Through the long days of quarantine and appropriate social distancing, in light of the recent effects of the corona-virus, squirrel watching is a growing past time for homeowners across the country.
With the right food and appropriate feeders, your backyard will attract plenty of squirrels for hours of entertainment—and you will feel good about feeding the squirrels, too!
These tips will ensure that your squirrels are well-fed, healthy, and abundant in your backyard.
What do squirrels eat in the wild?
Naturally, squirrels are omnivores—meaning they eat both meat and plants. More importantly, they are opportunistic feeders and foragers.
In fact, they will eat almost anything they can get their paws on! They are more likely to be on the lookout for plants, or other available food, rather than lying in wait for their next meal.
However, once they find food, they are likely to hoard it—known as food caching—for future needs.
A typical diet for a squirrel will include just about anything they have access to, but primarily involves unshelled nuts, vegetables, grains, seeds, fruits, and fungi that can be found in nature.
When these food sources are not as plentiful, such as during the winter months, squirrels will eat tree bark, grass, twigs, leaves, and meat.
What to feed squirrels
Squirrels are not picky eaters, and they will likely eat whatever fills your feeder. In fact, they can eat their body weight in food weekly!
However, there are specific foods that are easier for squirrels to digest to ensure that your local squirrels can live long, healthy lives. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are all digestible and safe for squirrels to eat. In particular, appropriate examples within each category include:
Apples, bananas, berries, cherries, figs, grapes, kiwi, mangos, peaches, tomatoes, and watermelon are all appropriate fruits to feed squirrels, among others. These are likely fruits you have in your refrigerator or pantry, and your squirrels will thank you for them!
Some of the vegetables that are healthy for squirrels to eat include arugula, asparagus, beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, celery, kale, lettuce, spinach, peas, and squash.
Perhaps this is the most obvious of all the suggestions, as the most common images of squirrels shows the stereotype of a squirrel with its cheeks full of stored nuts.
- hickory nuts
- macadamia nuts
- and walnuts are all favorites.
Lastly, it is important to make sure the nuts are unsalted for safe, healthy digestion.
Similar to nuts, squirrels enjoy eating seeds and can benefit from the abundant nutrients that reside within their small stature. They are easy to store but are also high in fiber so they can remain satiated longer.
Healthy seeds for squirrels to eat include poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, safflower seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
What not to feed squirrels
As previously mentioned, squirrels are opportunistic feeders, so they are not picky eaters but will eat almost anything that they come in contact with while hungry. Because of this, it is important to ensure that the food we are providing squirrels with will not make them sick or be difficult for their digestive systems to process.
Foods with little or no nutritional value are also less than optimal for feeding squirrels because they will fill up on these foods, without attaining the nutritional values they need to live healthfully.
While corn can be appropriate in certain cases—such as being fresh and cut up into small pieces—it can also be a dangerous food. Squirrels have a tendency to gorge themselves and overeat, and corn is difficult to digest, particularly in large amounts. It can also grow mold quickly, which can be toxic, or even fatal, for squirrels. Therefore, if you choose to feed your squirrels corn, be aware of these common predicaments!
Peanuts are commonly perceived as a nut, but they are, in fact, a legume. Peanuts do not carry as much nutritional value as other nuts, and they are hard to remove from the shell. If peanuts are unsalted and shelled, a couple of peanuts will not hurt the squirrel, but it should not be the main source of food.
Squirrels will be temporarily happy if you leave out dry cereal, but they will quickly gorge themselves with little nutritional value to boast on! The sugar content might bring them back for more, but it is not healthy for long-term feeding. Because of this, it is wise to find other nutritional sources of food to feed your backyard squirrels.
Because this is not something a squirrel might come across in nature, it is best to avoid feeding squirrels dairy products. They might eat the savory treat, but it is hard to keep it from spoiling and it is more difficult for a squirrel’s stomach to digest.
Good squirrel feeders
- This multi-functional feeder can be used for squirrels or birds
- Holds up to 2.75 pound of seed
- Constructed from beautiful, renewable, weather and insect resistant Eastern Red Cedar
- Attracts squirrels and chipmunks or birds
- Easy to fill and clean
Or, for those squirrels who have a classier taste for fine dining, this handmade picnic table squirrel feeder offers a place to sit as well. This feeder can be attached directly to the tree for easy feeding.
These tips and tricks will ensure that your backyard is a safe place for squirrels, where they can be properly nourished while enjoying the space.
As the summer months begin and we make plans to spend more time outdoors, our hope is that your backyard will become a place of refuge for both you and your furry neighbors!