What Do Ground Squirrels Eat? | Everything You Need to Know About Their Diet [2023]

As a passionate nature lover and with several years of experience observing ground squirrels all around the world, I can tell you that knowing what do ground squirrels eat is one of the most important aspects in order to understand them. In fact, their diet is quite diverse and it’s essential to think about it when taking care of them. In this blog post, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about their diet!

The thirteen-lined ground squirrel is an omnivore, dining on both animal and botanical fare. It subsists on grasshoppers, wireworms, caterpillars, beetles, cutworms, ants and insect eggs, along with mice and small birds. Vegetables and fruits are also part of its diet, plus occasional cereal grains. In lean times it can draw from its stores of cached grass and seeds. This species rarely drinks water – deriving most of the moisture it needs from food sources.

What Do Ground Squirrels Eat?

Fruit Trees, Nut Trees, and A Garden Dream

Ground squirrels are an essential part of the landscape, as they help to keep a balanced ecosystem. But if you find yourself with a pesky ground squirrel, you may be asking what do ground squirrels eat? While they have different diets depending on season and availability of food sources, they’re mostly known for eating fruit trees.

In fact, they can strip the top of an apple or apricot tree in no time! They’ll also snack on nut trees, such as walnuts and pecans. And if it’s your garden they’ve set their sights on, then eggplants and cucumbers won’t have the slightest chance.

If there’s one thing that will make a ground squirrel happy it’s access to fruits like apples, cherries, pears, and oranges. They also love seedlings so keep an eye out for any new fruit or nut tree sprouts! Nevertheless, understanding what do ground squirrels eat is not only fun but also necessary in order to prevent them from ruining your harvest.

Insects, Seeds, Eggs, Tree Bark, Twigs, and Green Forage

The answer may surprise you – ground squirrels are actually quite diverse when it comes to their diet. They supplement their main source of nutrition with plant matter such as roots and green shoots. This helps them get the right nutrients to stay active during their active period which is usually mid-morning through late afternoon.

In addition to these items found in nature like bark, twigs and leaves – they also enjoy consuming insects like grasshoppers and caterpillars as well as eggs from other animals like birds. These provide a good balance of protein and energy needed to survive long winters or stay strong while gathering food.

Ground squirrels are also known to cache large amounts of grass seeds for future use when other food sources become limited due to bad weather or late Autumn/early Spring seasons.


And lastly – we cannot forget about carrion (dead animal flesh) in the diet of these little fellows. It may sound unappealing at first but carrion provides much-needed nutrients for the industrious creatures who will take the task upon themselves to clean up the feed on dead animals‘ remains naturally.

This is helpful both for the ground squirrels themselves but also for the environment in general by speeding up natural decay processes taking place outdoors.

Here are the most common signs of a ground squirrel infestation:

  • Damaged crops and other vegetation as a result of foraging and burrowing.
  • Large amounts of surface activity around the property.
  • Foul odors caused by their droppings and urine.
  • Holes dug in yards, gardens, or other areas on the premises.

Food and Water Sources

Ground Squirrels are omnivorous and feed on a variety of sources, including eggs, fruits, small vertebrates, plants and carrion. They are active during the day and typically feed from midmorning through late afternoon. These burrowing rodents need both food and water sources in order to survive. Ground squirrels can damage trees by eating bark or sap, as well as food-bearing plants like vegetables or grains. Though they are not picky eaters, ground squirrels prefer nuts and seeds, so it’s important to keep these items stored away or inaccessible for them.


Ground squirrels generally inhabit burrows, which can be up to two meters deep and have several entrances. They often live in groups and use these tunnels for shelter and protection. The burrows may also include chambers for nesting, food storage, and latrines.

Managing Ground Squirrel Populations

Ground squirrels can be a nuisance to property owners, but there are proactive ways of managing them. Lead ammunition, humane traps, and fumigation are all effective methods for controlling ground squirrel populations. Anticoagulants can be used if necessary, but an antidote is available if needed. Biological control is not typically successful against these mammals.

Cultural Control

Ground squirrels can be managed through a variety of cultural control measures. These include reducing access to food sources, eliminating hiding places in yards, and mowing tall grasses and vegetation around the home. Additionally, fence barriers or predator decoys may be used to deter ground squirrels from entering an area. Lastly, blocking or sealing off entry points into buildings can help keep them from becoming a nuisance.

Biological Control

Biological control offers a safe and effective way to manage the population of ground squirrels. For example, treating grain with anticoagulants has a long-lasting effect on reducing the squirrels’ numbers but it does not always target only the pest species as some non-target species may also consume treated grains.

