Feeding Squirrels? Here’s What You Need to Know!

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning that we earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Read the full affiliate disclosure here.

As a nature lover who has several years of experience observing and interacting with squirrels around the world, I understand how tempting it can be to feed wild squirrels. But it is important to understand that feeding them can have serious consequences and harm both the animals and humans alike. That’s why in this blog post, I’m going to discuss what you need to know about feeding squirrels, so you can make an informed decision about your actions.

Supplemental feeding of wild squirrels is a potentially dangerous activity. It may cause the animals to become habituated, meaning they lose their natural fear of humans and associated behaviors such as fleeing or alarm-calling. When mammals lose their innate wariness, they can become overly bold in their attempts to gain access to human sources of food, resulting in incidents where people are injured. To avoid this, it is recommended never to feed or coax wild animals.

Corn On The Cob For Squirrels

corn on the cob for squirrels

★★★★★ 4.6

Feeding Squirrels: What You Need To Know

Supplemental feeding of wild squirrels is a potentially dangerous activity, as it can alter the behavior of these animals and harm both them and humans. This kind of wildlife management should be used with caution, and requires a basic understanding of the risks associated with feeding wild animals. It is important to consider the potential impact on natural ecosystems, as well as different regulations that may apply to feeding wild squirrels.

The Risks Of Feeding Wild Squirrels

A major consequence of feeding squirrels is habituation, meaning they become less fearful or wary of humans. If a squirrel is fed repeatedly by people in an area, it may get too comfortable around humans and stop fleeing from them like other non-habituated animals would. This could lead to aggressive behaviors towards humans, or injury if the animal were to lash out due to being hand-fed.

Another consequence that must be taken into account when considering providing nourishment to wild squirrels is increased risk of injury or death to other animals. If too much food is available in one area, competition between animals will increase, leading to fights and injuries due to territorial disputes.

Habituation

When humans feed wild animals, the animal may learn that humans are a source of food, causing them to abandon their natural fear response when a person appears. When this happens it is known as habituation—the alteration in behavior caused by continued exposure to human presence. This can lead to increased boldness in interactions with humans and could result in incidents where people are injured by foraging animals.

Injury To Animals And Humans

  • Interactions between predators and prey: Providing sustenance may bring large numbers of potential prey into an area already inhabited by predators. This raises the chances of negative encounters between predators and prey.
  • Injury risk: When competing over resources such as food, water or sleeping spaces; fighting amongst animals can occur which can result in serious injury or death.
  • Human safety: Once wild squirrels start relying on human-provided food sources they may become overly bold when seeking further services. In cases where hand-feeding occurs this could potentially lead to bites or scratches.

Wildlife Conservation And Feeding Wild Squirrels

It’s important for those who wish to provide nourishment for wild creatures (particularly squirrels) to understand that this activity has both positive and negative effects on the environment and its inhabitants. Every situation is unique – those who use supplemental feeding should take into consideration all possible implications before offering sustenance, such as whether there are healthy alternatives available for these animals within their own environment.

Respectful Feeding Habits

When it comes to feeding wild squirrels, it’s important to do so in a way that respects their natural environment. Here are a few tips to ensure respectful feeding habits:

  1. Don’t overfeed! Provide just enough food for the squirrels so as not to attract other wildlife and potential predators.
  2. Be mindful of the food you provide. Make sure it’s suitable for squirrels to eat, and avoid foods with added sugars and fats.
  3. Always feed at a safe distance. Don’t try to get too close or touch them while they’re eating, as this can cause stress and fear.
  4. Keep your area clean after you feed the squirrels. Be sure to pick up any uneaten food or discarded packaging from your area.

What To Feed Wild Squirrels

It’s important to consider the nutritional needs of wild squirrels when providing food for them. Although it is possible to feed backyard birds and squirrels the same type of food, they actually have different dietary requirements. For wild squirrels, certain foods are much safer and healthier than others.

Natural Foods

The most nutritious way to feed wild squirrels is with natural foods that contain high amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. This includes things like nuts, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and insects. However, some natural foods should be avoided because they may not provide enough nutrients for a squirrel or may even be toxic.

