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Squirrels famously enjoy a diet rich in nuts, seeds, and other long-lasting natural treats. But, do squirrels like peanut butter, and should we be putting it in our squirrel feeders?
Squirrels love peanut butter – and as a bonus, it is full of protein, fat, and other nutrients. However, it may not be the healthiest option for them for various reasons.
Is peanut butter healthy for squirrels?
Peanut butter does contain healthy nutrients to an extent, however, the risks of feeding your furry visitors on the spread seem to largely outweigh the benefits. For example, peanut butter can contain aflatoxin compounds that can cause liver disease, blood clotting, certain cancers, and more.
Sugar is a common ingredient in peanut butter – however, squirrels cannot process complex sugars as we do, and too much can therefore be toxic. There’s also a risk that non-organic peanut butter contains trace chemicals that could pose harm to your wildlife.
From a behavioral perspective, feeding your squirrels peanut butter may also have detrimental effects. Naturally, peanut butter is an extremely tasty treat that squirrels simply won’t find in the wild! Therefore, if you feed them PB too often, there’s a risk they will become dependent on you.
You likely want to bring squirrels to your garden – but the last thing you should aim to do is discourage them from finding their own food. What’s more, high-sugar peanut butter can cause obesity in squirrels if you feed it to them too often!
Peanut butter is also not a forage-friendly food – meaning that your local squirrels won’t be able to store it for the winter months.
So, should I feed peanut butter to squirrels at all?
Despite these negatives, leaving a little bit of peanut butter out for squirrels can be perfectly healthy – but don’t make it a frequent part of their diet.
Some anecdotal reports suggest that peanut butter is common in squirrel feeders. However, it’s hunters, in particular, who are known for using peanut butter to attract deer, as well as squirrels and other wildlife.
Don’t let your squirrels dictate to you what they get to eat! There are plenty of funny photos and videos online of squirrels pestering humans for some sweet treats – but this is actually a warning sign that they’re becoming dependent on food they won’t find in the wild.
Although squirrels will gladly come to you if you have peanut butter available, there are kinder ways for you to keep them coming back. Weirdly enough, squirrels eat bird eggs, mealworms, and more in the wild if they are hungry enough – so don’t feel too bad, they will survive without the odd PB!
Can I feed raw peanuts to squirrels?
There is some debate over whether or not feeding peanuts to squirrels is a good idea at all. This is down to the fact that there still may be a risk of aflatoxins produced by a common peanut mold known as Aspergillus.
Therefore, if you do wish to feed your squirrels on peanuts – as opposed to butter – you’ll need to invest in aflatoxin-free nuts. It’s also good to ensure the nuts you feed them aren’t salted or roasted.
There’s also concern that some squirrels may even be allergic to peanuts! Altogether, it’s likely best to keep peanuts out of the picture.
What should I feed to squirrels?
Squirrels are by no means picky animals – but it’s best to feed them on raw food that they will normally come across in the wild during foraging. For example, they love nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts tend to be big favorites.
Of course, you should always make sure that any nuts you leave out for your squirrels are free from salt. Therefore, it may be good to look for specifically-mixed squirrel feed as a good starting point.
Squirrels also love sweet snacks – simply placing some chopped apple on a dish in your garden will attract squirrels and other wildlife. They also enjoy certain sweet vegetables, especially sweetcorn. You could either hang a cob of corn from a tree, place it on a dish in the garden, or even sprinkle some sweetcorn on your ground, and squirrels will happily come to feed themselves.
Squirrels will also happily feast on carrots, celery, green beans, and more. Consider giving them naturally-grown fruit and vegetables before breaking out the PB.
As mentioned, squirrels eat mealworms, too – meaning if you want to add a little more natural protein to their diets, you can. However, just be careful that they don’t steal any food meant for your local birds!
Remember to leave out a fresh dish of water, too – so that the squirrels can wash down all of their favorite treats! Feeding your local critters appropriately means that they can always have a reserve of nutritious food in case they run short – and you’ll prevent squirrels running around in the rain looking for sustenance out of desperation!