10 Interesting Animals That Eat Pine Cones! See Pictures

Have you ever observed a squirrel making away with a pine cone or a rat trying to bite into a pine cone?

The common notion is that pine 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 tiny creatures would make off with these cones. It got me wondering about other animals that eat pine cones. 

Animals that eat pine cones:

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

Table of Contents

1. Squirrels

squirrel eating pine cone 24102021

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 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 pines so that they can eat them later on.

2. Deer

deer 28082021

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 pine cones and pine needles. The primary reason for this is the scarcity of other food sources.

The pine 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 pine cones due to the lack of suitable foliage during winter.

3. Woodpeckers

woodpecker eating pine cone 24102021

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 open a pine cone with ease.

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

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 pine cones by observing the broken pine cones lying at the foot of trees.

4. Raccoons

raccoon eating 24102021

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 seeds inside.

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

5. Chipmunks

chipmunk eating pine cone 24102021

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.

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

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

6. Nuthatches

nuthatch eating pine cone 24102021

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 pine 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 seeds. Hence, they will search for suitable nuts that they can store in the crevices of trees.

7. Rats

rat in tree 24102021

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 pine 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 cones to access the seeds inside.

8. Black Bears

black bear in pine tree 24102021

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 pine cones.

9. Finches

finch sitting in pine tree 24102021

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 pine cone with its 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 pine cones. 

10. Chickadees

mountain chickadee sitting on pine cone 24102021

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

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

Pine cones are mostly available during the autumn season of the year. Hence, the birds tend to depend on the pine cones as a source of food during this time.


The animals that eat pine cones are squirrels, deer, woodpeckers, raccoons, chipmunks, nuthatches, rats, black bears, finches, crossbills, and chickadees.

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