How Many Nuts Can a Squirrel Hold in its Mouth? Cheek Capacity: Acorns to Walnuts

Squirrels are lucky animals.

When they fill their cheeks full of nuts, not only is it acceptable, it’s about the cutest thing in the world.

It’s an amazing ability and begs the question…just how much can they fit in those cheeks?  And can all squirrels do it?

We’re going to answer that and more.  Plus, we’ll end with a video that supports our estimates.  Let’s dive in…

How Many Nuts can Squirrels Carry in their Mouth or Cheeks?

With their deep cheek pouches, Ground Squirrels can carry approximately 2 walnuts, 6 small chestnuts, 8 acorns or 10 hazelnuts (filberts).   Pouch size and elasticity are variables that can limit or increase the number of nuts.

how many nuts a squirrel can carry in its mouth at one time
Squirrel Cheeks by Nut Size

Not included in the above graphic, but in addition to packing nuts into their side pouches, one final nut can usually fit right inside the squirrel’s mouth.

Why Squirrels Put so Many Nuts in their Mouth

This is natural behavior for ground squirrels who stumble upon a bounty of nuts. Instinctively, they know time is not on their side and it’s now or never.

With no way of eating all these nuts, uninterrupted, in one sitting, they make a quick decision to stuff their cheeks and move as many nuts as possible.

Lucky for ground squirrels, transporting a stockpile of nuts back to their den is relatively easy.

Do Squirrels Store Food in Their Cheeks for a Long Time?

Squirrels don’t store the nuts in their cheeks for very long. Think of it as temporary storage or a means of transportation.

Their cheeks are kind of like our grocery bags.  They stretch pretty far and they sit to the exterior of their jaw line.

Can it cause choking?

By design, their cheek shape and location are not in front of their airway.  That means it won’t cause squirrels to choke on all their nuts.

However, not all squirrels have the ability to carry lots of nuts around.

Do Flying Squirrels Carry Nuts Around?

flying squirrel cheeks
Flying Squirrel

Flying squirrels can only carry nuts around if they fit into their mouth space.  If they find a nut and want to take it elsewhere to eat, they simply put it in their mouth, behind their teeth.

Once they reach their destination, they are free to start eating the nut.

Can Tree Squirrels Stuff Their Cheeks?

Tree squirrels can stuff their mouth with more than one nut, but they are not able to pack nuts into their cheeks.

tree squirrel cheeks don't hold food
Tree Squirrel

That’s because a tree squirrel’s cheeks don’t expand like ground squirrels or other rodents such as chipmunks and hamsters.

How Nut Size, Shape, and Exterior Effect Cheek Packing

When it comes to size, obviously, the larger the nut, the more space they take up inside the cheek.

But the size of each nut isn’t the only consideration.

nut shapes and sizes effect squirrels
Smooth Nuts vs. Pointy Nuts

Exterior Texture of Shell

Nuts that have a slick exterior, such as hazelnuts, are a little easier for the squirrel to pack than rough nuts such as peanuts or almonds.

Shell Shape

And pointed nuts, like almonds (one of the best nuts for squirrels), are usually twirled a few times until the squirrel can be certain it won’t poke his cheek.

Video: squirrel packing nuts in cheeks

Watch this awesome video of a ground squirrel packing about 10 hazel nuts into his cheeks.  Seems like he remembers this human as a food source and is taking full advantage!

Looks like he took 1 pointy almond at the end.

The squirrel carrying nuts in that video looked a bit smaller than average. Even still, did you see how big a squirrel’s cheeks can get with food packing!

Larger ground squirrels could have probably packed a couple more.

In Summary

Not all squirrels have cheek pouches for stashing and transporting nuts and other foods.

Out of ground squirrels, tree squirrels and flying squirrels, only the ground squirrel can move lots of nuts from one place to another using her cheeks.

How many nuts can she transport at once?  It depends on the size of the squirrel, plus the size and shape of the nut.

But usually several in each size, plus one in the mouth.

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