the essentials in brief
- There are both proponents and opponents of squirrel feeding
- Squirrels do not hibernate and should be given food and water, especially in winter
- The animals are omnivores, but prefer to eat nuts and seeds, and more rarely also insects, chicks or eggs
- Squirrels should not be fed bread, dairy products, exotic fruits, almonds, or peanuts
Should you feed squirrels?
In addition to well-known nature conservation organizations, there are also private associations throughout Germany in which volunteers take care of squirrels in need. They finance themselves through donations and are grateful for any help, especially in years with a high onslaught from the population. Therefore, it is recommended to feed the animals. But there are also critics who are skeptical of supplementary feeding.
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From the point of view of species protection, there is no reason for additional feeding, because fluctuations in the food supply are normal. Every four years there are so-called fattening years in which the trees produce an excessive amount of fruit and seeds. These alternate with years in which hardly any beechnuts or hazelnuts are formed.
Hot and dry summers make fruit ripening more difficult. As a result, squirrels can hardly find food for themselves and their young, so that the squirrel populations decline sharply in some years. If the food supply improves, the populations recover.
While the animals usually find alternative sources of food in the forest, it is even more difficult for them in urban areas. There is a lack of deciduous trees, pines and spruces, so that squirrels can hardly find food in these habitats. The limited food supply is causing squirrel populations in the city to decline.
If the natural food is missing, additional feeding can help - at least for a short time, because the entire population cannot be saved and is still subject to the natural fluctuations in the food supply. Feeding stations are very suitable for experiencing nature because they allow rare observations.
Summer vs. Winter feeding
Anyone who answered the question about supplementary feeding with a “yes” is now faced with the decision of how often food should be offered. Nature conservation organizations such as Nabu or LBV recommend supplementary feeding in winter. In contrast, summer feeding is discussed more often. But an additional food supply in summer poses no dangers, as long as you follow the rules for feeding.
Food supply during the year:
- Summer food : nuts without shell, leaves, shoots and buds
- Winter food : shelled nuts, dried fruit, cones
- all year round : offer water
Food supply in winter
Squirrels do not hibernate. In winter, they feed on their depots that they created by autumn. However, when the ground is very frozen, the animals have no way of getting to the underground hiding places. However, these hiding places make up only a small part of the winter diet. If the squirrels can't find their hiding spots again, they look for alternatives and eat mushrooms and tree buds.
Why winter feeding makes sense:
- cold temperatures increase energy consumption
- young squirrels are born in early February
- Females need significantly more food
Food sources in summer
Some nature lovers fear negative consequences if they offer food all year round. These can manifest themselves in that the animals get used to the feeding place and lose sight of alternatives. However, such developments have not been proven. If you choose to feed them naturally and provide a balanced range of foods, the squirrel instincts shouldn't be lost.
This speaks in favor of summer feeding:
- Nature education : observations enable new experiences
- Species diversity : the more species live in the garden, the more balanced the habitat
- Bird protection : Seeds also attract songbirds
What do squirrels eat?
Squirrels are omnivores. They feed mainly on vegetarian food and accept everything that nature in the treetops has to offer. In addition to leaves, buds and shoots, various fruits are part of their food spectrum. Nuts and seeds make up a large part of their diet. Squirrels eat walnuts, beechnuts, chestnuts or acorns. Rodents feed on animal food such as insects, chicks and eggs or small animals less often.
Way of life
Squirrels are diurnal and spend most of their time in the trees. They live mainly in deciduous and mixed forests. The animals can be observed more and more frequently in gardens and parks, because here there are often fruit-bearing trees. The animals collect seeds and fruits from these between spring and autumn.
Squirrels create numerous hiding places in which they burrow the fruits they have collected. During the winter the animals do not go into hibernation. They plunder their hiding spots, but not all camps are always found again. The seeds begin to germinate underground in the next spring, developing trees and shrubs. In this way, squirrels ensure natural forest cover.
A life in the treesThe fact that squirrels can live in the treetops is made possible by their bushy tail. This is a multifunctional tool and helps with balancing, steering and rowing. When a squirrel jumps from branch to branch, it is not just using its tail. It can jump distances between four and five meters. To do this, the squirrel needs strong hind legs to jump off and sharp claws with which it can hold on to the bark. The claws make it possible for a squirrel to climb upside down along the bark.
How to feed properly
Although there are frequent discussions about feeding the rodents, there is nothing to worry about. If you pay attention to some aspects, it will not harm the animals and they will not get used to the feeding places. Even if feeding on a small scale cannot positively affect the entire population of squirrels, nothing stands in the way of supplementary feeding.
|suitable||conditionally suitable||not suitable|
|nuts||Walnuts, hazelnuts||Chestnuts because of their short shelf life||Peanuts, almonds|
|fruit||Raisins, dried apples||-||exotic fruits|
|vegetables||Carrots, ripe cucumbers||Corn in small quantities||-|
|Others||anything that squirrels naturally eat||zwieback||Bread, dairy products|
Feeding in the city
In the city, specific feeding of squirrels is recommended, as the animals can hardly find any food here. The only problem is traffic if you live on busy streets. Cats can also be fatal to squirrels. Anyone who lures squirrels with food should be aware of these dangers.
