What To Feed Squirrels

What To Feed Squirrels

Squirrels are cute, agile, and mischievous creatures that are commonly found in urban, suburban, and rural areas. They are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. They are also opportunistic eaters, which means they will eat almost anything they can find. While some people consider squirrels to be pests, many others enjoy feeding them and watching their antics. If you are one of those people, here are some tips for feeding squirrels.

What Can You Feed Squirrels?

The first step in feeding squirrels is to choose the right food. Squirrels eat a variety of foods, including nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and insects. Some of the best foods to feed squirrels include:

Nuts: Squirrels love nuts, especially acorns, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and walnuts. You can feed them raw or roasted nuts, but make sure they are unsalted. Nuts are a staple in squirrels’ diets, providing them with essential fatty acids that support their immune system and overall health.

Seeds: Squirrels also enjoy seeds, such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. You can buy these seeds at most grocery stores or pet stores.

Fruits: Squirrels love fruits, such as apples, bananas, grapes, and oranges. You can cut these fruits into small pieces and place them in a feeding dish. Fruits offer natural sugars and vitamins, but they should be provided in moderation to prevent excessive sugar intake.

Vegetables: Squirrels will eat vegetables, such as carrots, celery, and broccoli. You can also offer them sweet potatoes or cooked squash. Vegetables contribute fiber and essential nutrients to squirrels’ diets. These foods promote digestive health and help prevent obesity.

Insects: Squirrels are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. They will eat insects, such as crickets, mealworms, and waxworms. You can buy these insects at most pet stores. Protein is crucial for squirrels, especially during breeding seasons. Offer protein sources like eggs and mealworms to ensure their reproductive success.

Foods to Avoid Feeding Squirrels

While squirrels will eat almost anything, it is important to avoid feeding them junk food. Junk food is not healthy for squirrels, just like it is not healthy for humans. Avoid feeding squirrels junk food or processed snacks, as these can be harmful to their health. Avoid offering:

Processed foods: Chips, crackers, and other processed snacks lack nutritional value and can lead to health issues.

Sugary treats: Squirrels have difficulty digesting sugars, so it’s best to steer clear of sugary foods like candy.

High-salt foods: Salty foods can disrupt squirrels’ fluid balance and cause dehydration.

Provide Water

In addition to food, squirrels also need access to clean, fresh water. You can provide water for squirrels in a number of ways. One option is to place a shallow dish of water near the feeding area. Alternatively, you can install a bird bath or small fountain, which will provide squirrels with a source of running water. Make sure to change the water regularly to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

When and How to Feed Squirrels

Squirrels are most active during the early morning and late afternoon. Create a feeding schedule that aligns with their natural habits to ensure they receive your offerings.

Use the Right Feeder

There are a variety of squirrel feeders available on the market, but not all of them are created equal. When choosing a feeder, look for one that is sturdy and well-built, as squirrels can be quite persistent in their efforts to get to the food. A feeder with a metal mesh or wire construction can help prevent squirrels from chewing through the feeder to access the food inside. Designate specific feeding areas to minimize competition with other wildlife. Use squirrel-proof feeders to protect the food from rain and other animals.

Place the Feeder in the Right Location

The location of your squirrel feeder can have a big impact on its success. Squirrels prefer to feed in areas that are sheltered and safe, so look for a location that is protected from the wind and rain. It’s also important to place the feeder in an area that is easily accessible for both you and the squirrels. Avoid placing the feeder too close to your house, as squirrels may be tempted to enter your home in search of food.

Don’t Overfeed

While it can be tempting to keep feeding squirrels, it’s important to avoid overfeeding them. Squirrels have a tendency to hoard food, which can lead to obesity and other health problems. In addition, overfeeding can attract other unwanted animals to your yard, such as raccoons or rodents. To avoid overfeeding, try to limit the amount of food you provide and only feed squirrels once a day.

Be Patient

Feeding squirrels can be a fun and rewarding activity, but it’s important to be patient. Squirrels can be cautious creatures and may take some time to get comfortable with a new feeding area. It may take several days or even weeks for squirrels to start visiting your feeder regularly. Be patient and persistent, and eventually, the squirrels will come.

Balancing Natural Foraging and Supplemental Feeding

Encourage squirrels to forage for food naturally while still supplementing their diet. This helps maintain their natural instincts and prevents overreliance on human-provided food.

Watch for Signs of Illness

Feeding squirrels can be a great way to enjoy wildlife up close, but it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of illness. Squirrels are susceptible to a variety of diseases, including rabies, leptospirosis, and salmonella. Symptoms of illness in squirrels can include lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing.

If you notice any signs of illness in a squirrel, it’s best to avoid feeding them and contact a wildlife expert or veterinarian for assistance. It’s also important to practice good hygiene when feeding squirrels, such as washing your hands thoroughly after handling food or coming into contact with a squirrel.

Respect Squirrel Behavior

Squirrels are wild animals, and it’s important to respect their natural behavior. While it can be tempting to get close to a squirrel or even try to touch them, this can be dangerous for both you and the squirrel. Squirrels can bite and scratch if they feel threatened, and they can also carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans.

Instead, enjoy the squirrels from a safe distance and watch their behavior from afar. This will allow you to observe their natural behavior and enjoy their antics without putting yourself or the squirrels in danger.

Consider the Impact on Other Wildlife

Feeding squirrels can have an impact on other wildlife in the area, and it’s important to consider this when setting up a feeding station. For example, feeding squirrels can attract other animals to the area, such as raccoons, opossums, and skunks. These animals can be attracted to the same foods that squirrels enjoy, and may also cause damage to your property.

To avoid attracting unwanted animals, try to limit the amount of food you provide and clean up any spilled food or debris promptly. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for any signs of damage to your property, such as chewed wires or damaged insulation.

Be Mindful of the Environment

Finally, it’s important to be mindful of the environment when feeding squirrels. While squirrels are cute and fun to watch, they can also have an impact on the environment if they are overfed or if their feeding habits change the local ecosystem. For example, if squirrels are fed too much, they may become dependent on humans for food and may not be able to survive on their own in the wild.

To minimize your impact on the environment, try to limit the amount of food you provide and stick to natural, healthy foods. Avoid using pesticides or other harmful chemicals in the area around the feeding station, as these can be harmful to squirrels and other wildlife.

Feeding squirrels can be a fun and rewarding activity, but it’s important to do it in a responsible and mindful way. By choosing the right foods, using the right feeder, and placing it in the right location, you can help ensure the safety and well-being of both the squirrels and yourself. Remember to be patient, respectful, and mindful of the environment, and you’ll be able to enjoy these cute and entertaining creatures for years to come.