Do Black Bears Eat Squirrels? (5 Things You Need To Know!)

Black bears and squirrels live in places with wetlands, forests, and sometimes grasslands. Hence, does this mean black bears eat squirrels like other smaller animals?

Here is a quick answer:

Yes, black bears eat squirrels. However, they do it mostly when food is scarce. 

It’s likely black bears will eat squirrels when they meet. They would be an easy meal for these bears any time.

In addition, there are many types of squirrels around the black bears’ environment. So, which squirrel species do black bears prefer?

Let us dive in below to find out that answer and more!

Table of Contents

What Kind of Squirrels Do Black Bears Eat?

Do Black Bears Eat Flying Squirrels?

Yes, black bears eat flying squirrels, but not all the time. In this case, this squirrel breed spends most of their time on top of trees.

Despite being in the same habitat as black bears, they mostly live in tree cavities and nest boxes. In some situations, black bears can climb on the trees and attack these flying squirrels.

Do Black Bears Eat Gray Squirrels?

A Grey Squirrel Standing on a Concrete Stone

Yes, black bears eat gray squirrels since there are plenty of them in the woodlands and grasslands. In other words, it is relatively easy for black bears to capture them in such places.

In addition, gray squirrels are also smaller than black bears in physical size. This means that once black bears attack them, they are quite defenseless and have no survival options.

However, black bears would only eat gray squirrels mostly when they cross paths.

Do Black Bears Eat Ground Squirrels?

A Ground Squirrel Standing on Its Hind Legs

Yes, black bears eat ground squirrels, and they are among the easiest ones to hunt. As the name suggests, ground squirrels are mostly on the ground or lower surfaces.

As a result, it is so easy for black bears to come across them and turn them into food. Therefore, even when hunting the squirrel, it is easier since they are near the black bears’ reach.

Despite that, black bears only eat ground squirrels according to seasons. For example, there are seasons like mid to late fall when there are many ground squirrels.

At this time, black bears may meet many of these squirrels and feed on them easily. However, in a season like winter, black bears do not eat a lot of ground squirrels since they are scarce.

Do Black Bears Eat Red Squirrels?

A Red Squirrel Eating

Yes, black bears eat red squirrels since they are in the same environment. This way, they can meet and eat them easily, just like they do with the other squirrel species.

Red squirrels mostly live in the woodlands where broad leaves cover. Such locations may make it difficult for black bears to hunt them.

Why Do Black Bears Eat Squirrels?

Black bears usually eat squirrels for the following reasons:

Food Scarcity

Black bears primarily eat berries and fruits as their main foods. Once this diet disappears during certain seasons, they may choose other alternatives, like squirrels.

In other words, food scarcity forces black bears to hunt squirrels for food.

Seasonal Availability

There are seasons when squirrels are many in the environment. At this time, black bears use this chance to feed more on them just because they are in plenty.

To clarify, when there are many in the habitat, black bears don’t have to forage a lot.

Opportunistic Feeding

Black bears are opportunistic feeders and will always feed on most animals that come easily. In this case, when the chance to eat a squirrel comes, they never hesitate to take it.

Additionally, it is difficult for squirrels to defend themselves from black bears since these large mammals are stronger. So, when the chance to eat a squirrel comes, a black bear would take it immediately.

Selective Predation

There are times when black bears may go for animals that are easy to catch. In most cases, this may include smaller animals that are defenseless.

Squirrels are one of the easy meals that black bears may choose in such a situation. In other words, when black bears need to conserve energy, they mostly go for squirrels.

Where Do Black Bears Hunt Squirrels?

A Curious Black Bear

Black bears usually hunt squirrels in several places, including:

Fallen Trees and Logs

Black bears and squirrels mostly live in woodland areas. In this case, trees or logs may fall, making it easy for black bears to catch squirrels.

To clarify, ground squirrels and other species may inhabit fallen logs or trees. As a result, it becomes relatively easy for black bears to find them without hunting further.

Wooden Clearings

The wooden clearing in the forests is also a good location where black bears can hunt squirrels. In other words, squirrels love to forage in these wooden clearings for different foods.

Black bears take advantage of the clearings to easily catch the foraging squirrels. In addition, wooden clearings are among the best places where black bears can hunt squirrels.

The clearings have fewer escaping places for the squirrels, making it easy for black bears to corner them.

Riparian Zones

The riparian zones are also among the easiest places where black bears can hunt squirrels. In this case, the squirrels come out in these zones to drink water and meet black bears.

As a result, black bears use this opportunity to attack the squirrels and turn them into food.

Forest Canopy

The forest canopy is another location where black bears can easily hunt squirrels. In this case, species like flying squirrels spend most of their time on trees.

Black bears can navigate the low branches and catch squirrels without making them aware.

How Do Black Bears Prey on Squirrels?

Black bears can hunt squirrels in several ways, including: 

Ground Pursuit

This method is among the most common and effective for black bears. When squirrels forage in open fields, black bears can spot and chase them down.

However, this method is only effective in open areas with less bush cover. To clarify, squirrels may get the chance to hide if a place has thick bushes, making this method ineffective.

Ambush From Trees

Black bears can also attack squirrels by ambushing them from trees. In this situation, the method of attack mostly works when preying on flying squirrels that live in nests.

Ambushing is also very effective in leaving almost no chance for escape since it’s a surprise.

Digging Squirrel Burrows

Black bears can excavate burrows where squirrels live and attack them without notice. These bears have powerful claws that make this method of preying quite effective.

Therefore, squirrels that hibernate in burrows get no survival chance when it comes to a black bear attack.

What Other Animals Do Black Bears Eat Besides Squirrels?

Other many animals live around black bears. Most of these animals are small, making them easy prey for black bears, just like squirrels.

Some of these animals include:

  • Beavers
  • Bobcats
  • Coyotes
  • Wolves
  • Rabbits


In summary, black bears eat squirrels since they live in the same environment around grasslands or forests.

Remember, black bears mostly eat squirrels when the main foods, like fruits and berries, are out. In addition, black bears can find squirrels in:

  • Wooden clearings
  • Riparian zones
  • Fallen logs and trees

When black bears find locations with squirrels, they may hunt them down by:

  • Ground pursuit
  • Ambushing
  • Digging their burrows

Now you know that black bears eat squirrels when the main foods like berries aren’t available. So, does it mean that black bears are mostly vegetarian?

Find out that answer and more in our article, Are Black Bears Vegetarian?