What Foods are Bad for Squirrels?


The majority of squirrels are vegetarians, but they will eat almost any kind of food. However, even if squirrels are not picky for food, there are still specific toxic, unsafe, or unhealthy items, which you should avoid if you are someone who likes to feed these furry animals.

Squirrels will happily eat practically any type of food item which is readily available.

In general, they prefer fruits and vegetables, and in particular, food items that are considered favorites by squirrels are mushrooms, corn, broccoli, squash, apples, apricots, avocados, and oranges.

It is vital to ensure that squirrels are fed highly nutritious foods, and this article will discuss what foods are bad for squirrels and which foods are good for them.

9 Foods That Are Bad for Squirrels

In general, there are three classifications of foods that are not good for squirrels: toxic, unsafe, and unhealthy foods.

These toxic foods include certain acorns; certain wild mushrooms; palms like sago, cardboard, and cycad palms; and florist flowers.

If you are feeding squirrels, make sure you only provide foodstuffs that are safe for them.

One of the main problems that occur when people feed squirrels is that they can give them foods that are not nutritious or have nutritional content that is too low.

The second main problem is that the foods that people give are harmful or dangerous to squirrels.

Avocado Skins

Foods that are bad for squirrels include avocado skins and fruit seeds (for instance, apple seeds). These are absolutely the worst foods that are toxic and poisonous to them.

Meanwhile, unsafe foods cause injury or harm, and these foods include pine nuts.

These nuts cause squirrels to severely lose precious calcium that they need to maintain their bones and normal bodily functions.

As for unhealthy foods, these include foods high in starch, sugar, and salt, such as junk foods processed and intended for human consumption.

Junk Food

In squirrels, just as in humans, junk food contains negligible nutritional benefits. They are usually sugary and salted snacks that are not only useless fillers but can cause negative effects on health.

Junk food can be salty or sugary. Salt is very harmful to squirrels. Meanwhile, sugary snacks have a similar effect on squirrels and children.

Naturally, squirrels have a hyperactive disposition, and the sugar in these snacks makes them even more agitated and excitable. This is not good for their health.

Other kinds of junk foods like hotdogs and pizza are also very harmful to squirrels, especially since they are not a part of squirrels’ natural diets.

Peanuts

A lot of people get surprised when they are told that squirrels should not eat peanuts. This is a shocking fact because most people think rodents can benefit from them.

Yes, squirrels enjoy eating peanuts, but these legumes (they are not really nuts) are not nutritious for squirrels. They can enjoy them as snacks without any harmful effects, however.

Corn

Corn may be fed to squirrels if they are only given in small amounts and if they are cut into small pieces.

Whole pieces of corn will cause squirrels to overeat. Sometimes, squirrels can overeat to death from foods that are too plentiful.

In addition, corn also rapidly becomes sour, and mold also quickly grows on it. Sour and moldy corn is disastrous to squirrels, which can be so toxic that it can even cause their death.

Human and Animal Formula

Some websites give wildlife feeding advice that is harmful to squirrels. These pieces of advice include suggestions to feed them with infant, puppy, and kitten formula. This is incredibly harmful to squirrels.

These formula products are specifically designed for their target species, namely young humans, young dogs, and young cats.

These formulas contain many additives, chemicals, and preservatives observed to induce seizures, nervousness, rickets, conversions in squirrels, and even sudden death.

Breakfast Cereals

Humans are the target consumer of breakfast cereals, and this kind of food contains no nutritional benefits for squirrels.

Squirrels will readily eat lots of these cereals, which will cause them to overfill their digestive system with useless filler material that will not contribute to their nutrition.

Naturally, this will lead to severe squirrel malnutrition. Breakfast cereals are not a natural part of squirrels’ diets, and they should never be given these foodstuffs.

Pet Food

Just like infant, puppy, and kitten formula, pet food meant for dogs and cats will not satisfy the nutritional requirements of squirrels.

This is especially true because dogs and cats are essentially carnivores or meat-eaters, while squirrels are basically herbivores or plant-eaters.

Meat is not a part of squirrels’ natural diets because they are essentially vegetarian.

They can even die from consuming pet food because these foodstuffs contain a high amount of meat. Some squirrels, however, do eat insects as a part of their natural diet.

It is a good idea instead to feed squirrels those vegetables, fruits, and nuts that are naturally found where they live.

Certain Seeds and Nuts

Several other food items that are also recommended to avoid feeding to squirrels include cashews, chestnuts, and sunflower seeds.

Foods with Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are also not good for squirrels, such as aspartame and Nutra-Sweet.

