of entertainment watching them scurry about as they gather them up! Perhaps you should welcome such a squirrel into your garden today.

How to stop squirrels from eating pine cones?

Squirrels eat pine cones because they are hungry and need nutrients to survive.

Of course, squirrels eating nuts is not a problem if you do not grow in your own yard these trees with cones.

However, if you do and you want to protect this pine cone from squirrels, there are several things that you can try:

Squirrel proofing your yard

  • Building a protective tube for the cones
  • Using fish oil
  • Bread soaked in hot sauce (one part of water to four pieces of flour)
  • Nettle spray (mix nettle leaves with water in the ratio 1:3)
  • Soapy water (mix 2 tablespoons of soap per half a liter of water)

The best way is to build a protective tube around the cone.

The best way is to build a protective tube around the cone.

You can use flexible tubing or PVC piping. If you do not want to make it yourself, you can buy protective covers made of plastic or metal online.

Squirrels are smart enough to open the cones if they are not fully ripened yet.

You can spray fish oil on the cone so that squirrels can not open it easily. If you have a lot of these trees, you should better try protective covers made out of plastic or metal.

Soaking the pine cones in hot sauce or using a nettle spray is also an excellent way to protect the cone. However, squirrels will probably be able to eat it if you wait too long and the pine cone ripens completely.

These natural repellents (fish oil and nettle) are harmless for birds, other animals, and humans because they do not contain toxic chemicals.