  • Eggshells don’t provide enough nourishment and can also cause choking hazards for small animals.
  • Some plants like foxglove and daffodils can be poisonous to squirrels, so it’s important to research what’s safe before feeding them anything.
  • Bread isn’t nutritionally beneficial as it lacks sufficient fats and proteins.

Nuts

Nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and almonds are great sources of nutrition for wild squirrels. These can easily be presented in bird or peanut-shaped feeders in order to keep the nuts away from other animals such as cats and dogs. For added nutrition, peanuts can be soaked in water overnight so that they become softer and easier to digest.

Fruits And Vegetables

Squirrels also enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Berries such as strawberries or raspberries are particularly nutritious for them. Likewise, corn on the cob makes a wonderful snack that provides lots of minerals like magnesium and calcium. Other vegetables that squirrels love to include squash, green beans, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage leaves and spinach.

Seeds

Sunflower seeds make an excellent snack for wild squirrels because they are packed with energy. These can easily be placed in feeders specifically designed for small mammals. If you choose to go this route then opt for black oil sunflower seeds because they offer more nutrition than striped seeds.

Corn Cobs

By far one of the most popular treats among wild squirrels is corn cobs! Corn cobs should always be fresh since moldy ones present a potential risk for food poisoning. Another precaution is to avoid feeding pre-shucked corn cobs since these won’t contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals found in fresh corn cobs.

Water

Squirrels need access to water just like any other mammal would have in order to stay hydrated. A small dish filled with fresh water will suffice or if you prefer something more creative than you could opt for a birdbath as long as it’s shallow enough that it won’t create a drowning risk for wildlife.

Provide water to the squirrels

Backyard Bird Feeding vs. Feeding Wild Squirrels

Feeding backyard birds is an increasingly popular activity, and if done properly, it can help provide sustenance to a variety of species. However, when providing nourishment to wild squirrels, there are several key differences that need to be taken into account in order to do so responsibly. Differences in nutritional needs and policy regulations are especially important considerations.

Differences in Nutritional Needs

Wild squirrels require more protein than backyard birds — nuts, seeds, and meat such as cooked eggs should all make up part of the animal’s diet. Other natural items like corn cobs can also offer necessary minerals and vitamins for wild animals. Avoid feeding store-bought birdseed or other scraps from common household items as these lack the nutrients that are necessary for squirrels.

Regulatory Differences

Most municipalities have laws prohibiting the feeding of wild animals, particularly those animals deemed “nuisance” species. This includes coyotes, bears, deer and feral cats among others; however many cities also consider wild squirrels a nuisance due to their risk of spreading disease or raiding gardens. Before beginning any kind of supplemental feeding program therefore, it is vitally important to ensure it is legal in your area.

Creating a Good Habitat for Wild Squirrels

For those supplementing food for wild squirrels it is also helpful to create or purchase habitat that allows the animal to thrive in its natural environment. Simple additions like nesting boxes or brush piles can help create warm environments that provide both added protection from predators and provide secluded spots away from humans, should the animal become overly comfortable with contact.

Squirrel Nest Boxes

A good quality nest box (or multiple) will act as a safe sanctuary for these creatures during both cold weather months and during peak predator seasons such as summer or fall when larger and more powerful wildlife may try to use the squirrel’s den as their own. Be sure to select boxes made specifically for squirrels which feature entrance holes large enough for the animal but small enough so that predators cannot access it.

Control Pets To Keep Squirrels Safe

It is also crucial if feeding wild squirrels in your yard to keep pets well controlled at all times. Even domestic cats—if fed regular meals—will hunt smaller animals like birds and wild rodents when given the chance. Furthermore, ensure all trash containers are securely closed; unattended garbage can become an easy target for scavenging wildlife.

Plant Sunflowers For Squirrels

Finally, one way to naturally provide extra nutrition is by planting native sunflower varieties that flower during late summer into fall cycles; this will also aid pollinators who feed on nectar producing flowers such as goldenrod, milkweed and joe-pyeweed species.

Benefits Of Feeding Wild Squirrels

Feeding wild squirrels offers many benefits. It helps keep the animals healthy and well-fed, supporting their natural habitat as a source of food. Additionally, it can provide viewers with an enjoyable outdoor activity that can be shared with family or friends. By providing nutritionally-rich snacks to squirrels, you’ll show kindness to your furry neighbors and support local wildlife communities. Plus, watching them eat can be a marvelous sight!

