A. Well, you’re probably not going to like what I have to say because your neighbour is right. You shouldn’t feed squirrels. I know you’re doing it because you are trying to help them, but it could actually cause them harm. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:
- Young squirrels in particular may not learn to forage properly if they are dependent on handouts.
- Squirrels can also lose their natural fear of people when they are fed. While you love squirrels, others in your neighbourhood may not and could react differently to a friendly or approaching squirrel.
- The leftover dinner scraps you are feeding them are not likely natural food sources. Therefore they’re not getting the proper nutrients they require which can lead to health issues.
- Feeding also causes an unnatural number of squirrels to congregate in an area, larger than what the surrounding natural resources can support. This can also lead to an increase in the spread of diseases such as mange.
But don’t worry! Just because you can’t feed them doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do for your neighbourhood squirrels.
If you’d like, you can plant native plants. Not only will these provide shelter for the squirrels but it will also provide a food source! And you won’t get an unnatural number – only what the plants can support.
Consider planting shrubs such as wild cherry, red osier dogwood and hawthorn. Trees important to a squirrels’ diet include oak, hickory, beech, elm, pine, spruce, and maple. Not only can these plants provide a source of nuts, buds, and fruits, but some will also serve as nesting sites. Visit our Native Plant Encyclopedia to see what plants are native to your area!