- How do I go about befriending squirrels on my campus?
- Please Don’t Feed The Squirrels
- 16 Facts About Squirrels for Squirrel Appreciation Day
- 1. Squirrels can jump really, really far.
- 2. Squirrels are very organized.
- 3. Squirrels are also forgetful, and that forgetfulness helps trees grow.
- 4. Squirrels help truffles thrive.
- 5. Squirrels are one of the few mammals that can sprint down a tree head-first.
- 6. Several towns compete for the title of “Home of the White Squirrel.”
- 7. Squirrels could aid in stroke research.
- 8. Squirrel fur may have spread leprosy in the Middle Ages.
- 9. Squirrels are more powerful than hackers.
- 10. Squirrels can heat up their tails to ward off predators.
- 11. Squirrels help scientists determine whether a forest is healthy.
- 12. Squirrels can lie.
- 13. Squirrels used to be America’s most popular pet.
- 14. The mere sight of just one squirrel could once attract a crowd.
- 15. In the 19th century, squirrels were tasked with teaching compassion.
- 16. Squirrels used to hate tax season, too.
- Role in the ecosystem
- The Great Squirrel Debate: To Feed or Not to Feed?
- Creating Squirrel Friendly Gardens: How To Welcome Squirrels In The Garden
- How to Attract Squirrels to Your Garden
- Making Responsible Wildlife Gardens for Squirrels
- Squirrel in my garden
How do I go about befriending squirrels on my campus?
I have about twenty squirrels in my area, and each year there are a few more, because of new babies, etc.
Be patient. No wild animal is going to walk up and shake your hand and introduce themselves. I feed the same squirrels every single day, and some of them are still skittish and refuse to take a nut from my hand.
Have a signature call you make, so if you see them enough, they’ll begin to associate that sound with awesome snack time.
Don’t stand up and wave a nut two feet above them. Remember they take nuts with their mouths not their hands. With that being said, differentiate yourself from the 500 other people walking by and BEND DOWN.
Wave the nut. This seems ridiculous, but squirrels are very tuned in to waving behavior, like a fellow squirrel’s tail. Every single day I’ll get a squirrel who sees me, and I wave the nut and he comes a little closer. Then he seems to lose interest, so I wave the nut again. He comes closer again.
If they still won’t come up close enough, throw the nut a few feet in front of you.
Use peanuts in the shell, as those make a distinctive dink sound when they hit the ground. You want them to see it and hear it.
If they come really close, but still afraid, just drop the nut below your hand. Some will dive in for it. After several times of that, they’re like “oh, i didn’t die when I was right by that human’s hand, so he must be safe.”
Let them come to you. Don’t go walking right up to them. Walk close enough, then bend down. Let them approach you for the remaining 6 feet or so.
If they do get close, HOLD STILL. Let them take the nut. After they take it, DON’T MOVE YOUR HAND. They always sniff and spin the nut right after they take it, so don’t startle them during this process.
Be consistent. Don’t show up three days in a row and disappear for a month and expect to have made any progress with them. You won’t see the same squirrels every day, and it could take awhile to earn their trust. The more often you see them the sooner you can befriend the same squirrels.
Maybe differentiate yourself by giving them almonds. They love them. They might remember you as the gourmet treat guy. If you have to toss it, almonds don’t make a sound when they hit the ground, so if they don’t see it hit, they might not know it’s there.
Smell. My guys will smell my shoe to make sure it’s me before jumping on me. If you see them enough, they’ll know what you look like, your signature sound, your smell, and your gestures that set you apart. And like we said, your gourmet snacks if you choose that route.
If they’re really calm, you can bring snacks that aren’t portable. Meaning, sometimes you don’t want them to take a whole nut and run away. If you want them to hang out by you, bring snacks like sunflower seeds or chopped peanuts from the bulk food section of your store. Make it not worth grabbing a piece and running off. Our user juricajourneys who posts videos on here is a perfect example of this. They stick around and snack.
Don’t try and touch them. 99% of wild squirrels won’t let you touch them, unless they REALLY know and trust you.
Go in the morning or late afternoon. After the sun rises, they’ll be out for the first 2-3 hours and they’ll be hungry. I LOVE the mornings for feeding them. Then they’ll be out again about 2-3 hours before the sun sets. I just never expect to see my squirrels much around noon.
If you can feed one, you can feed many. These guys are jealous and competitive, so if they see another squirrel standing by you munching a nut, they’re going to want in on the action too, so they’ll most likely come over.
