Squirrels are omnivores and aren’t too picky about what they will eat. Their diet includes a variety of nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables and whatever they find left behind by humans. However, just because an animal will eat something doesn’t mean they should eat something.
Squirrels will happily eat bananas, but it isn’t good for them. Banana contains more sugar than a medium-sized rodent like the squirrel can handle. If a squirrel is to have a banana, it should be on a limited basis of one to two slices as a treat.
So what should you feed squirrels, and what should you avoid? In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to feed squirrels a healthy diet.
What Should You Feed Squirrels Besides Banana?
Because squirrels are omnivores and rodents, they’ll eat just about anything: bugs, cheese, bread, melon. The list goes on and on. I once saw a squirrel jump out of a garbage can with half a slice of pizza in its mouth that is clearly intended to eat. But many of the things that they will eat aren’t necessarily very good for them.
Let’s assume that you don’t have a pet squirrel (taming wild squirrels is not a recommended activity), what can you put out for your local squirrels to nibble on? In this section, we will go over what you can feed squirrels, but be sure to check out some of the foods you should avoid in the following section as well. Some may surprise you!
Nuts are Best for Squirrels
Nuts are an important part of a squirrel’s diet, and they absolutely love them. The best nuts for squirrels are hard to come by, but you can easily forage some if you know where to look.
Always choose a nut that is still in its shell over one that isn’t. This helps prevent overeating and promotes healthy teeth.
Also, be sure to avoid nuts that include added sugar or salt. The quantities of sugar and salt in nuts can be harmful to squirrels.
The best nuts for squirrels:
- Acorns: Acorns are a favorite among squirrels. You can find bags online, but if you’re looking at your local garden store, they probably won’t be there. Bags of acorns are typically found near hunting gear as hunter use it to bait deer. White Oak acorns are better than Red Oak.
- Walnuts: Walnuts in the shell are usually easier to find and are typically sold in bulk. Amazon has several options, but our favorite is We Got Nuts Walnuts.
- Beechnuts, Hickory Nuts, all things nuts: You’ll have to forage for these as you can’t just buy a 5-pound bag at a feed supply store.
- Mixed Nuts In Shell: One of the most cost-effective ways of provided nuts to squirrels is to buy a bulk bag of mixed nuts. This gives the squirrel variety. The only downside is if your squirrel friends don’t like a specific nut, they might go to waste. You can find them on Amazon here.
Vegetables are Good for Squirrels
If you’ve ever had a squirrel in your garden, you know that they enjoy eating vegetables of all kinds and most vegetables are good for them.
Here are some ideas for vegetables your squirrels might enjoy:
- Winter squash and pumpkin (sometimes your jack-o-lanterns!)
- Summer squash
- Broccoli and cauliflower in moderation
- Greens like beet greens, dandelion greens, chard, kale and so on
There are some vegetables that you should avoid, but we will go over these in the following section
Fruits are Okay for Squirrels in Moderation
Squirrels LOVE fruit. Of course, they do. It is delicious and sweet, and in moderation, there is nothing wrong with it. The problem is that squirrels are prone to overeating fruit, and there is so much sugar in it. Their bodies just aren’t designed to have a ton of sugar, even in its most natural form.
A few slices of fruit a day is more than enough for a squirrel. If you’re putting out treats for your squirrels, do so 1-2 times a week. Avoid pits and seeds, if possible.
Here are some squirrel-friendly fruits:
- Berries of all kinds (don’t worry about the seeds in these)
Italicized fruits are higher in sugar and should be given sparingly. Nearly any fresh fruit can be given, and squirrels will happily devour it!
What Foods are Bad for Squirrels?
There are several foods that are not great for squirrels, and several more that are downright dangerous. So let’s take a look at these foods so you can avoid intentionally harming the squirrels outside your home.
- Meat: Squirrels are omnivores and in the wild will eat bugs, eggs, and sometimes small animals, but these are not preferred foods, and they are not naturally eaten in large quantities. Typically, meat-eating squirrels are simply desperate for a meal. If providing meat, it should be cooked.
- Seeds: These aren’t terrible for squirrels, but consuming too much of them causes an imbalance in their diet. Squirrels require calcium in their diet, and seeds are not usually calcium-rich. (For added calcium, proved plenty of fresh vegetables!)
- Corn: This might come as a shocker, but corn isn’t a great choice either. Dried corn can also lead to calcium deficiency, but the dried varieties often sold for squirrels can harbor dangerous molds. A little bit isn’t a huge deal as long as there are no signs of mold.
- Peanuts: Squirrels can eat peanuts, especially if they’re in the shell. However, they aren’t the most nutritious options, and they can harbor dangerous molds.
- Dried Fruits: Dried fruits are high in sugar and less filling because of the reduced water content.
- Raw potatoes: These contain chemicals that are toxic to squirrels (and humans for that matter)!
- Garlic, spicy peppers, onion: Squirrels won’t eat any of these, so there is no point in putting them out! They can also be harmful to squirrels.
- Processed foods: People food like chips, cereal, bread, or anything you can’t grow yourself, should not be fed to squirrels. The amount of sugar, salt, and preservatives in these foods are not suitable for squirrels.
- Any treated foods: Either foraged or food from your garden that has been treated with pesticides or fertilizer are not appropriate for squirrels.
What do Baby Squirrels Eat?
Baby squirrels in the wild generally drink their mother’s milk, but if you’ve found an abandoned baby squirrel and need to feed it, you should consult with a wildlife rehabilitation center. They can help identify the type of squirrel you have and the exact equipment you need to feed it.
Generally, this includes some sort of electrolyte fluid (like Pedialyte) and formula meant for domestic pets. A formula for wildlife rehabilitation does exist, but it can be difficult to locate in a pinch.
Caring for a baby squirrel is a big job. Mom squirrels are truly the best at caring for baby squirrels, but many squirrels have been cared for by humans until they could be released into the wild. This article by Orphaned Wildlife Care has extensive information on caring for a baby squirrel.
Around the time a squirrel opens its eyes, usually about six weeks after it has been born, it will begin taking solids, and you can introduce a rodent block.
Is Feeding Squirrels a Good Idea?
If you like watching squirrels frolic around the yard or feel bad as they make it through a tough winter, there is nothing really wrong with providing food for them as long as you aren’t feeding them something that is harmful.
If you like bird feeders, squirrels are likely already a nuisance. Providing them with their own feeders with their favorite treats can help keep them out of the bird feeders.
However, squirrels can be hosts for ticks and fleas, as well as all sorts of germs that you wouldn’t want to be exposed to. They will sometimes make homes in attics or other parts of your house as well. Some people prefer not to feed them for this reason.