Environmental Benefits

Supplemental feeding of wild squirrels can be beneficial for the environment in many ways. One way is to provide food to animals during periods of environmental distress, such as during droughts or unusually cold weather. By providing nourishment to squirrels, it gives them the energy they need to survive and reproduce, ensuring their population numbers stay stable even in harsh conditions.

In addition, squirrels can help distribute seeds far and wide throughout their habitats. They are especially effective at spreading native plants by storing acorns and other nuts underground, often taking the seed far away from where they found it originally. This helps with reforestation efforts and encourages a diverse range of plant life.

Health Benefits

Feeding wild squirrels can help promote healthy lifestyles for both animals and humans alike. By providing nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables for squirrels, it helps them maintain good health and allows them to reach their full potential.

Providing a balanced diet for wild animals is also beneficial for people living near nature reserves or woodlands. Feeding wildlife keeps populations in check, reducing potential problems such as disease or destruction of crops or urban property by keeping their numbers in balance.

Social Benefits

Feeding wild squirrels can have positive social impacts on local communities. It helps bring people together by fostering a shared appreciation of nature and encouraging people to take part in stewardship endeavors that benefit wildlife. In addition, it serves as an educational opportunity, with people learning more about the importance of conserving these species while engaging in activities that provide sustenance.

Local charities may benefit from community involvement when people come together to purchase food supplies for squirrels or work together to create habitats that support population growth. Additionally, businesses may find financial benefits through creating feeder boxes specially designed for wild animal consumption.

Community Engagement

When it comes to providing sustenance to wild squirrels, there are numerous opportunities for community engagement. People living near woodlands or nature reserves can join forces with local charities and organizations who host events such as scavenger hunts or walks with experts discussing the nutritional needs of wild species.

  • Volunteering: Individuals can volunteer their time to build nest boxes or collect food items, contributing towards efforts aimed at helping sustain wildlife populations.
  • Donations: Donations made directly go towards purchasing food items like nuts and fruits that aid in the nourishment of wild squirrels.
  • Events: Hosted events are a great way for families or groups of friends to take part in conservation efforts while learning about the importance of preserving wildlife species like squirrels.

Education And Awareness

Education is key when it comes to understanding the importance of providing sustenance to wild squirrels. Through special presentations or interactive activities hosted by local organization, individuals can learn the basics of nutrition appropriate for various species and gain insight into proper methods for dispersing food sources so as not to attract predators.

Furthermore, teaching others about respectful feeding habits encourages responsibility while ensuring safety protocols are followed. Setting up habitat areas and putting up signs informing passersby about best practices when engaging with wildlife can also assist with raising awareness around issues affecting these animals.

How To Safely Feed Wild Squirrels

Hand-Feeding Squirrels

Hand-feeding squirrels can be a fun activity, but it’s important to be aware of the potential consequences. Taking certain precautions can ensure that both you and the squirrels remain safe. Here are some tips to help:

  1. Avoid direct contact with the squirrels, as they may become aggressive or bite.
  2. Select foods that are safe for the squirrels, such as nuts, fruits and vegetables.
  3. Do not feed wild animals chocolate, bread, or other unhealthy items.
  4. Place food out in small amounts to avoid attracting other wildlife or rodents.

Creating A Safe Feeding Space

When feeding wild animals, safety must always be your top priority. To ensure that squirrels remain safe and healthy, it is important to provide them with a secure environment in which to feed without fear of predators or human interference.

The first step in creating a safe feeding space is to limit access to other animals. As predators such as cats and dogs can pose a major threat to wild squirrels, it is important to ensure that the area you are feeding in is free from these types of animals. Keeping cats indoors or confining them to a screened-in porch is one way to reduce their access to the area.

It is also beneficial to protect wild squirrels by limiting access for humans; use wire mesh fences or natural barriers such as native shrubs and trees to keep people away from the area. This will prevent squirrels from being startled by any sudden movements and allow them to continue eating peacefully.