I would think at a campus they’d already be conditioned to accept food from strangers, so maybe that’s half the battle already.
Have fun, and let us know how it’s working. And get some fun photos of your new friends!
Please Don’t Feed The Squirrels
As you may know, the squirrels at Madison Square Park are eccentric critters who provide a world of entertainment and whimsy to all who visit the Park. While we welcome whimsy and encourage people to engage with nature, we also aim to keep our urban wildlife healthy and our Park-goers safe. That is why we ask that you please do not feed the squirrels, or any other wildlife that you may encounter in the Park. Please limit your interaction with the infamous Mad. Sq. Squirrels to that of observation.
Feeding the squirrels may seem helpful, or at the very least innocuous, but it can be very harmful to both the squirrel and the environment in the long run. Squirrels who become accustomed to humans feeding them lose their instinctual sense of fear and discretion, and for an animal in the wild, a healthy sense of fear is essential for survival. Your one off interaction with a Mad. Sq. Squirrel, while well-intended, could contribute to an increasing epidemic of urban wildlife becoming dependent on humans to provide their primary food source, only to lose that food source in the colder months.
You might be surprised to learn that squirrels become aggressive once they learn to associate humans with food. James Griffin, Director of Urban Wildlife for the Humane Society, mentions this in last year’s New York Times article about a series of squirrel attacks in Prospect Park. Aggressive squirrels are known to bite, and as Griffin goes on to explain, almost all of such instances “come down to food attractant.” Which is to say, that despite their adorable appearance, squirrels are not above biting the hand that feeds them, or in many cases, the hand that abstains from feeding them. With teeth made for cracking nuts, you can trust the bite to be worse than the bark— which is not what we have in mind when we say we hope you have a memorable time in the Park!
Apart from your own safety, it is ultimately best for wildlife to be left to their own devices to avoid weakening their natural ability to forage independently. If you’ve met the legendary Mad. Sq. Squirrels, then it should come as no surprise that they are highly capable creatures. However, when they become accustomed to people feeding them they face a dangerous problem in the winter when there are fewer people in the Park, and thus a less consistent supply of food. This leaves many squirrels vulnerable and more desperate than ever. The result is increased competitiveness, aggression, and willingness to attack. Squirrels have even been known to rob Park staff and visitors of food.
Even if you have not personally had conflict with a squirrel, it is still important that you exercise caution by avoiding close proximity, as they have been known to jump on people, out from Park trash cans, or even into children’s’ strollers to steal snacks. To many, the squirrels’ bold behavior may be comical or endearing, and it is natural that they would spark ours—or our children’s—curiosity, but it is important to consider their impact on the Park, as well. Our seven-acres of green space can only accommodate so many squirrels, but the more people feed them, the more crowds are drawn to overwhelm the feeder and subsequently, our arboretum. Increased populations of squirrels means increased harm to our world-class horticulture, as squirrels have a habit of damaging trees and plants through persistent gnawing. As a result, our Gardeners have had to cut down otherwise healthy tree branches that were damaged by squirrels and posed a safety risk to the public, such as the ginkgo branch pictured here.
We love the Madison Square Park squirrels, and want to keep them safe! Unfortunately, most foods that people feed to them are at best, detrimental to their diets, and at worst, harmful to their health; especially foods that are fed to them in excess, such as nuts, which should only comprise a small portion of their diets. Peanuts, for example, are frequently fed to squirrels, although these pose a large danger to to their well-being and are unnatural to their diets due to the fact that they are not tree nuts, but legumes. Squirrels may love them, but peanuts often contain salt and other properties that contribute to severe malnutrition in rodents, which can prove fatal. It is in everyone’s best interest that we allow them to feed themselves. Thank you for reading and for your cooperation in keeping the Park safe and enjoyable for all!
16 Facts About Squirrels for Squirrel Appreciation Day
Even if you live in a big city, you probably see wildlife on a regular basis. Namely, you’re sure to run into a lot of squirrels, even in the densest urban areas. And if you happen to live on a college campus, well, you’re probably overrun with them. While some people might view them as adorable, others see them as persistent pests bent on chewing on and nesting in everything in sight. But in honor of National Squirrel Appreciation Day, here are 16 reasons you should appreciate the savvy, amazing, bushy-tailed critters.