Vegetables to Avoid Feeding to Squirrels

Avoid certain vegetables when feeding squirrels.

These include the following: red, yellow, and green bell pepper; eggplant; okra; collard greens; rhubarb; Swiss chard; spinach; turnip; dried vegetables; white potato; garlic; fresh and dried corn; onions; palm hearts; yam; and sprouts.

Legumes that are unhealthy for squirrels include peanuts, soybeans; lentils; kidney beans, and various other kinds of beans; and peas.

It should be noted that sugar snap peas in pods and green beans are good to feed to them.

Wild Foods to Avoid

Not all acorns are good for squirrels.

Unfortunately, many acorns do contain aflatoxins, which can be fatal to them. It is not possible to determine what acorns contain this poison.

Wild mushrooms should also be avoided, for they may also be toxic.

Palms that are harmful to squirrels include sago palm, cardboard palm, and all kinds of cycad palms. Certain palms belonging to the cycad family are very toxic to squirrels.

It is also best to avoid florist flowers because they may be treated with chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides. They can also be dyed. These substances are harmful to squirrels.

Fruits to Avoid

Avoid feeding squirrels certain fruits that are relatively high in starches and sugars.

These include bananas, crabapples, cherries, mangoes, grapes, pomegranates, and passion fruit.

Avocado is not recommended for feeding squirrels because this fruit is high in fat.

We have also already mentioned that avocado pit and skin are toxic to these rodents. Fruit seeds and other fruit pits can also be toxic, with the exception of berries.

Additional fruits to avoid include dates, any kind of dried fruit, figs, persimmon, prunes, plums, and raisins.

Treats, Starchy, and Sugary Foods Bad for Squirrels

Starchy foods that are harmful to squirrels include bread, pasta, grains, rice, seeds, and potatoes.

Sugary foods must be avoided, as well. These include but are not limited to the following: cookies, candies; dried fruits; soda; banana chips; sweetened yogurt, fruit juices, granolas, and sweetened cereals intended for breakfast for humans.

Junk foods that are unhealthy for squirrels include crackers; potato chips, french fries; pretzels; and any salty food.

In general, foods manufactured or processed for humans such as snacks, sweets, and other similar food items must be avoided.

Foods that Squirrels Like to Eat

Squirrels, just like any other animal, need to eat a diet that is balanced. This diet must contain the needed proteins, vitamins and minerals, and fats for them to live a normal existence.

It is also worth noting that they need a high amount of calcium.

In feeding squirrels, it is just as important to know the right kinds of foods to feed them as well as the foods to avoid.

Therefore, a discussion on their favorite foods and their proper diet is also warranted.

The majority of people believe that squirrels’ diets only consist of seeds and nuts. This is not true at all. It may be a fact that a large part of squirrels’ diet involves plant-based foods, although they are also known to consume animal-based foodstuffs.

As an example, Eastern Gray Squirrels have been documented to eat amphibians, insects, bird eggs, small mammals, bones, and bird nestlings.

Nonetheless, plant-based food items still compose most of the squirrels’ preferred food items.

In the wild, where no human influence is present, squirrels can eat seeds, nuts, and flowers of trees.

They also consume the tree buds of many trees such as cedar, butternut, dogwood, hackberry, elm, hemlock, maple, hickory, mulberry, spruce, and pine. Occasionally, they also consume certain fungi and mushrooms.

Upon interaction with humans, squirrels are known to consume other kinds of foods. Some of these are beneficial to them, especially those foods that are natural. Others, however, are not quite healthy for squirrels.

Favorite foods that squirrels obtain from humans include peanut butter, peanuts, pecans, grapes, pistachios, corn, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, carrots, strawberries, apples, and sunflower seeds.

They are also known to eat processed foods, snacks, and sweets, such as cookies.

Many people love feeding squirrels corn and peanuts.

This is a sad fact because these food items are not beneficial to the health of squirrels.

It is true that corn and peanuts can be beneficial for birds; however, they are not nutritionally good for squirrels.

Nonetheless, it is not bad for squirrels to consume these two food items in limited amounts. They can even be included as a small part of a well-balanced diet composed of varied foodstuffs.

The best food that squirrels can have is nuts within shells.

Their health can particularly benefit from a varied diet of hickory nuts, walnuts, white oak acorns, and beechnuts. They are among the best items that can be included in a squirrel’s diet.

Unfortunately, these nuts are usually not available in their shells in retail stores. If you have the time, it may be worthwhile to visit a forest nearby and look for a variety of these nuts.

You can then put them in your squirrel feeder and collect nuts regularly to feed the squirrels year-round.

