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The Squirrel Store
People who keep and raise squirrels will appreciate this supplier of food, cages, etc.
These people have a cute item that works as a squirrel feeder.
These pro-critter individuals sell squirrel feeders and food.
The Squirrel Store
These people deal in squirrel merchandise and also have lots of general info about our bushy-tailed friends.
This Squirrel Ring site
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Copyright 1999 Jacksonville Animal Trapper.
Peanuts: Substandard Squirrel Food?
Peanuts, which are not native to North America, are not natural squirrel food. Peanuts aren't even nuts--they're beans! They are lacking in certain nutrients, and their flimsy shells don't make them good for hoarding. As an alternative, give out hazelnuts, also known as filberts, still in the shell. They are acorn-sized, have a sturdy shell that holds up well with hoarding (and in your pocket), and squirrels love them! Commercial hazelnuts are closely related to the ones that grow wild in the woods of the eastern U.S., so it's a type of food that squirrels have evolved with.
There are squirrel feeders and other devices designed to keep squirrels occupied on the market these days. I've noticed that most of them give out peanuts, or have an ear of dried corn available. Dried corn or peanuts are not "bad" per se. But if you are going to make a squirrel perform for you, it seems only fair that you give them something decent to eat in return!
Note: This is not to suggest that other types of food won't work. Filberts can sometimes be expensive, and roasted, unsalted peanuts are usually more affordable.
While ordinary roasted peanuts aren't the greatest squirrel food, raw peanuts may be downright harmful! The following is reprinted with permission from IN A NUTSHELL, the official newletter of the Squirrel Lovers' Club:
In the last issue of this newsletter, I printed a letter that appeared in the FORUM section of National Geographic Magazine, March 1996 claiming that raw peanuts are dangerous and possibly fatal if fed to squirrels.
Since then I have received the following article from a newsletter put out by the State of Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife:
No Raw Peanuts, Please!
Don't feed raw peanuts to squirrels and other animals because it can seriously hurt them. That advice comes from fellow backyarder and Eastern Washington University history professor James K. Kieswetter, Ph.D., of Medical Lake, who found out the hard way.
"I had been feeding raw peanuts to my backyard squirrels when I noticed thev were beginning to look pretty ratty," Kieswetter says.
A friend who works in the human nutrition field told him that raw peanuts and other legumes contain a trypsin inhibitor or substance that inhibits or prevents the pancreas from producing trypsin, an enzyme essential for the absorption of protein by the intestine. With the help of a veterinarian friend. Kieswetter reviewed animal nutrition literature and discovered similar problems.
While the exact relationship between the trypsin inhibitor and malnutrition in rodents is not fully understood, the detrimental effects have been documented since 1917. Squirrels fed a steady diet of raw peanuts, soybeans. other legumes, and sweet potatoes could easily develop severe malnutrition.
WDFW Urban Wildlife Biologist Patricia Thompson also reports that there are mycotoxins in raw peanuts that can cause liver, kidney, and brain diseases which unfortunately are seen in many birds.
If you want to feed peanuts, Kieswetter found, the solution is to roast them. According to the Washington State Cooperative Extension Service, roasting hulled raw peanuts for 20 to 30 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring them frequently, will destroy the trypsin inhibitor and render them suitable for feed. If that sounds like a lot of work, buy roasted peanuts but be sure they aren't salted. (Salted nuts of any kind should never be fed to wild animals.)
Kieswetter has become an information crusader about the dangers of raw peanuts, alerting several local backyard feed suppliers about the problem. He recently noticed an article in National Geographic advocating the feeding of raw peanuts to squirrels and wrote the magazine to set the record straight; his letter was printed in the March 1996 edition.
As for his own backyard squirrels, they're off the raw peanut diet and looking much more robust, thank you!
Since receiving this, I have talked with Mammology Professor Joel Brown at the University of Illinois, Chicago and Morton Arboretum, Dr. Chris Wallen, Behavior Ecologist at Morton Arboretum and our own wildlife veterinarian, Dr. Fran Wilkerson.
The general consensus is that giving squirrels a steady diet of raw peanuts may not be particularly good for them; but that (like most things) in moderation raw peanuts probably cause no problem whatsoever. As Prof. Brown puts it, "The dosage determines the poison."
There will be more on this subject later. In the meantime, my advise is to not be afraid to give your squirrels some raw peanuts. Just try to limit it to a relatively small portion of their diet.