1. Squirrels can jump really, really far.
In one study of the tree-dwelling plantain squirrels that roam the campus of the National University of Singapore, squirrels were observed jumping almost 10 feet at a stretch. In another study with the eastern ground squirrel, one researcher observed a squirrel jumping more than 8 feet between a tree stump and a feeding platform, propelling itself 10 times the length of its body. Flying squirrels, obviously, can traverse much farther distances midair—the northern flying squirrel, for instance, can glide up to 295 feet.
2. Squirrels are very organized.
In fact, they may be more organized than you are. A 2017 study found that eastern fox squirrels living on UC Berkeley’s campus cache their nuts according to type. When given a mixture of walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts, the squirrels took the time to hide each type of nut in a specific place. This method of “spatial chunking” may help them remember where the nuts are when they go to retrieve them later. Though the study wasn’t able to determine this for sure, the study’s results suggested that the squirrels may have been organizing their caches by even more subtle categories, like the size of the nuts.
3. Squirrels are also forgetful, and that forgetfulness helps trees grow.
Tree squirrels are one of the most important animals around when it comes to planting forests. Though they may be careful about where they bury their acorns and other nuts, they still forget about quite a few of their caches (or at least neglect to retrieve them). When they do, those acorns often sprout, resulting in more trees—and eventually, yet more acorns for the squirrels.
4. Squirrels help truffles thrive.
The squirrel digestive system also plays an important role in the survival of truffles. While above-ground mushrooms can spread their spores through the air, truffles grow below ground. Instead of relying on the air, they depend on hungry animals like squirrels to spread their spores to host plants elsewhere. The northern flying squirrel, found in forests across North America, depends largely on the buried fungi to make up its diet, and plays a major role in truffle propagation. The squirrels poop out the spores unharmed on the forest floor, allowing the fungi to take hold and form a symbiotic relationship with the tree roots it’s dropped near.
5. Squirrels are one of the few mammals that can sprint down a tree head-first.
You may not be too impressed when you see a squirrel running down a tree, but they’re actually accomplishing a major feat. Most animals can’t climb vertically down head-first, but squirrel’s back ankles can rotate 180°, turning their paws all the way around to grip the tree trunk as they descend.
6. Several towns compete for the title of “Home of the White Squirrel.”
Squirrels are a more popular town mascot than you might think. Surprisingly, more than one town wants to be known as the “home of the white squirrel,” including Kenton, Tennessee; Marionville, Missouri; the Canadian city of Exeter, Ontario; and Brevard, North Carolina, the location of the annual White Squirrel Festival. But Olney, Illinois may be the most intense about its high population of albino squirrels. There is a $750 fine for killing the all-white animals, and they have the legal right-of-way on roads. There’s an official city count of the squirrels each year, and in 1997, realizing that local cats posed a threat to the beloved rodent residents, the city council banned residents from letting their cats run loose outdoors. In 2002, the city held a 100-Year White Squirrel Celebration, erecting a monument and holding a “squirrel blessing” by a priest. Police officers wore special squirrel-themed patches for the event.
7. Squirrels could aid in stroke research.
Ground squirrels hibernate in the winter, and the way their brains function while they do may help scientists develop a new drug that can limit the brain damage caused by strokes. When ground squirrels hibernate, their core body temperature drops dramatically—in the case of the arctic ground squirrel, to as low as 26.7°F, possibly the lowest body temperature of any mammal on Earth. During this extra-cold hibernation, a squirrel’s brain undergoes cellular changes that help its brain deal with reduced blood flow. Researchers are currently trying to develop a drug that could mimic that process in the human brain, preventing brain cells from dying when blood flow to the brain is cut off during a stroke.
8. Squirrel fur may have spread leprosy in the Middle Ages.
If you always warn your friends not to pet or feed squirrels because they can spread disease, put this story in your back pocket for later: They may have helped leprosy spread from Scandinavia to the UK in the 9th century. Research published in 2017 found a strain of leprosy similar to a modern variant found in squirrels in southern England in the skull of a woman who lived in England sometime between 885 and 1015 CE. The scientists suggest that the leprosy may have arrived along with Viking squirrel pelts. “It is possible that this strain of leprosy was proliferated in the South East of England by contact with highly prized squirrel pelt and meat, which was traded by the Vikings at the time this woman was alive,” one of the authors told The Guardian. That may not be the most uplifting reason to appreciate squirrels, but it’s hard not to admire their influence!
