Do Squirrels Eat Potatoes? – The Great Spud Debate

Being a total wildlife nature nut, I’ve spent loads of time watching, goofing around, and learning about squirrels on my balcony. So, I have the expertise to answer the big question, “Do squirrels eat potatoes?” You bet! They do munch on potatoes sometimes, but it’s not really a regular thing in their diet.

squirrel eating crinkle cut fries

In this article, we will explore the squirrel diet and…..

  • types of potatoes that squirrels can eat.
  • different types of potatoes
  • nutritional value of white and sweet potatoes
  • preparing sweet potatoes for squirrels
  • other foods to include in a balanced squirrel diet
  • foods to avoid feeding squirrels
  • Feeding them the right way for the best health.

Key Takeaways – Do Squirrels Eat Potatoes

  • Balanced Squirrel Diet: Squirrels are omnivores, and their diet consists of nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, insects, and even small animals like bird eggs.
  • Raw sweet potatoes have a high nutritional content including vitamins A and C, potassium, and manganese.
  • Don’t feed squirrels any other type of raw potato. Green potatoes and potato leaves are toxic to squirrels and should be strictly avoided for their health.

Understanding the Squirrel Diet

Understanding the diet of squirrels is important because it can impact their health and well-being. Squirrels are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Their diet includes nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, insects.

They even eat small animals such as insects and bird eggs. A balanced diet is important for squirrels to maintain optimal health and energy levels.

The Regular Dietary Options for Squirrels Include:

  1. Nuts: Squirrels are well-known for their fondness for various nuts such as acorns, walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds.
  2. Seeds: Squirrels consume a wide range of seeds, including sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and pine seeds.
  3. Fruits: Squirrels enjoy fruits like apples, berries, grapes, and citrus fruits. They also have a penchant for fruit tree buds and young shoots.
  4. Vegetables: Some vegetables that squirrels may eat include corn, broccoli, carrots, and squash.
  5. Fungi: Squirrels may forage for mushrooms and other types of fungi, especially during certain seasons.
  6. Insects and small animals: Squirrels are opportunistic and may occasionally eat insects, bird eggs, and small vertebrates.

It’s important to note that the dietary preferences of squirrels may vary depending on the species and the availability of food sources in their natural habitat.

Do Squirrels Eat Potatoes?

Now let’s answer the question on everyone’s mind – can squirrels eat potatoes? Squirrels can eat potatoes, but not all types are safe for them.

Raw potatoes, green potatoes, and potato leaves are toxic to squirrels and can cause digestive problems and even death.

red squirrel standing in front of potatoes do squirrels eat potatoes

Types of Potatoes

  1. Russet potatoes: These are large, oblong potatoes with a rough, brown skin. They have a starchy texture and are commonly used for baking, frying, and making mashed potatoes.
  2. Red potatoes: These are small to medium-sized potatoes with a smooth, red skin. They have a firm, waxy texture and are often used in salads, stews, and roasts.
  3. Yukon Gold potatoes: These are medium-sized potatoes with a thin, gold-colored skin. They have a buttery, creamy texture and are great for making mashed potatoes, roasting, and frying.
  4. Fingerling potatoes: These are small, narrow potatoes that come in a variety of colors, including yellow, red, and purple. They have a firm, waxy texture and are often roasted or grilled.
  5. Purple potatoes: These have a deep purple skin and flesh. They are high in antioxidants and are often used in salads and side dishes.
  6. Sweet potatoes: These have a sweet flavor and come in several varieties, including orange, white, and purple. They are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and are often baked or roasted.
  7. New potatoes: These are small, young potatoes that are harvested before they are fully grown. They have a thin skin and a waxy texture and are often boiled or roasted.

Can Squirrels Eat French Fries or Fries?

Unfortunately, no. French fries are high in fat and salt. Fries are not a nutritious food for squirrels.

Raw potatoes and potato leaves are also not safe for squirrels to eat.

Raw sweet potatoes are a great option for squirrels.

squirrel eating crinkle cut fries
Nutrients in White PotatoesAmount 3.5 oz (100 gm)
Fat0.1 g
Carbohydrates17 g
Fiber2.2 g
Sugar0.8 g
Protein2 g
Vitamin C19.7 mg
Potassium421 mg
Magnesium23 mg
Calcium12 mg
Iron0.7 mg
Note that the nutrient values may vary slightly depending on the variety of potato and how it is cooked.

