Do Squirrels Eat Tomatoes? 6 Ways to Protect Your Harvest

Get ready to defend your tomatoes from squirrels with these tips.

Finding a prized homegrown tomato on the ground with a bite out of it may have you wondering if squirrels eat tomatoes (and maybe saying a few choice words). The short answer is yes, squirrels do find tomatoes to be a tasty snack. In fact, both tree squirrels and ground squirrels will feast on an array of ripe garden produce such as strawberries, sweet corn, and bell peppers. They usually wait until the produce is perfectly ripe before taking a bite. And when squirrels eat a tomato, they frequently take just one bite before moving on to the next ripe fruit. Get to know these rodents’ habits and protect your produce from them with these tips.

squirrel eating tomatoes

Getty Images / Julien C

Types of Squirrels That Eat Tomatoes

Two types of squirrels are known to eat tomatoes as they scamper through the summer vegetable garden: tree squirrels and ground squirrels. Both types of squirrels are primarily active during the day and regularly forage on ripe produce.

Ground Squirrels

Ground squirrels are smaller than tree squirrels and don’t have a bushy tail. Most ground squirrels are 12 to 16 inches long, including their tail, and have mottled brown firm. Some types have white and brown stripes. Ground squirrels live in colonies, building burrows with extensive tunnels 2 to 6 feet underground. The burrows with multiple entrance holes popping up through the garden are often as frustrating as the ground squirrels’ tomato eating habits.  

Tree Squirrels

Tree squirrels spend most of their time above the garden in trees. They descend to the garden to feed during daylight hours. Like ground squirrels, there are many types of tree squirrels across North America, but their habits are similar. Tree squirrels are attracted to ripe produce; they will usually pass by a green, unripe tomato without a second look. Their diet changes weekly based on what's on nature's menu.

close up of cherry tomatoes

Marty Ross

6 Ways to Protect Your Tomatoes from Squirrels

Tree squirrels, with their agility and lofty living quarters, along with speedy ground squirrels, have the upper hand in the garden. However, there are a few things an earth-bound, slow-footed gardener can do to prevent squirrels from turning a tomato patch into their favorite buffet.

1. Build a barrier.

It's impossible to contain roving squirrels, but you can create a critter-free area around your prized tomatoes. Use heavy duty hardware cloth to build a cage around tomato plants. If ground squirrels are your primary nemesis, the structure can be a simple fence that is 18 inches tall and buried 6 inches below ground. Thwarting tree squirrels from sampling tomatoes involves building a cage that envelops the entire plant. Not only will a whole-plant cage prevent tree squirrels from harvesting tomatoes, but it will prevent you from harvesting them too. Add a door to the structure or plan to lift the cage off the plant every time you want to water or harvest. 

2. Use a repellant.

There are several commercial repellants available to deter squirrels from munching on plants. The repellants work to varying degrees of success and must be reapplied after rain. Peppermint and hot pepper are common repellant ingredients. Look for products in granular form that are spread around the base of the plant as well as liquid repellants that are applied to foliage. Be sure the repellant is safe to use around produce.

3. Promote predators.

Natural predators such as snakes, hawks, and owls help control the squirrel population. Snakes are especially effective at keeping ground squirrel communities at a reasonable level. Welcome these visitors into your garden by providing wildlife habitat.

4. Employ the family pet.

Both cats and dogs can be effective squirrel deterrents. Just your pet's scent in the garden is sometimes enough of a threat to scare squirrels away. Try collecting fur that your pet has shed and placing it liberally around your tomatoes as they begin to ripen to see if that does the trick. And dogs often love to chase away any squirrels that dare enter their territory as well.

5. Get a professional involved.

Professional pest companies often offer rodent control services. Inquire with your local company about trapping and relocating squirrels. Fumigation is also a control option in some areas for ground squirrels.

6. Share the garden.

The adage “when you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” applies here. It’s nearly impossible to completely prevent squirrels from occasionally taking a bite out of a tomato or other produce. If you can, plant a little more than you need, and share your garden with the 4-legged creatures. It is highly likely that they’ll be distracted by another tasty morsel within a few days, and you’ll be left with plenty of fresh produce.

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