9. Squirrels are more powerful than hackers.
Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty Images
While energy companies may worry about hackers disrupting the power grid, squirrels are actually far more powerful than cyber-whizzes when it comes to sabotaging our electricity supply. A website called Cyber Squirrel 1 documents every public record of squirrels and other animals disrupting power services dating back to 1987. It has counted more than 1100 squirrel-related outages across the world for that time period, which is no doubt a vast underestimate. In a 2016 survey of public power utilities, wildlife was the most common cause of power outages, and for most power companies, that tends to mean squirrels.
10. Squirrels can heat up their tails to ward off predators.
David McNew, Getty Images
California ground squirrels have an interesting way of scaring off rattlesnakes. Like cats, their tails puff up when they go on the defense. A squirrel will wave its tail at a rattlesnake to convince the snake that it’s a formidable opponent. Surprisingly, they whip their tails at their foes whether it’s light or dark outside. Squirrels can control the blood flow to their tails to cool down or keep warm, and they use this to their advantage in a fight, pumping blood into their tails. Even if the rattlesnakes can’t see the bushy tails, researchers found in 2007, they can sense the heat coming off them.
11. Squirrels help scientists determine whether a forest is healthy.
Researchers look at tree squirrel populations to measure just how well a forest ecosystem is faring. Because they depend on their forest habitats for seeds, nesting sites, and food storage, the presence and demographics of tree squirrels in an area is a good bellwether for the health of a mature forest. Studying changes in squirrel populations can help experts determine the environmental impact of logging, fires, and other events that alter forest habitats .
12. Squirrels can lie.
Gray squirrels know how to deceive. They can engage in what’s called “tactical deception,” a behavior previously only seen in primates, as a study in 2008 found. When they think they’re being watched by someone looking to pilfer their cache of food, the researchers discovered, they will pretend to dig a hole as if burying their acorn or nut, but tuck their snack into their mouth and go bury it elsewhere.
13. Squirrels used to be America’s most popular pet.
Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress // Public Domain
Though some states currently ban (or require permits for) keeping squirrels as pets, it was once commonplace. Warren G. Harding kept a squirrel named Pete who would sometimes show up to White House meetings and briefings, where members of Harding’s cabinet would bring him nuts. But keeping a squirrel around wasn’t just for world leaders—the rodent was the most popular pet in the country, according to Atlas Obscura. From the 1700s onwards, squirrels were a major fixture in the American pet landscape and were sold in pet shops. Despite Harding’s love of Pete, by the time he lived in the White House in the 1920s, squirrel ownership was already on the wane, in part due to the rise of exotic animal laws.
14. The mere sight of just one squirrel could once attract a crowd.
Library of Congress // Public Domain
The American cities of the 1800s weren’t great places to catch a glimpse of wildlife, squirrels included. In fact, the animals were so rare that in the summer of 1856, when a gray squirrel escaped from its cage inside a downtown New York apartment building (where it was surely living as someone’s pet), it merited a write-up in The New York Times. According to the paper, several hundred people gathered to gawk at the tree where the squirrel took refuge and try to coax the rodent down. In the end, a police officer had to force the crowd to disperse. The paper did not document what happened to the poor squirrel.
15. In the 19th century, squirrels were tasked with teaching compassion.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
In the mid-1800s, seeking to return a little bit of nature to concrete jungles, cities began re-introducing squirrels to their urban parks. Squirrels provided a rare opportunity for city slickers to see wildlife, but they were also seen as a sort of moral compass for young boys. Observing and feeding urban squirrels was seen as a way to steer boys away from their “tendency toward cruelty,” according to University of Pennsylvania historian Etienne Benson. Boy Scouts founder Ernest Thompson Seton argued in a 1914 article that cities should introduce “missionary squirrels” to cities so that boys could befriend them. He and other advocates of urban squirrels “saw as opportunities for boys to establish trusting, sympathetic, and paternalistic relationships with animal others,” Benson writes.
But young boys weren’t the only ones that were thought to benefit from a little squirrel-feeding time. When the animals were first reintroduced to parks in the 19th century, feeding squirrels was considered an act of charity—one accessible even to those people who didn’t have the means of showing charity in other realms. “Because of the presence of urban squirrels, even the least powerful members of human society could demonstrate the virtue of charity and display their own moral worth,” Benson writes. “Gray squirrels helped reshape the American urban park into a site for the performance of charity and compassion for the weak.” Even if you were too poor to provide any sort of charity for someone else, you could at least give back to the squirrels.
