11 Animals That Eat Pine Cones! (2022 Updated)

Last updated on October 4th, 2022

Have you ever observed a squirrel making away with a scaly pine cone or a rat trying to bite into a brown cone? I completely understand why you might be wondering about what animals eat pine cones.

The common notion is that these brown scaly cones are inedible. So I wondered what happened to the fresh pine cones that I would keep on the window sills.

Then I discovered that these creatures would make off with these cones and it got me wondering about other animals that eat brown cones.

What eats pine cones?

  • Squirrels
  • Deer
  • Woodpeckers
  • Raccoons
  • Chipmunks
  • Nuthatches
  • Rats
  • Black bears
  • Goats
  • Finches
  • Chickadees

Table of Contents

1. Squirrels

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Squirrels love to collect nuts like acorns, pines, and chestnuts and store these in their designated hoards.

But you will often see squirrels chewing on brown pine cones like how we eat corn on the cob. Squirrels will eat the scales to get to the seed within the cone.

Sometimes, squirrels can break open the cone from bottom to top to access the seeds. This they will do with the dry pine cones.

Squirrels are also known to collect and store female pine cones because it’s larger and they can eat them later on.

2. Deer

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Deer are herbivorous animals, and they do not hibernate during winter like many animals living in temperate regions.

The whitetail deer is primarily found consuming cones and pine needles. The primary reason for this is the scarcity of other food sources.

These cones provide the creature with the necessary nutrition for winter since it is usually falling to the ground around mid-September to mid-December.

Deer are drawn toward these cones due to the lack of suitable foliage during winter.

Want to learn more about deer eating pinecones? Check out our in-depth article.

3. Woodpeckers

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These unique birds can strip open a pine cone to access the seed inside. The sharp beak of a woodpecker can help the bird to break it open with ease.

You can sometimes see a woodpecker jamming a pine cone into a crevice of a branch before pecking into it.

This gives the bird a better grip on the cone, and the woodpecker can quickly drill through the rigid outer surface.

You can find that woodpeckers have been through these cones by observing the broken ones lying at the foot of pine trees.

4. Raccoons

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Raccoons are scavengers, and they eat almost anything. In urban areas, you will find raccoons in storm drains, abandoned chimneys, and other similar regions.

Since raccoons are excellent climbers, they often search for food in the upper reaches of coniferous trees.

The sharp claws of a raccoon make it easy for the creature to break open the outer case and access the pine cone seeds inside.

Raccoons are omnivores and will eat almost anything, which is why these cones are also edible for them.

5. Chipmunks

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Chipmunks love to eat a variety of nuts such as acorns, chestnuts, seeds, as well as berries. On the other hand, the pine cone has seeds that chipmunks love to nibble on.

These creatures have incredibly sharp teeth that help them break open the pod so that they can access the seeds inside.

Once they have extracted the seeds from these brown cones, they take these seeds and store them in tree hollows for winter.

It is more common for chipmunks to eat the female pine cones, because they are larger, and they contain nourishing seeds inside, which chipmunks find delicious.

Chipmunks have also been observed breaking open green pine cones to access the seeds inside as well.

6. Nuthatches

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Nuthatches are small birds with sharp beaks. These birds are known for their love for seeds. You will often find nuthatches looking for and collecting different types of seeds, especially sunflower seeds.

This particular bird species can break open a brown cone pod by constantly poking or tapping it with its beak. Once the pod breaks open, the nuthatch will extract the pine seeds from the cone.

Nuthatches are notorious for stashing pine cone seeds. Hence, they will search for suitable nuts that they can store in the crevices of conifer trees.

7. Rats

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Rats are known to eat almost anything. Being a rodent, the teeth of a rat grow throughout its life. Rats always try to find hard things that they can bite to file down their teeth.

The hard outer surface of these cones offers the necessary resistance to rats to help them reduce the length of their teeth.

Along with that, rats tend to collect pine cones to eat the seeds inside the cones. They can easily bite through the cone scales to access the seeds inside.

Want to learn more about rats eating pinecones? Check out our in-depth article for more information.

8. Black Bears

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Black bears are often found foraging around pine trees. People often think that black bears search for pine cones because they want to eat the seeds underneath the scales of the cones.

But black bears are not adept at removing the scales and accessing the pine nuts or the seeds. They might be seen handling pine cones, but they do not consume these cones.

Instead, they will raid the hoards of squirrels where the creature has already detached the scales from the cones.

The black bear will then consume the seeds that the squirrels would have already detached from the scales of the cones.

9. Goats

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Goats are among the few animals that can eat brown cones without adverse effects and even though pine cones have a tough outer covering, goats can easily bite them.

However, a goat will not break open a cone just to access the seeds. Instead, it will eat the cone whole, scales and all.

In addition to the nutritional benefits of pine cones, pine nuts contain protein, fiber, phosphorus, and iron. All of which are needed to build a robust immune system.

Also, it’s true that wild goats eat pine cones since they are not picky about the foods they eat. 

Still curious? Check out this article to learn more about goats eating pinecones.

10. Pigs

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It is interesting to note that although pigs are omnivorous, even in the wild, they avoid consuming pine cones.

Pigs are able to eat various fruits that fall from trees, such as cherries or peaches, but pine cones that fall from conifer trees are not suitable for them to consume.

In contrast, a pig will not suffer any harm from eating broken pine cones or pine nuts inside cones, but due to their excellent sense of smell, they can identify foods that are inedible to them.

Interested in learning more about pigs eating pine cones? Check out this article “do pigs eat pine cones?” for more information.

11. Finches

The common finch is a unique bird with a big beak. It is usually seen consuming several types of seeds. The finch can use its beak to break open pine cones to access the seeds inside.

If you see purple finches, you will notice that these birds can break open a cone with their powerful beak and tongue with a few taps.

The bird then uses its tongue to extract the seeds from the cone. These birds love to eat pine seeds, and the best way to access fresh seeds would be to break open the brown cones.

12. Chickadees

Mountain chickadees love these cones. You will find these birds using their feet and beak to break open a brown cone to access the seeds inside.

The mountain chickadees are primarily found in mountainous regions where food sources are limited. This makes it necessary for the bird to survive on the available food.

Female cones are mostly available during the spring season of the year. Hence, the birds tend to depend on sources of food available during this time.

Animals that eat green pine cones

The animals that eat green cones are chipmunks, squirrels, deer, raccoons, rats, bears, and rabbits. Green pine cones have a high nutritional value and are a great source of fiber and vitamins for these creatures.

What animals collect pine cones?

The animals that collect these brown cones from the forest floor are squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, rats, and rabbits. These creatures will consume the pine seed on the spot or take the cones into the hollows of trees for later use.

What animals chew up pine cones?

Squirrels, chipmunks, goats, and raccoons are notoriously known for chewing up pine cones around the conifer trees by stripping away the scaly layers to access the seeds inside.

What animal eats pine needles?

The animals that eat pine needles from time to time are deer, goats, squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits, however, these creatures prefer fresh pine needles because the brown ones are dry and stiff.

Despite being called evergreens, pines and most other conifers trees do not retain their green needles forever; however, new needles are produced each spring.

The growth of new pine needles will also attract wandering creatures looking for a plant to snack on.

What animals eat pine cones?

Both grey and red squirrels enjoy eating pine cones. However, the other animals that eat pine cones as well are deer, woodpeckers, raccoons, chipmunks, nuthatches, rats, black bears, finches, crossbills, and chickadees.

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