As the quote from Douglas Fairbairn at the top of this page suggests, there's no such thing as a tame squirrel. The "tame" squirrels that you see in parks, suburban areas and college campuses have lost their fear of people, but that does not mean they want to be your pet hamster! They want you to give them food, of course, but they don't want to be petted, picked up or handled. Squirrels have been known to bite people who flagrantly violate their "personal squirrel space."
The above disclaimer notwithstanding, some individual squirrels are pettable! One way to tell is if a squirrel sits there and eats within arm length of you, without "turning his back" to you. When squirrels inspect a nut you've given them with their back facing you, it does not mean that they are unconcerned about what you're doing. Squirrel eyes are positioned differently than ours. They can see you quite well with their back to you, and such a position allows them to scamper away more quickly. I've noticed that "tamer" squirrels will often sit and eat facing to the side, relative to your position.
A squirrel will not drop a nut unless there is the most dire emergency. And, obviously, if a squirrel is eating, its teeth will be occupied. This is the time when you "make your move!" Squirrels have extremely soft fur. Additional disclaimer: there's no accounting for individual differences. If you get bitten, don't blame me! Also, it is very rare for squirrels to carry rabies so don't get too paranoid about it. Remember that although squirrels are not tame, they are also not in any great hurry to bite you, even if they seem to approach aggressively. This would go against their "conditioning:" they don't get many handouts from humans that they bite!
Squirrels are not bushy-tailed rats!
(Actually, I have nothing against rats personally. They're smart and kind of cute.)
Members of the squirrel family differ from other small rodents in a number of ways. It's interesting to consider, because these differences show a kind of parallel evolution between the squirrel family and primates.
First of all, squirrels are active during the day, like humans and unlike most rodents. As a result, their sense of sight is much more developed. You can observe that a squirrel's eyes are much larger than those of an animal such as a hamster. Their eyes do not face forward to the extent that ours do, so they would not seem to have binocular vision (and therefore good depth-perception). However, they must be able to judge distances well, if you've ever seen one jump from tree to tree or from tree to bird feeder. It has been observed that squirrels move their head from side to side before jumping, perhaps to compensate for limited frontal vision.
Squirrel ears face to the sides like ours do. Mouse and rat ears face forward.
Squirrels (I'm assuming tree squirrels) are tree animals, like the smaller primates are. The habits of ground squirrels may be a more recent evolutionary adaptation. Living in trees forces certain types of development. First, tree animals use their "hands" more than ground animals. Where this leads is obvious. Also, tree animals, and animals that can get high off the ground, are safer from predators and can therefore afford to be noisier. The most extreme form of this is with birds and their elaborate songs. Squirrels, therefore, chatter and generally make a great deal more noise than other members of the rodent order. And the variety of sounds is much greater.
So then, it's more than just the bushy tail that makes squirrels special!
My symbiotic relationship with squirrels is rather complex and multi-leveled, but I think I can sum it up in two main points:
1. I give them food.
2. They like food.
California is a great place to observe whales! So why am I talking about whales on a squirrel page? Because squirrels and whales have so much in common! Really! And it isn't just that they are both warm-blooded mammals. Consider...
Examples of things that squirrels and whales have in common:
Spring / Fall
Found a Baby Squirrel?
The breeding season for squirrels is now beginning in many areas, which means there's a chance that you might find an "orphaned" baby squirrel in your yard, park, etc. This situation is beyond the scope of my page, and I recommend that you visit Squirrel Wildlife Rehabilitation. This site specializes in this type of information.
It's summertime again! Remember that summer is the hungriest time of year for squirrels. The landscape may be green and lush, but squirrels can't eat grass and leaves like rabbits, deer and other grazing animals can. They have to scrounge around for whatever they can find, and although enough critters survive to continue the species, they must feel a lot of hunger pangs. So be extra generous with your local squirrels this summer!
It's the holiday season again, which means that stores in most areas will have large bins full of nuts. Unshelled nuts like filberts are sometimes hard to find at other times of the year, so now might be a good time to stock up for squirrel feeding. Nuts usually keep for a long time: that's what they're designed for!
BECAUSE they have big, shiny eyes & they will sit on your shoulder & they can live as long as seven years but are lucky to live two & if you sit quietly you can hear them nibbling & they can hang upside down by their hind feet while eating & people run over them and don't care & they wiggle their noses & when they "raid" birdfeeders they aren't playing around, they are hungry & when two squirrels meet they shake their tails at each other & they are as soft as they look & when they go to sleep at night they use their tails for a blanket & people can choose to be kind to animals & Because wherever you find them there are also beautiful trees, I'm proud to be a squirrel watcher!
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