16. Squirrels used to hate tax season, too.
Currier and Ives, Library of Congress // Public Domain
Though notably absent from big cities, much of the U.S. was once overrun by squirrels. The large population of gray squirrels in early Ohio caused such widespread crop destruction that people were encouraged—nay, required—to hunt them. In 1807, the Ohio General Assembly demanded that citizens not just pay their regular taxes, but add a few squirrel carcasses on top. According to the Ohio History Connection, taxpayers had to submit a minimum of 10 squirrel scalps to the town clerk each year. Tennessee had similar laws, though that state would let people pay in dead crows if they couldn’t rustle up enough squirrels.
Squirrels are almost always ranked first in surveys asking people about their favorite urban/suburban wildlife species.. And why not? Who can resist grinning when a squirrel pauses while munching on an acorn to see if you’re still watching?
Did You Know?
Squirrels don’t always remember where they stored their supply of seeds and nuts for the winter. Because squirrels often fail to reclaim the buried food, abandoned seeds and nuts often take root, establishing trees and other plants in new locations. Thus, squirrels play a vital role in sustaining and expanding plant communities and ecosystems. Just imagine how many trees have sprouted because of squirrels’ short memories.
Despite squirrels’ many likeable attributes, some people don’t appreciate it when squirrels raid their vegetable gardens or tear holes in the roofs of their homes to build nests. Nevertheless, it’s important for all of us to remember that we should not vilify these animals; they don’t have a score to settle with us. They are simply doing what comes naturally to them in order to survive. Fortunately for squirrels and us, there are numerous ways to prevent these curious animals from damaging property without harming them in any way.
Squirrels in the Yard
Squirrels rarely, if ever, damage plants, so if you suspect that a squirrel has been sampling your tomatoes, it’s best to make sure that a squirrel is in fact the culprit before you attempt to remedy the situation.
Because squirrels are diurnal (active during the day), it is usually pretty easy to see for yourself if squirrels are responsible for damage to plants and vegetables. And, of course, if you know the damage occurs at night, you can rule squirrels out entirely and should focus your efforts on nocturnal animals in your area, such as raccoons and opossums.
If squirrels are digging up your yard in search of food, you can discourage them and other animals by planting non-edible flowers, such as daffodils, or laying a wire mesh over the soil after planting. The mesh must have openings big enough for the bulbs to grow through but too small for squirrels to dig into.
If squirrels are digging in the lawn, they’re either looking for food or storing food. It’s difficult to prevent squirrels from storing food, but more than likely, your lawn will recover from the digging and benefit from aeration before you even have time to address any perceived problems.
To prevent squirrels and other animals from frequenting areas of concern, you should explore ways to make the area undesirable by ensuring that there are no food sources available. Keep garbage containers sealed at all times and put your trash out only on the collection day.
Squirrels in the Home
Squirrels give birth at different times of the year depending on the species, and they often use attics, chimneys, sheds, or openings under porches and buildings as dens to raise their young. In order to avoid separating young squirrels from their parents, squirrels should not be evicted until the breeding season has ended. Trapping and moving the family is not recommended because it will almost inevitably lead to separation, and, as a result, baby squirrels may die.
When you’re ready to humanely remove the squirrels from your home, begin by thoroughly inspecting attics and eaves to find openings where the squirrels enter and exit, concentrating your efforts on areas where noises have been heard.
If you find no apparent points of entry, inspect the roof and the eaves and vents on the outside until you find the opening. If you find a nest and there are no immature squirrels, attempt to encourage the squirrels to go outside by placing a radio tuned to a talk-radio station inside the attic, along with several ammonia-soaked rags and/or a portable lamp.
When you are sure that the squirrel or squirrels have left, seal up the opening with 1/4- or 1/2-inch mesh hardware cloth or sheet-metal flashing, securely fastened. Be sure to extend the patch at least 6 inches beyond the hole in all directions in order to prevent the squirrels from gnawing around the patch. Trim overhanging limbs to prevent access to your home.
Listen carefully for the next day or so to be sure that no squirrel is trapped inside. Also, watch closely to see if a squirrel is persistent in attempting to regain entry. Mothers will go to great lengths to reunite with their young.
If for any reason you cannot determine whether the squirrels have left, do not seal the entrance. Instead, install a one-way door. You can make your own or you can order one from tomahawklivetrap.com.
Once you install the door, leave it in place until no more sounds have been heard from inside the attic for several days. The door can then be removed and the opening patched.