Please note that
Do not use feeding places at ground level. Squirrels naturally live at lofty heights and prefer them for food intake. At a height of at least two meters, the animals are better protected from predators and can escape through the treetops in the event of an attack.
The more feeding places are offered, the less squirrels get into each other's enclosure. The places should be cleaned regularly so that no pathogens can spread. Never leave the food for more than two days. In addition, make sure you have a balanced food supply and avoid one-sided feeding.
Tips for dealing with squirrels:
- Treat animals with respect
- make sure that squirrels don't lose their shyness
- provide sufficient hiding places
- Do not offer food every day
A water trough is even more important than a feeder. In recent years, many water sources and rivers have dried up. The animals have ever greater problems maintaining their water balance. Many rodents become dehydrated and have to leave their offspring helpless. Create water holes in your garden. A small garden pond is just as suitable for this as a bowl that is placed on a raised tree stump in the bushes.
Locations for feeding places
The ideal location for the feeder is a place far away from the house so that the animals can eat undisturbed. The box should be installed at a height of at least two meters so that the raid is difficult for cats and the rodents can escape in good time. If you want to install the box on the balcony or terrace, you should allow the animals undisturbed feeding times. If you lose your fear of people, negative consequences cannot be ruled out.
Danger from habituation:
- Animals can lose their natural instinct to flee
- increasing courage pushes squirrels into unnatural environments
- become easy victims for road traffic
When buying feed mixes, you should pay attention to the quality and composition. The feed should be natural and not contain any additives.
Garden close to nature
The ideal solution is a naturally landscaped garden where squirrels feel comfortable and find enough food. A hedge of hazelnut bushes in combination with fruit-bearing bushes ensures a rich menu. They are attracted by walnut trees and do not disdain the cones of spruce and pine trees. The animals feel particularly comfortable in habitats with different tree species of all ages.
The squirrel garden:
- low shrubs and tall trees
- protected water point
- Dead wood on the edge of the bank or branches that protrude into the water
Brushwood piles and stone walls provide a habitat for insects and vertebrates. The squirrels also benefit from the elements as they provide additional sources of food.
Fungicides, insecticides and herbicides
If you leave one corner of the garden to run naturally, the rest of the area should also be cared for and treated gently. Using chemical substances or household remedies to remove pests, fungi and unwanted plants will in most cases also affect animals. Find out about the possible effects of various agents so that there is no danger to squirrels, insects and birds. Eliminate all potential sources of danger. Even the open rain barrel can be a risk if the animal falls into it.
|Blue grain||mineral fertilization||liquefies in heavy rain||Chemical burns on the outsoles|
|Slug pellets||Attractants||sweet aroma attracts birds and rodents||fatal poisoning|
|acetic acid||Weed killing||Substances wet forage plants||Burns of the mucous membranes|
Feeding squirrels in nature
In some regions the shy animals have got used to humans. In the Black Forest and Bavaria there are now squirrel forests in which the rodents have lost all fear of humans. They are curious and even eat out of the hand of the visitors. The abundant sources of food are gratefully accepted, which promises a unique experience, especially for children.
Squirrel forests in Germany:
- Doniswald near Königssee
- Triberg waterfalls
- Fishing in the Allgäu
You have to pay attention to this
If you only offer the animals high-fat food, there is a risk of an unbalanced diet. The squirrels choose food sources that require less effort. Unbalanced feeding causes the rodents to become sluggish and comfortable. This makes them easy prey to natural enemies. Make sure you have a balanced and varied food supply and do not overdo it. Shelled nuts are recommended for feeding in the wild to keep the animals busy.
Squirrels are naturally shy. These instincts must not be lost through feeding.
frequently asked Questions
Can you feed squirrels?
There is no ban on feeding squirrels. However, additional feeding in urban areas can cause problems with neighbors. It is not uncommon for tenants to complain about the behavior of residents whose balconies are above theirs. If the leftover food falls on someone else's balcony, those affected usually appear incomprehensible. Such incidents lead to the fact that the landlords themselves put up bans on animal feeding on the balcony.
Does it make sense to feed squirrels?
This question is discussed again and again. There are reasons in favor of feeding as well as facts against the unnatural food supply. From a species protection perspective, it is not necessary to feed squirrels. The stocks are subject to natural fluctuations and are regulated by the food supply in the forest. In terms of nature education, nothing speaks against feeding. Children and adults enjoy the observations.
How Long Should You Feed Squirrels?
Nature conservation organizations generally recommend feeding during the winter months, as the food supply is particularly scarce here. In addition, squirrels give birth to their young in February. They need a lot of energy during pregnancy and food to raise their young after birth. Feeding is generally not necessary in summer. However, it can expand the food supply for the animals mainly in urban areas.
What to do if you find an injured squirrel
A baby squirrel is still helpless and needs protection and attention from its mother. If you find a young squirrel, it is best to watch the situation quietly. In many cases the mother comes back after a few minutes and takes care of the young animal. If the squirrel is visibly abandoned or injured, it needs our help. There are special reception stations that take care of the animals. Find out more from the local nature conservation associations.