Have you ever had a squirrel literally come up to you sniffing around as if it was looking for something? Then you start to think about how cute these creatures look and maybe wonder if it’s hungry or not.
The question I want to answer is, what happens when I feed squirrels in my backyard.
It’s okay to feed squirrels, but only in moderation. If regularly, you risk making it dependent on you for food. This potentially promotes an aggressive behavior of food expectation. It can also hurt the squirrel’s chances of survival due to starvation if you suddenly decide not to continue feeding it regularly.
Yes, squirrels do provide plenty of entertainment, but they can also become pesky little creatures that are quite persistent in doing things that annoy typical homeowners.
From taking food that doesn’t belong to them to snatching food from bird nests, providing for the wild roaming squirrel might not be a good solution.
Let’s dive more into this.
Why you should feed your backyard squirrels
It can protect your birds and the birdfeeder
This is an interesting point. Have you ever seen a squirrel go after all the food in a bird feeder?
No matter how high or how far away you place the bird feeder, the food inside always manages to be eaten by squirrels.
In fact, squirrels can high as 4 feet into the air. They can also run and jump horizontally at a distance of more than 11 feet! If there’s a birdfeeder around and the squirrels are hungry, then you better believe they will find a way to eat the bird’s food.
If you provide enough food for squirrels they may not need to steal it from the bird feeders.
It can help squirrels survive the harsh winters
If you simply can’t bear the fact that many squirrels that don’t get the proper amount of food end up dying in harsh seasons like the winter, you can definitely place food out for squirrels. Having extra food can help squirrels survive brutal weather.
You can take pictures of them
If you simply love photography and nature, you might want to attract squirrels into your yard. Placing food once in a while can help bring in squirrels and allow you to take as many pictures as you like of them.
This works well because it may add extra value to your photos and save you time from waiting or even searching for animals to take pictures of.
I know of a lot of people who love squirrels and appreciate them as a part of nature. Taking photos of squirrels can be a very interesting hobby.
Why you shouldn’t feed your backyard squirrels
There are a lot of people who are against feeding squirrels. And for good reason.
It creates a dependency
If you feed a squirrel frequently, this may cause squirrels to become entirely dependent on human intervention. Those squirrels will eventually lose some part of their food gathering instincts expecting the food to simply be handed out by you.
This dependency and forgotten survival instinct will eventually do more harm to the squirrel. It may go as far as put the squirrels in danger of malnutrition or even death if the squirrels are no longer foraging for their own food once you decide you want to stop feeding them.
Squirrels can start to congregate in one area
Feeding squirrels will attract more squirrels to your yard. Over time, it’ll eventually bring in a lot of squirrels and squirrels can cause a lot of damage to property.
They can steal food from bird feeders. They can destroy someone’s vegetable garden. They can even destroy property if they decide to chew on your stuff.
A large group of squirrels can also bring about disease and parasites as well.
Squirrels can lose their fear of humans
I know this might not sound like a bad thing at first. But there’s a lot of problems that can occur if something like this were to happen.
Squirrels need that basic instinct of fear to survive. If they learn to trust humans, they may even put themselves in danger.
Not only that, if squirrels weren’t afraid of humans, they would become more of a pest than just animals that tend to themselves. You can imagine if squirrels were roaming freely all over your home, yard, and even finding themselves inside your home uninvited. They can even become more aggressive in our presence.
A neighbor who doesn’t like squirrels may end up easily killing them if they were not afraid. This fearlessness might even translate over into making them susceptible to more natural predators as well.
Ultimately, as you can see, it’s not good for either the squirrels or us.
Don’t feed your backyard squirrels every day
There are people who are completely against feeding squirrels. But like I’ve explained before if you want to feed squirrels, make sure you do it moderately.
Never feed your backyard squirrels more than 3 times a week. Doing any more may build up a reliance on you. If squirrels eventually rely on you as their source of food and you decide you’re no longer giving them food, then they will have a difficult time transitioning back to foraging and hunting for their own food.
This will put them at a disadvantage for survival in the wild.
What do squirrels eat?
Squirrels are known to love a variety of nuts. These include but are not limited to roasted pumpkin seeds, acorns, pecans, walnut, peanuts, etc.
Squirrels are usually pretty busy gathering acorns off the floor and saving it for the next few months ahead.
Nuts are probably considered a squirrel’s favorite thing to eat.
Squirrels love sweets. They are no stranger to fruits from trees. Fruits can probably claim the second title in the best types of foods squirrels like to eat.
For the majority of all fruits, squirrels shouldn’t have a problem eating any of them except for fruits like dates, dried fruits, figs, fruit juice, plums, prunes, and raisins.
Squirrels can be considered herbivores and they oftentimes eat vegetables like radishes, corn, peas, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower, and other green leafy vegetables.
Unfortunately for birds, squirrels eat seeds too. In fact, seeds are right up there with nuts in the eyes of squirrels.
You might even find a squirrel snatching bird food from bird feelers destroying the bird feeder and leaving no food left behind.
On some occasions, you might even see squirrels eat things like caterpillars, winged bugs, grasshoppers, butterflies, and crickets.
Normally, we would consider squirrels to be mostly herbivores but when they start eating these crawling bigs, it’s most likely due to food shortages.
How much water do squirrels drink?
On average, you’ll find that squirrels need roughly 3 teaspoonfuls a day. That’s really only 7 tablespoons per week total. However, depending on the size of the squirrel and the species, some larger breeds may require even more water than that. If there’s some sort of drought or lacking water in the area, you can buy a pet bottled water dispenser that will last quite a while.
Can you hand-feed squirrels?
While it’s possible to gain a squirrel’s trust that would allow you to open up your hand with food on it for squirrels to take food from, I would highly discourage this for several reasons.
First, it will teach them to truly not be afraid of humans which can lower their ability to sense danger.
Another issue I find is the possibility of a squirrel biting you. Not only can squirrels bite pretty hard and cause you to bleed, but they can potentially pass disease into you as well.
There’s not a single expert in the field of animals and rodents that would suggest it’s okay to hand feed a wild squirrel.
What not to feed Squirrels
While squirrels can pretty much eat anything, there are certain types of foods that squirrels shouldn’t have access to.
Eating too much junk food can lead to or accelerate a certain common disease known as metabolic bone disease. Avoid giving squirrels heavily processed human foods as well.
The funny thing I should mention, however, is that peanuts should be given to squirrels in moderation. There are plenty of other highly nutritional nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans.
Also, avoid giving squirrels salted nuts. It’s got an unnecessary amount of sodium in them and can potentially hurt the squirrel’s health in the long run.
Like humans, squirrels need a well-balanced diet of a variety of foods.
How to protect your vegetable garden from the squirrels
Squirrels have no reservations when it comes to eating their way through your entire vegetable garden. They can dig through the ground and completely destroy all your work and the plants in its surrounding.
In order to protect your garden from these creatures, you can look for a mesh net that will go all around the vegetation and fruit-producing plants.
If that doesn’t work, you may have to look for one of those mini-sized greenhouses and begin working your garden into those closed systems.
It’s very difficult to get squirrels out of places like this. They are amazing jumpers and they are excellent diggers.
One other thing you can potentially do is use fresh coffee ground in the soil. This can potentially deter squirrels from digging up gardens to save food underneath.
How to keep squirrels away from bird feeders
It’s difficult to keep squirrels out of bird feeders as well. I’ve seen some really clever methods that stop squirrels in their tracks.
One method involved placing a birdfeeder really high on top of a pole. This location would be as far as possible from trees or the home to avoid squirrels from jumping from those areas onto the birdfeeder. You’ll want to make sure the poll is long enough so that squirrels simply can’t just jump onto it (at least 8 feet from the floor or more). Also, put slippery grease throughout the entire pole so that squirrels simply cannot climb it.
You can also try using a baffle on that pole. A baffle is a cone or plate-like piece that completely wraps around the pole so when a squirrel is climbing its way up the pole, this plate blocks it off from further climbing.
There’s also the method of lacing the birdfeed with hot sauce which won’t affect the birds but will deter the squirrels.
The bottom line
It’s important to understand that squirrels are wild animals and they are nothing like the usual domesticated rodents we have in cages.
While you can feed squirrels, it’s often not a good idea to feed them too often. This creates more problems down the line with attracting more and more squirrels to your area.
It also can create a dependency in which will actually hurt the survivability of the squirrel.
Squirrels can become pests and while there are ways to deter squirrels from places like our vegetable garden and birdfeeders, it’s best to avoid giving them an invitation by feeding them too frequently.
What do squirrels hate?
When we are talking about things that repel squirrels, surprisingly enough, you can use scents like black pepper, white pepper, peppermint, and garlic.
You can even try to spray these scents onto your garden to try to hinder their attraction to it.
Squirrels are also scared of scarecrows, snakes, and owls. And of course, they won’t be able to tell the difference if you were to buy these animals as realistic toys.
Do squirrels carry disease and parasites?
Squirrels are known to carry diseases like tularemia, typhus, plague, and ringworm and can be transmitted through bites or other forms of contact. These diseases can be transmitted by humans and can be life-threatening as well.
Squirrels have even been known to have a variant of mad cow disease which can be fatal if humans were to eat their brains, which some regions in the US find as delicacies.
Squirrels can also carry fleas, ticks, and mites which can also infect humans as well.
Are there any noises that can scare squirrels?
There isn’t any kind of special sound that can specifically ward off squirrels. Loud sounds for example can scare squirrels away but they can be disturbing to humans as well.
There does exist ultrasonic rodent repellent noises, but these high-frequency sounds have been known to irritate younger children as well.
Can squirrels remember humans?
It goes without saying that if you feed a squirrel enough times, it will come back to you expecting more. So, squirrels do have good memories and there have been several documentations of squirrels coming back to the same person because they can quickly understand that this person is safe and provides them with food.
What does a squirrel do to show that it likes you?
Squirrels can show affection through the ack of nibbling and licking. However, you need to be careful. These are wild creatures and ultimately at any moment, the nibbling can become a hard bite. I recommend that you don’t try to hold or let squirrels eat from your hand.
What plants can get rid of squirrels?
If you’re looking for a plant that somehow deters squirrels, you can try planting daffodils, lily of the valley, hyacinths, peppermint, allium, and geranium. These are plants that squirrels will try to avoid. However, through experience, it doesn’t always work.
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