It is important for squirrels to be fed shelled nuts because it provides them the needed gnawing material to keep their teeth at a healthy length. It also helps keep them busy and helps them stop gnawing at your house instead.

Bird seeds, such as nut-based seed blends and seeds of black oil sunflower, are recommended by some to be useful substitutes for natural squirrel food.

They can serve to provide squirrels with energy if shelled nuts are not available. Conversely, some experts advise that seeds should be avoided.

Why You Should Not Feed Squirrels

It is natural for people to become attracted to squirrels because they are cute little active animals who are not aggressive nor usually dangerous.

This naturally leads to humans wanting to feed squirrels. Love for animals is one trait that many people have.

However, even if feeding wild squirrels may be natural for people, it is not always good for humans and squirrels alike.

In fact, the majority of wildlife scientists, researchers, and experts discourage people from feeding wild squirrels and other wild animals.

It does not matter if squirrels are friendly; it is not in their best interest to be fed by humans for several reasons. These reasons are discussed below.

You may feed the wrong food items

First, as we have already discussed, human food is not the right food for wild animals, including wild squirrels.

They either cause negative effects such as illnesses and deformities and they usually also have little to no nutrition that squirrels can utilize, which could easily lead to severe malnutrition.

Squirrels can become pests

Secondly, feeding wild squirrels causes them to lose the natural fear they have of people.

After being comfortable enough around people, they can begin to move into people’s homes where warmth, comfort, safety, and food are present and abundant.

They can then easily become pests that destroy homes, wreaking havoc and damage on wood, attic, walls, and other parts of your house.

In addition, some squirrels have been known to start becoming aggressive if they are suddenly not fed. They can then turn into a nuisance and danger, especially since they no longer fear humans.

Squirrels can carry diseases

Third, squirrels also carry parasites and diseases. As pests in houses, they leave feces and urine in your home, potentially spreading diseases like leptospirosis and salmonella.

Squirrels have fleas and ticks, which can potentially transmit plague and Lyme disease to people. Even if it is rare, squirrels can also transmit rabies, just like any other mammal.

Feeding causes an imbalance in nature

Fourth, feeding wild squirrels upsets the delicate balance of nature.

Squirrels that are fed artificially will breed more litter and survive better due to the abundance of food sources. Their population can then easily explode out of control.

More of these rodents, which are prey to many other animals, will attract owls, coyotes, and hawks, among others, into the local area. This will cause several other complications.

If you feel that these reasons are valid, you may reconsider your plan to feed wild squirrels or stop if you are already doing so.

Related Questions

Is it okay to feed squirrels during winter?

During winter, squirrels can be active for a few hours each day.

Within this limited time period, they have to acquire their needed food.

They may not be able to locate their usual hiding places for their food because gardens and parks are regularly disturbed by human activity.

In this instance, it may be beneficial to feed them.

The best items to give to them may include mixed walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, unsweetened rusk, chopped carrot, watermelon, grapes, chopped apple, and kiwi fruit.

It is also important to provide them with adequate fresh water.

Other items may include beechnuts, dried kernels of maize, hornbeam seeds, chestnuts, pear, raisins, cucumber, broccoli, and courgette, and other similar foods.

Can squirrels remember people?

Squirrels are very intelligent, and they have shown the capacity for good memory. There are many documented cases where squirrels have shown that they remember particular humans.

In particular, wild squirrels quickly learn to remember specific individuals that pose no risk to their safety and are trusted food sources.

Squirrels have a vested interest in remembering people because in their daily search for food, attempts at mating, and efforts to avoid predators, they need to determine if particular humans are a danger to them as a predator or as a reliable source of food.

Suppose squirrels can identify you as a non-risk and a good food source. In that case, there is a high probability that they will remember you and regularly initiate interaction with you.

Sources

  • https://www.avianandanimal.com/feeding-your-pet-squirrel.html
  • https://kentnutritiongroup.com/articles/top-secret-tips-for-feeding-squirrels-in-your-backyard/
  • https://www.perkypet.com/articles/what-to-feed-squirrels
  • https://www.squirrelcontrol.ca/blog/what-should-you-not-feed-squirrels/
  • https://www.gardena.com/int/garden-life/garden-magazine/feeding-squirrels-in-winter/

Photo credit: ©canva.com

Wyatt Welch

Hi, I am Wyatt, and I live in North Carolina. I've been working as a Pest Control Technician and now I am enjoying my retirement. This blog is a perfect outlet for me to share my knowledge in the field and I'd be happy to help if you have any questions.

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