Introducing natural predators such as coyotes and hawks into the area can effectively reduce the number of ground squirrels, but they cannot completely eliminate the problem since they cannot be present during all hours of daylight. This is why other methods should be used alongside natural predators to make sure that ground squirrel populations do not rebound.

Natural Methods to Get Rid of Ground Squirrels

Pepper Spray

Pepper spray is a great non-toxic option for discouraging ground squirrels from entering your yard. When applied daily, pepper spray helps drive away nuisance animals by emitting an unpleasant smell and taste from plants. However, once the spray wears off, ground squirrels are likely to come back so this method needs to be done frequently.

Castor oil is another natural repellent that you can use to keep away ground squirrels. It works in a similar way by releasing an unpleasant scent which deters wildlife from approaching your property. As with pepper spray, castor oil must be reapplied regularly for it to remain effective.

Castor Oil

Ground squirrels are omnivorous, so their diet includes a variety of foods such as eggs, fruits, small vertebrates and carrion. Castor oil is sometimes used to repel ground squirrels. It has an unpleasant smell which the animals try to avoid. When used in combination with other techniques like traps and fumigation, castor oil can be an effective way to deter ground squirrels from your property.


Using motion-activated devices that emit fake predator sounds can scare ground squirrels away when they approach your yard. They don’t like being bothered and will eventually stay clear if exposed to loud noises often enough.

Natural Predators

Controlling pesky ground squirrel populations won’t be successful with natural predators alone. Coyotes and hawks are only active during certain hours, so other methods must be employed to guarantee the problem is solved. Combining different strategies can provide the best results.

Live-catch Traps

Trapping is one of the most reliable and efficient ways to get rid of troublesome ground squirrels. If their populations are low or moderate, trapping is an effective solution for controlling their numbers. But when deciding which traps to use, live traps are preferable over kill traps.

Once captured in these traps, these critters can then be released elsewhere away from your property or humanely euthanized.


Hazing is a method of scaring ground squirrels away using clapping, banging pots and pans, shooting off fireworks, and shouting. Although hazing can be effective in the short-term, it is not typically recommended as a long-term solution due to the potential for stress and trauma that it may cause wildlife. Additionally, as ground squirrels are smart animals, they may become habituated to the noise over time and cease to be scared by it.

Conventional Methods to Remove A Squirrel Infestation

Ground squirrels can cause extensive damage to plants and trees, so it’s important to know how to get rid of them. Conventional methods of managing ground squirrel populations include lead ammo, anticoagulants, bait traps, fumigation and biological control. Lead ammo will be prohibited starting July 1, 2019. Anticoagulants are the most effective but also have a antidote available in case of accidental ingestion by animals or humans. Bait traps and fumigation are two safe and effective ways to reduce ground squirrel population. Finally, biological control is not typically an option due to their fast reproduction rate.


Trapping can be a great way to maintain a reasonable level of ground squirrels in your local area. By using either live traps, snare traps or more lethal traps, you can capture the creatures without causing too much stress or leaving behind any dead bodies. Live trapping is our preferred method since it allows the animal to safely be relocated elsewhere.

Ground squirrels are distrustful creatures so it’s important to place the trap in an area that has lots of cover such as shrubs, bushes and trees. Bait the trap with peanut butter (or another nut butter) mixed with oatmeal and set it close where you have seen plenty of activity. Check traps regularly throughout the day.

Using Smoke: Fumigation

Smoke is a common tool used to get rid of ground squirrels. It may be used as a preventive measure, or in an effort to eliminate an existing colony. When using chemical fumigation, the area should first be surveyed for signs of infestation. This will include looking for burrows and tunnels and inspecting the surrounding vegetation for signs of damage.

In the springtime, or when the ground is wet, homeowners should take care to use chemical treatments safely. Consulting your local extension office can help ensure that you do not inadvertently harm any non-target species while fumigating. It is important to note that this practice is much more effective in these conditions than during dry periods.

Gas Bombs

Gas bombs use toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and chlorine dioxide to kill ground squirrels in their burrows. These gases spread throughout the burrow system, eliminating any and all rodents inside. Unfortunately, gas bombs must often be used multiple times due to re-population by other ground squirrel colonies.

When using gas bombs, make sure that you follow all safety instructions included on the packaging and wear protective gear like a mask and gloves to protect yourself from inhaling any toxic fumes. Additionally, gas bombs should never be used near areas where children or pets are present.


In order to effectively control ground squirrel populations, professional pest management companies may rely on baiting with poisons. At the start of springtime when these rodents are most active, grain bait is optimal; however it can still be a useful method during other points of the year.

