do squirrels eat pine cones - douglas squirrel eating a pine cone 1

Do Squirrels Eat Pine Cones? Discover the Nutritious Facts!

Ever wondered – do squirrels eat pine cones? Yes, squirrels eat pine cones! Let’s discover why pinecones are so important for squirrels and the forest. We’ll also explore how to attract these cute critters to enjoy pine cones in your yard. Keep reading if you’re curious about squirrels and their pine cone habits!

do squirrels eat pine cones - douglas squirrel eating a pine cone

What are Pine Cones?

A pine cone is the reproductive structure of a pine tree. It is composed of woody scales fused to form a cone shape. Inside the pine cone are the tree’s seeds. The scales open and close based on the temperature and humidity levels of the environment, allowing the seeds to disperse.

Pine cones are a valuable food source for many animals, including squirrels. They contain high levels of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Birds and other animals like bears, deer, rats, and mice also eat pine cones.

do squirrels eat pinecones - pinecones on tree branches
(L) a young pine cone (R) a mature pine cone

Why Do Squirrels Eat Pine Cones?

The answer is yes! Squirrels are known to eat pine cones, though they usually eat them in the winter when other food sources are scarce. Squirrels are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They will eat whatever they can find, including nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects.

Pine cones provide an important source of nutrition for squirrels during the winter months. The cones contain various nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These nutrients can help squirrels survive the cold months when food is scarce.

Why Do Squirrels Chew Pine Cones – More Reasons

  • Squirrels chew pine cones to access the seeds inside, as they are a food source.
  • Chewing on pine cones helps squirrels maintain healthy and sharp teeth as their teeth continuously grow.
  • Pine cones are a natural object for squirrels to chew on, helping them wear down their teeth.
  • Chewing on pine cones may also allow squirrels to pass the time or relieve boredom.

Benefits of Eating Pine Cones

Eating pine cones can be beneficial for squirrels in a few ways:

  • Pine cones are a great energy source for squirrels, providing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to keep them active and healthy.
  • Pine cones contain essential vitamins (A, C, E, and K) and minerals (calcium, magnesium, and iron), contributing to squirrels’ overall health.
  • Eating pine cones helps squirrels obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals for their well-being.
  • Pine cones also offer dietary fiber, which supports a healthy digestive system in squirrels, ensuring smooth digestion.
do squirrels eat pinecones - red squirrel eating a pinecone

What Animals Will Eat Pine Cones?

  • Squirrels
  • Birds (e.g., jays and woodpeckers)
  • Bears
  • Deer
  • Other mammals
  • Insects (specifically bark beetles)
do squirrels eat pinecones - bird eating a pinecone

The Role of Pine Cones in the Forest Ecosystem

Pine cones play an essential role in the forest ecosystem. They provide food for many animals, including squirrels, birds, and mammals. They also provide shelter for small animals and insects.

Pine cones are important for the health of the forest. They help disperse the tree’s seeds, ensuring the species’ survival. They also provide essential nutrients for the soil, helping plants and trees to grow.

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How to Attract Squirrels to Eat Pine Cones

  1. Create a safe and comfortable environment by providing water, sheltered areas, and hiding spots.
  2. Offer squirrel-friendly food such as nuts and fruits to attract them to your yard.
  3. Spread peanut butter completely all over the pine cone, then roll it in birdseed and hang it from trees or places where squirrels can find them.
do squirrels eat pinecones - squirrel eating a pinecone

Conclusion – Do Squirrels Eat Pine Cones

In conclusion, squirrels do eat pine cones. Pine cones are a valuable source of nutrition for squirrels, providing them with energy, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They also play an essential role in the forest ecosystem, providing food and shelter for many animals.

So the next time you see a squirrel with a pine cone in its mouth, you can be sure it will eat it!