Once the squirrels have been evicted, you should not attempt to trap and remove squirrels from the property. Trapping and removing them will do nothing for long-term control, as the newly vacant niche will quickly be filled by squirrels and other animals from surrounding areas. Trapping can also be cruel because when adults are removed, young and vulnerable family members are left to starve. Relocating squirrels—even to wild or wooded areas—is illegal in many places and will likely result in their death because they will have trouble finding adequate food, water, and shelter and won’t have a natural immunity to foreign parasites and diseases. Relocated squirrels are also killed in territorial maulings.
Role in the ecosystem
Squirrels not only use the forest to live and eat, but also help the forest in its process of renewal. In years of high seed production, particularly those species that are prefered by squirrels (hazel, beech, chestnut, stone pine, Scots pine), squirrels store part of the collected seeds.
It is a nice experience to see a squirrel take in its mouth a nut fallen on the ground, start looking around, stopping to dig a small hole 2-4 inches deep with the front legs so to place the nut with the help of the muzzle and cover it with earth. This behaviour is called “caching” or “hoarding”. In autumn, when the nuts or cones of conifers are ripe, the squirrels may take up to an hour to hide groups of 1-5 seeds rich in energy in holes dug in the ground. Many of the hidden seeds will be recovered by the animals in winter and spring, but some will be forgotten. The seeds left in the ground will have the chance to germinate and give rise to a new plant.
The caching behaviour of seeds by squirrels is very important for the renewal of many tree species, particularly plants that produce heavy seeds that have few chances to sprout when they fall near the parent plant. In this case, the squirrels promote germination by hiding the seeds far from the trees. Much of the renewal of chestnut trees in mixed forests, for example, depends on the squirrels, as well as the renewal of the stone pine is related to the action of seed dispersal conducted by nutcrackers and squirrels; squirrels also help the renewal of beech, hazel and, to a lesser extent, oaks.
The red squirrel eats many mushrooms, including the hypogeous ones (truffles and similar species). This action is very important because the fungi are essential for the growth of many plants. Between the roots of plants and the subterranean fungal filaments (hyphae), in fact, a symbiosis is established: the fungus gives water and minerals to plants and receives from them processed organic matter. When the squirrel eats the mushrooms, it ejects the spores (the reproductive part) in the feces. Falling onto the soil, they can germinate, giving rise to a new fungus and a new association with plants. Squirrels, mushrooms, and trees are thus linked by very complex mutual ecological relations which altogether ensure the presence of the rodent, but also of plants and fungi.
The grey squirrel has a strategy for the storage of seeds and the consumption of mushrooms that is quite different from the red squirrel, so the replacement of native species with the American species could have negative effects on the composition and functioning of the woods.
The Great Squirrel Debate: To Feed or Not to Feed?
The debate rages on: Are you team feed or team no feed? David Mark/Getty Images
There is a raging debate over whether or not we should feed squirrels. You read that right. It’s not a question of whether people love or hate squirrels, but whether feeding the bushy-tailed fur balls is safe for them, as well as the nature in general.
Many people, including wildlife experts, don’t think it’s a great idea, for a variety of reasons. First, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that human food just isn’t good for wild animals, and they can survive just fine on their own. “Wild animals have specialized diets, and they can become malnourished or die if fed the wrong foods. Also, animals cannot distinguish food from wrappers or foil and can get sick eating these items,” the .
Team No Feed
To make matters worse, when well-intentioned humans start giving squirrels food, they become dependent on those handouts. And if the early bird (they are diurnal) buffet closes, they won’t be able to become self-sufficient again.
If generous humans do manage to keep the food supply steady, the happy, lazy squirrels go out and inform their squirrel friends that they’ve discovered a food paradise. So how is that a problem? That endless food supply attracts more squirrels, none of which have any intention of giving up the good life. An area overpopulated with squirrels can mean an increase in diseases (like Lyme disease) that can be transmitted to pets, humans and other rodents (like more squirrels). However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s extremely rare for squirrels to have rabies or to pass rabies to pets or humans in the United States.
But still, befriending squirrels can be problematic because they can lose their innate fear of humans and become aggressive. As lovable as they may look, squirrels have sharp teeth and nails that are not cuddle-friendly.
