The Diet of Pine Squirrels

Pine squirrels get their name from primarily eating the seeds of pine cones. Their favorite pine cones are those produced by a Douglas Fir pine tree. These cute little fury animals spend all summer, gathering as many pine cones as possible, to hide in a stash for winter time, when food is scarce. The stash is often called a larder-hoard in a midden. This basically means it is stored in one location and often in the debris of old pine cones that were eaten the previous year. Larder-hoard is just a term for storing large amounts of food.  

The pine squirrels will occasionally hide the pine cones in smaller amounts in what is referred to as scatter-hoards.  A scatter-hoard is a small stash hidden close to the place the squirrel gathered the food  The squirrel will typically have several of these small stashes throughout the forest. The squirrels are funny to watch while they try to bury their acorns, as if they are a form of buried treasure.

Pine squirrels also eat insects, small pieces of bone, and even bird eggs when they can get them, especially in early spring as a means to supplement their normal diet. This makes their diet more versatile for when pine cones are scarce in a bad year. Mushrooms and fungi make great items for them to stash away for a winter time feast. Other favorite foods of the pine squirrels include acorns, sun flower seeds, fruit, and blossoms when they are available. When food is really scarce, the pine squirrels have been known to be destructive to pine trees by eating the buds, bark, and sap from the trees, often causing a great deal of damage. Some times the damage is enough that it will even kill the trees.

A pine squirrel typically claims an area of about 1ha for his home territory to feed in. This is approximately an area of 2.45 acres. They like to eat their food slightly above the ground where they can keep a lookout for predators. Yet they try to stay close to their stash because they are prolific feeders. If you see lots of acorn shells or pine cones that have only the core part left, then you have probably stumbled across one of the squirrels’ stash areas.  Pine squirrels have a strong urge to try to return to the area where they are born after they go out and search for food. However, they usually avoid feeding in areas along the edge of the forest because of predators.