Have you ever seen the cores of pine cones lying beneath a tree, stripped of all their outer scales like empty corn cobs? If so, squirrels were likely the culprit behind it. Pine cones are one of the squirrels’ favorite foods, and it is natural and healthy for them to eat the cones. However, if you notice squirrels eating the cones of a tree on your property, it could mean that they have made a nest in your attic, in which case you need professional squirrel removal to cope with the problem.
What Parts of the Pine Cone Do Squirrels Eat?
A squirrel’s favorite part of the pine cone is the seeds, which are sometimes also referred to as pine nuts. These are contained near the core of the pine cone, protected by hard scales on the outside. The front teeth of a squirrel are strong and sharp, so they are easily able to strip away the scales to get to the seeds. They may also eat the seeds as well.
Which Species of Squirrels Eat Pine Cones?
The American red squirrel is one of the species that live in Wisconsin. It is one of a handful of species known as pine squirrels for their affinity for the cones for food and the trees themselves to make homes. However, any species of tree squirrel may eat pine cones, not just those identified as pine squirrels. Other common tree squirrel species in Wisconsin include the fox squirrel and the gray squirrel, both of which may eat pine cones.
What Benefits Do Squirrels Get from Eating Pine Cones?
In the first place, pine cones are very nutritious for squirrels. From the nuts, they can receive the following vitamins, minerals, and nutrients:
- Vitamin K
Pine cones are also a good source of fiber.
Another benefit of eating pine cones is that they can be stored for later. Tree squirrels do not hibernate, so they have to collect stores of food to sustain them during the winter months. Pine cones are easy to collect and store, and they don’t go bad, so squirrels like to collect and save them so they have them to eat during the winter.
What Kind of Pine Cones Do Squirrels Like To Eat?
Every pine tree produces two different kinds of cones. Male pine cones are small and produce pollen to fertilize the female pine cones, which contain the seeds. The female cones fall to the ground to disperse the seeds, while the male cones stay in the trees and keep producing pollen. Since squirrels are most interested in the nuts, they prefer the female pine cones and largely ignore the male ones.
Squirrels have their choice between the green, immature female pine cones and the brown, mature ones. Though they will eat either, they prefer the green pine cones.
There are several reasons for this. Because the pine cones are immature, they are more tender and easier to eat. The mature outer scales are harder to get through to get to the nuts. The squirrels can manage, but they prefer not to have to work so hard.
Once the pine cone matures, it opens up and starts to disperse the seeds. By the time the squirrel gets to it, some of the seeds may be gone. With the green pine cones, the seeds are still tucked safely inside. Over the course of several months, the green pine cones mature, and a squirrel that has them stored can eat all the nuts.
Look for Signs That You Need Squirrel Removal
If you notice signs that squirrels have been in your pine tree, or looking for stores of cones in and around your house, especially in the attic or on the roof. These may be signs they are using your property to hide them away. Contact Skedaddle for wildlife control in Milwaukee.