If the safety of people and pets isn’t enough to sway you, then maybe property damage will. Southern Living magazine’s Grumpy Gardener columnist (aka Steve Bender) makes no attempt to hide his disdain for squirrels. “I hate squirrels. Hate them, hate, hate them, hate them!” When squirrels invade his yard, he puts 100 percent of the blame on those who feed squirrels. He even goes as far as suggesting they’re good for nothing except eating. (Yikes!)
But Bender is right when he says the critters can be destructive. Ask most electricians and they’ll tell you squirrels and other small rodents like them are responsible for a lot of the damage to wires and insulation in attics. And they can also do some serious destruction to siding, as well. Bender suggests that is all directly related to feeding squirrels.
But, not everyone agrees with him, and there are a lot of people who enjoy watching squirrels go about their daily squirrel business. According to FeedingNature.com, many people love to feed squirrels simply because it brings animals to their property, and feeding them also gives the rodents another source of food during the harsh winter months.
The Humane Society of the United States takes a moderate position on the debate. Some people will let squirrels take what they want from bird feeders and that’s fine. The best compromise, the Humane Society says, is to give a little for the squirrels and more for the birds.
If you’re still undecided on your squirrel feeding position, the local, federal or state government may decide for you, especially in public parks where feeding squirrels is often illegal. So, unless you live in Loveland, Colorado, the decision is yours. Surely we can all coexist peacefully. After all, we are all mammals, aren’t we?
Creating Squirrel Friendly Gardens: How To Welcome Squirrels In The Garden
Squirrels get a bad rap. For many people, they’re a pest to be tricked, driven away, or eradicated. And they can wreak some havoc if they’re allowed to: they dig up bulbs in garden beds, steal seeds from bird feeders, and chew through electrical wiring in houses. But with some creative discouragement in some places and encouragement in others, squirrels can live harmoniously in your backyard, giving you lots of interesting wildlife activity to watch and a more natural, wild habitat around your house. Read on to learn more about creating squirrel friendly gardens.
How to Attract Squirrels to Your Garden
If they live in your area, attracting squirrels should not be a problem. Squirrels love to eat, and putting out the right food is a surefire route to squirrels in the garden. If you have a bird feeder, you may already have done this without meaning to.
Put out separate squirrel feeders, away from your bird feeders, so they and the birds can both eat in peace. Squirrels like sunflower seeds, and this is often what they’re looking for when they scatter your bird feed everywhere. Put out trays of sunflower seeds, unroasted peanuts, or field corn kernels for them to eat.
If you want to see some acrobatics, you can buy special squirrel feeders that make squirrels swing and jump to get to their food. If you don’t want your squirrels to have to work, hang whole field corn cobs or pine cones covered in peanut butter so they dangle just above a branch, where they can sit and munch.
Beyond feeding, you can encourage squirrels in the garden by leaving hollow trees or trees with nooks and crannies in the trunks: these are ideal nesting sites. If you don’t have or can’t keep these kinds of trees, hang nest boxes made of untreated wood or metal around your yard.
Making Responsible Wildlife Gardens for Squirrels
Squirrel friendly gardens are easy to achieve, but some steps are required to make sure you and the squirrels in the garden continue to live peacefully. The last thing you want to end up doing is attracting squirrels in your house.
Prune away tree branches that would give them easy access to the roof, and seal off any possible openings in broken windows, masonry, or pipes.
Squirrels are also known to strip the bark from trees. Keep them out of important trees by wrapping the trunks in sheet metal or installing squirrel baffles. Prune trees whose canopies are within jumping distance to keep the squirrels from getting in from above.
And don’t forget the garden! If your squirrels are well fed, they are less likely to bother your garden.
Squirrel in my garden
Squirrels bury food in my plant pots / lawn
The habit of burying seeds among squirrels (mainly greys and European reds) is quite common – thanks to that those beautiful animals play a significant role in forests regeneration although we won’t observe that in our gardens (tree saplings are very sensitive in the first years and mostly die after the first grass cutting or plowing)
One of the solutions to this problem is setting aside a place where squirrels can bury their seeds. Such place should be far away from our crops and close to squirrel feeder (or to a point where squirrels enter the garden). Scientific studies have proven that with the abundance of food squirrels bury seeds a few times closer to a “tree” – in this case the feeder – than in a poor crop year. Such separate place for squirrels doesn’t have to be big (very often 2-3 bigger rectangular plant pots will be enough), it’s important that digging in those pots is easier – “light soil” with no compost – than in the garden patches or in the lawn.
ICSRS would like to thank Bo Chetwyn for allowing her photo to be used in the above article.