Limiting Access To Other Animals

Creating a safe feeding space for squirrels requires limiting access to other animals. This can be achieved by:

  • Placing the feeder or food on elevated surfaces such as a deck railing or pole, away from predators like cats and dogs
  • Using metal mesh around the base of the feeder to stop climbed from reaching the food dish
  • Ensuring that all ground-based feeders are secured, so they cannot be tipped over by larger animals
  • Removing food after it has been eaten, so it does not attract unwanted visitors

Limiting Access To Humans

When feeding squirrels, limiting access to humans is key. To ensure the safety of both the squirrels and people, it’s important to keep them away from each other. Here are some tips for limiting access:

  • Opt for a hanging feeder, like a basket or window-feeding station, instead of leaving food out on a plate.
  • Position your feeder in areas that cannot be easily reached by humans.
  • Keep the area around your feeder clean and tidy to discourage scavengers.
  • Feed only what the squirrel can eat within one day, as leftovers will attract more animals and potentially lead to overcrowding.

What To Avoid When Feeding Wild Squirrels

When providing sustenance for wild squirrels, there are a few key things you should remember to avoid. First and foremost, never try to hand-feed any wild animals; not only do they lack the capacity of understanding humans on an emotional level, but this type of behavior can lead to increased aggression. Wild animals need their natural fear of humans in order to stay safe.

In addition, avoid feeding wild squirrels sweets, junk food (such as chips), bread, or processed foods; all of these types of items contain unhealthy additives that can make the animals sick over time. It’s best to stick with natural foods like nuts, fruits and vegetables for optimal nutrition.

FAQ

Is it permissible to provide food for squirrels living in a backyard?

In general, it is not recommended to feed backyard squirrels. Doing so may decrease their fear of humans – resulting in a dangerous situation for both parties. Furthermore, it can lead to an increase in the squirrel population due to a reliance on human handouts. For these reasons, it is more beneficial to refrain from feeding them.

Can it be acceptable to provide food for squirrels?

Feeding wild squirrels can have both positive and negative effects. On the positive side, it allows us to observe and appreciate them from a close distance. However, there are also some drawbacks that need to be taken into account. Feeding squirrels may encourage them to rely on humans for food, potentially leading to overpopulation. This may cause conflicts with people, as well as harm the squirrels themselves by losing their cunning and becoming vulnerable to predators.

Therefore, it’s best to think carefully before feeding wild squirrels. If you decide to feed them, do it in moderation and follow the advice of wildlife organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States.

How frequently should one provide food for squirrels?

Squirrels should not be fed regularly, but instead given occasional treats. It is important to remember that, while it can be fun to feed wild animals, doing so may create unhealthy dependencies and lead to additional problems. You should also consider the safety of both yourself and the squirrels when deciding whether to put out food.

How can I reduce the amount of food I give to squirrels over time?

To gradually stop feeding squirrels, it is important to do so in a way that does not cause unnecessary harm to the animals. One way of doing this is by first reducing the amount of food given to the squirrels over a period of time. Then, once the animals are used to getting smaller portions, it is best to completely stop feeding them. It is also important to remember not to give them treats or food scraps and instead leave natural food sources such as nuts and berries for the squirrels to find on their own.

Is it safe to give food to a wild squirrel?

Feeding wild squirrels can be a rewarding experience, however it is important to be fully aware of the risks. Squirrels who become accustomed to people may lose their fear and become overly dependent on handouts, leading to an overpopulation of the species. Additionally, some foods that are safe for humans may not be healthy for animals – so it is best to research what is suitable first. It is therefore advised that, while it can be enjoyable to feed a wild squirrel, care should be taken to ensure their safety, as well as the health of the environment.

Will squirrels become reliant on human-supplied food if they are regularly fed?

Feeding squirrels can potentially lead to them becoming dependent. This is because over time the squirrels may lose their natural fear of humans, and begin relying on them for food. Where possible, it is recommended to feed birds instead as this will provide a more natural diet without the risk of creating an overly-dependent population.

Conclusion

Supplemental feeding of wild squirrels, such as feeding squirrels, can lead to dangerous outcomes if done incorrectly. Habituation can cause them to become overly reliant on and bold with humans, leading to potential injury or even attacks. While it may be tempting to feed these animals, it is important to remember that it is best to never feed or coax wild animals.

In conclusion, when deciding whether to feed wild squirrels, or any other wild animal for that matter, it is important to consider the consequences of your actions. Doing so could put both you and the animal in danger, so it is best to leave wild animals alone and appreciate them from a distance.

You may also be interested in reading: