North America is full of squirrels. It's home to over 50 different species of ground squirrel, eight tree squirrels, and two types of flying squirrel. Among the ground squirrels are familiar animals such as chipmunks, and tree squirrels include red, gray and brown squirrels.
Being lively, good at problems solving and inquisitive, these animals can be enjoyable to watch in your garden. Squirrels also provide plenty of photo opportunities with their antics. Supplying some extra food, especially during the winter, should attract at least one species of squirrel in nearly all parts of the United States.
Feeding squirrels the proper food, though, is essential for maintaining their health. You should feed a wild squirrel food that aligns with their natural wild squirrel diet to avoid making them sick and/or overweight.
Research the squirrels in your area. Different species may find different types of food attractive.
Avoid providing too many peanuts, which are not particularly nutritious. Baked, not raw, peanuts are safer. Nuts past their expiration date, especially Brazil nuts, can be dangerous to squirrels. Never feed squirrels salted or processed foods.
It is better to feed wild squirrels every few days, rather than every day, to stop them becoming too dependent on you.
If you are going to stop feeding the squirrels, perhaps because of a move, gradually reduce the food supply over a few weeks.
Create squirrel feeders from clean empty soda bottles for tree squirrels. Make several ¼ holes in the bottom for drainage, together with numerous holes in the sides just slightly larger than the largest nut you plan to place in the feeder. Make another couple of holes near the top, at opposite sides, and thread a piece of cord or strong wire through them for hanging.
Fill the feeders with a mixture of nuts and seeds, such as sunflower seeds, put the lid back on, and hang with wire or cord from branches solid enough to bear the weight of squirrels and at least 10 feet from the ground.
Hang slices of apples or other fruit on cord and tie to similar branches.
Select an appropriate location for a ground squirrel feeding station. Tree squirrels will also use it. Place a couple of bowls on the ground about 10 yards from thick vegetation, including a tree. Squirrels need somewhere to bolt if they feel threatened.
On the other hand, the feeding station should not be too close to the vegetation, which could also contain lurking predators such as cats.
Fill one of the bowls with nuts and seeds and the other with slices of fresh fruit and sweet vegetables such as carrots.
Provide a cuttlefish bone, which contains essential calcium, in the ground feeding station or nail to a tree.
Place a dish of water on the ground feeding station. Water is just as important to wildlife as food.
Replace the water daily. Wash all dishes and feeders with hot water and dishwashing liquid once a week to prevent bacteria build-up.
Foods to Avoid
Too many peanuts along with expired nuts can be dangerous for squirrels to eat. Peanuts for squirrels seems like a no-brainer, but they're actually not super nutritious. If you are going to feed them peanuts, ensure they're baked (as previously stated).
Processed foods like candy, sweets, cake, potato chips, bread and other processed human foods can also be extremely harmful for squirrel health. While they will gladly eat anything you give them, it doesn't mean those foods are healthy or good for them. Stick with raw seeds, fresh produce and other non-processed items to keep the squirrels safe.
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