FAQs About Pine Cones You May Not Know

Pine Cone Facts Courtesy of Michigan State University Extension

  • Pine cones come from pine trees only, although all conifers produce cones.
  • Pine cones and pine trees date back to prehistoric times and belong to a group of plants called gymnosperms.
  • Gymnosperms are a group of plants that have naked seeds, not enclosed in an ovary.
  • The primary function of a pine cone is to keep a pine tree’s seeds safe.
  • Pine cones close their scales to protect the seeds from cold temperatures, wind, and even animals that attempt to eat them.
  • When the weather is warm, pine cones open up and release their seeds, making it easier for the seed to germinate.
  • Some pine cones, like the Jack Pine, need a fire to open and release their seeds. This is called the Jack Pine ecosystem.
  • Pine cones can stay on trees for 10 years or more before dropping to the ground.
  • All conifers produce male and female cones. Sometimes on the same tree, sometimes not. The pinecones we see are only female cones. The male cones are much smaller, and you may have never noticed them. The male cones release pollen, which drifts into the air and eventually finds and fertilizes the female cones.
  • Pine nuts come from pine cones.
  • Only 20 varieties of pine trees worldwide produce cones with large enough pine nuts for harvesting.
  • Pinyon PinesPinus edulis (which only grows between 6,000 and 9,000-foot altitudes), offers the finest pine nuts in North America. Pinyon pines are native to the desert mountains of California, east to New Mexico and Texas, and north to Wyoming.
  •  The second part of Pinyon Pine’s botanical name, edulis, means “edible” in Latin. It refers to the tasty seeds produced in its 2-inch, roundish, light brown cones that grow in clusters on mature trees.
  • Pine nuts are a good source of thiamine (B1), Vitamin K, magnesium, and protein. They are among the best natural manganese, phosphorus, and zinc sources.
  • The pineal gland in the brain is named after pinecones because of its shape. The pineal gland controls our body’s perception of light and wake and sleep patterns. It has long been considered our biological “third eye” and “the epicenter of enlightenment.”
  • Pine cones have been exalted in religious imagery for thousands of years.
  • Ancient Romans also associated pine cones with Venus, the Goddess of love and fertility.

More FAQs – Do Squirrels Eat Pine Cones

How many pine cones does a squirrel eat in a day?

Squirrels can chew through 50 to over 100 pine cones daily, depending on their size. They eat the seeds that are kept inside the cones. Squirrels usually store a lot of cones in their storage areas, called middens. These middens mostly contain cones, but in places with mast trees, squirrels might also store acorns or other nuts in their middens.

Do squirrels store pine cones?

Yes, squirrels store pine cones. They create middens, which can also be considered refuse piles. A red squirrel often carries one of its stored pine cones to a preferred spot, removes the seeds from the cone, and leaves the non-edible parts on the forest floor. This practice of collecting and storing a large amount of food in a single place is known as larder-hoarding.

How long do pine cones stay on a tree?

Pine cones can stay on a tree for more than 10 years before dropping to the ground. All conifers produce male and female cones. Sometimes on the same tree, sometimes not. The pinecones we see are only female cones.


How often do pine trees drop cones?

Pine trees typically have abundant harvests of pine cones every three to seven years. Climate changes might influence the production and the drop of pine cones since these processes are affected by temperature and moisture.

What time of year do squirrels eat pine cones?

Squirrels eat pine cones primarily during the winter season. Squirrels depend on the seeds inside pine cones for food. They can eat up to two-thirds of all the seeds produced by pine trees in a forest yearly.

Do squirrels like peanut butter on pinecones?

Yes, squirrels can be attracted to pine cones covered in peanut butter. To do this, you can spread peanut butter all over the pine cone, ensuring it is fully covered, and then roll the pine cone in a bowl of birdseed. Afterward, you can tie the pine cone to tree branches and wait for birds and squirrels to become hungry and come to enjoy the treat.

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5 Comments

  1. I frequently gather pinecones from local parks to bring home to my squillys. After a few months, I change them out with newer ones. I love watching them play with the pinecones.

  2. This was so interesting. The only thing I knew about pine cones was if you wanted them in your home, you pick the ones that suit your decorating ideas, pick them off the ground or pluck them from the pine tree. I was told to be to microwave a certain amount of time to kill the roaches or insects that were inside! It is so refreshing to read about the interesting real facts.

  3. I have an awesome neighbor, David, who brings me fresh pine cones for my squirrel rescue. Besides providing nutrition, the pine cones offer mental enrichment during their stay in rehab.

  4. I’ve also noticed that squirrels will eat pinecones at any stage – I’ve seen them eat fresh immature pinecones that are still green and very hard. Not sure if the green pinecones taste different or have different nutrients ratio but they really seem to like them, eventhough “normal” brown pinecones are also available for them at the same time too.

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