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Raw vs. Cooked Potatoes

As mentioned earlier, raw white potatoes are not safe for squirrels to eat. Potatoes contain solanine. Solanine is a toxic compound that can cause digestive problems and even death in squirrels.  If the potatoes turn green, sprout, or develop characteristic “eyes,” they are beginning to germinate. Consuming such potatoes poses a significant risk, so they must be discarded or peeled carefully. The highest concentration of solanine is found in the sprouts, and it’s advisable to remove them with an approximately 0.4-inch thick margin.

*Note: Cooking potatoes does not remove solanine!

Sweet Potatoes and Squirrels

Sweet potatoes are a nutritious and safe food for squirrels to eat. They are high in fiber, vitamins A and C, and minerals such as potassium and manganese. Sweet potatoes are also low in fat and calories. Sweet potatoes make an ideal addition to a squirrel’s diet.

do squirrels eat potatoes - red squirrel on tree

Nutritional Value of Sweet Potatoes for Squirrels

Sweet potatoes are a great source of nutrition for squirrels. These nutrients are essential for squirrel health and to prevent diseases.

Nutrients for Sweet PotatoesAmount 3.5 oz (100 gm)
Fat0.1 g
Carbohydrates20.1 g
Fiber3 g
Sugar4.2 g
Protein1.6 g
Vitamin A14187 IU
Vitamin C2.4 mg
Potassium337 mg
Manganese0.3 mg
Calcium30 mg
Iron0.6 mg
Note that the nutrient values may vary slightly depending on the variety of sweet potato and how it is cooked.

Are Sweet Potatoes Good for Squirrels?

There is a funny thing about sweet potatoes. They aren’t really potatoes, they’re sweet roots! They taste very good to squirrels and have a lot of vitamins.

  • Vitamin A is important for vision and immune function.
  • Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help prevent cell damage.
  • Potassium is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
  • Manganese is essential for healthy bones and metabolism.

How to Prepare Sweet Potatoes for Squirrels

When preparing sweet potatoes for squirrels, it is important to remove the skin. The skin can be difficult for squirrels to digest and can cause digestive problems. Sweet potatoes can be cooked by boiling, baking, or steaming.

Once cooked, they should be cut into small pieces for easy consumption. Here are simple directions to prepare sweet potatoes for squirrels.

  1. Raw sweet potatoes are the most beneficial for squirrels!
  2. Bake or steam the whole potato at 350°F (175°C) for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Once done, remove the potato from the oven and allow it to cool before serving.
  4. Slice the cooked sweet potato into thin wedges or cubes, depending on the size.
  5. Offer the sliced sweet potato to your tree squirrels and let them enjoy this tasty treat.
sweet potatoe sliced in circles

What is the Difference Between a Sweet Potato and a Yam?

Sweet potatoes and yams have distinct differences.

  • They belong to different plant families, with sweet potatoes in the morning glory family and yams in the Dioscoreaceae family.
  • Sweet potatoes have tapered ends, smooth skin, and come in various colors.
  • Yams have rough, thick, and dark-colored skin with a cylindrical shape.
  • Sweet potatoes have a sweeter taste, moist flesh, and come in different colored varieties,
  • Yams have a starchy, dry texture and a milder taste compared to sweet potatoes.

Other Foods to Include in a Balanced Squirrel Diet

In addition to sweet potatoes, a balanced squirrel diet should include:

  • nuts and seeds,
  • fruits and vegetables, and
  • protein sources

Nuts and seeds are a great source of fat and protein, while fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals.

Do Squirrels Eat Potatoes – Conclusion

In conclusion, squirrels can eat potatoes, but not all types are safe for them. Raw potatoes, green potatoes, and potato leaves are toxic to squirrels and should be avoided. However, sweet potatoes are a nutritious and safe food for squirrels to eat and are an ideal addition to a squirrel diet. By understanding a squirrel’s nutritional needs and feeding them a balanced diet, we can help promote their health and well-being.

Looking for wildlife rescue advice? Check out Carolina Wildlife.

Do you feed your squirrels sweet potatoes?

Tell us about your experience in the comments below??. Have any pictures of your squirrels eating sweet potatoes? If you do, send them here to be featured in this article!

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  1. My squirrels enjoy sweet potatoes but they did not care for them cooked. I didn’t know about the skins being hard on them so will definitely peel from now on. Thank you for this tid tib of information. Always learning new stuff. . .love it!

    1. Josie,
      Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. I did further research and updated the article to reflect your information. We appreciate you taking the time to let us know. Maddy!

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