Two common rodenticides used include zinc phosphide and anticoagulants such as diphacinone or chlorophacinone, which must be placed directly into burrows or within bait boxes for safety purposes.

Safety Rules When Using Baits

Safety rules when using baits to trap and kill ground squirrels are always important. Before setting out bait traps, make sure the area is well-protected from other animals or small children gaining access. Wear gloves while handling bait to reduce the risk of coming into contact with chemicals. After catching a squirrel, dispose of it immediately and securely. Also, keep pets away from any bait traps and dead squirrels. Be sure to check local regulations before trapping and killing ground squirrels.

Ground Squirrel Pest Management Myths

The notion that they can be controlled by fumigation or with anticoagulant rodenticides are common myths. In reality, lead ammunition is currently the only permitted method for take of small nongame animals like ground squirrels in the United States. Additionally, bait traps and fumigation are only effective if used correctly – and often require special permits or licenses. Finally, biological control is not an effective solution for managing ground squirrel populations. In short, all methods for ground squirrel control must be adhered to strictly in order to be truly successful.


Ground squirrels are omnivorous, meaning they eat a variety of foods such as eggs, fruits, small vertebrates, plants and carrion. They may be considered pests due to their feeding behavior and can cause damage to gardens and trees while searching for food.

Lead ammunition is currently permitted for hunting ground squirrels but will be replaced with non-lead ammunition by July 1, 2019. Biological control methods are not typically effective against ground squirrel populations, however bait traps and fumigation are acceptable methods for managing them.

Do Ground Squirrels Carry Deseases?

Ground squirrels carry an array of illnesses, such as leptospirosis, salmonellosis, tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Leptospirosis is transmitted through contact with the urine of contaminated creatures. Salmonellosis may be caused by the ingestion of sustenance or drinks polluted with the excrement from a sick animal. Tularemia can be spread when coming into contact with infected animal fur or bugs carrying this malady. And finally, Rocky Mountain spotted fever has been recognized to be picked up by bites from ticks that are easy to distinguish.

Can I Kill Ground Squirrels?

Dealing with ground squirrels can be immensely irritating, often leading one to try and eradicate the animals. However, killing them may not always be the best solution due to ethical reasons and regulations governing wildlife management in some areas—and because it may not solve the problem long term anyway. Shooting method is slow and expensive process; other options such as fumigation, trapping and baiting are more effective against larger populations but require special expertise and experience with handling chemical products safely.

What are the benefits of having ground squirrels in the environment?

Ground squirrels play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They help keep soil aerated and properly conditioned for plants to thrive. Moreover, they are a valuable food source for birds of prey, as well as predators like weasels and badgers.

What is the preferred food of a squirrel?

Ground squirrels have specific dietary preferences, and a wide variety of items make up their favorite foods. A few favorites include nuts, seeds, insects, fruits, vegetables, and acorns. They are also known to scavenge for food in human-created structures such as birdfeeders and agricultural fields.

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Insects
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Acorns

Do ground squirrels cause damage or destruction?

Ground squirrels can sometimes be destructive, depending on the situation. They have large appetites and may consume vegetation or crops in gardens or agricultural fields if an adequate food source is not provided. They also dig burrows that can compromise the structural integrity of buildings, sidewalks, or other structures.

Do ground squirrels damage homes or other property?

Ground squirrels can cause some property damage when they damage the roots of trees, chew through irrigation and water lines, dig burrows close to buildings, and chew wood structures. While these animals are generally harmless, it is important to identify and address areas that may be conducive to ground squirrel activity in an effort to prevent property damage.

Are there any benefits of having ground squirrels around?

Ground squirrels play a valuable role in the environment. They help to improve soil fertility by creating pathways for air and water to reach the roots of plants. Additionally, they provide a food source for predators like hawks, weasels and badgers.

Prevention Tips

In non-crop areas where ground squirrel poisoning is not an option due to its risk on non target species like birds of prey – prebait conditioning followed by bait placement near active burrows is likely the most successful approach.

Prebait means exposing the animals to treated bait prior their use – this helps attract more animals over time thus increasing chances of success of treatment.


In conclusion, the diet of thirteen-lined ground squirrels is omnivorous and very diverse. They consume animal matter and botanical foods such as seeds, green shoots, and fruits, as well as cereal grains. These animals even cache grass and seeds to sustain themselves during rough weather or when food sources are scarce. Understanding what do ground squirrels eat can help us better protect them.

Ground squirrels play an important role in their ecosystem; by learning more about their diet, we can work towards maintaining a balance between them and their environment. We all share the responsibility of understanding what do ground squirrels eat so that we can provide these animals with the sustenance they need for a long and healthy life.

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