How and when to feed squirrels?

Squirrels can be drawn some considerable distance by a food table and some will travel more than a kilometre for a daily meal. However, squirrels do not generally give up natural foraging and rely entirely upon supplementary food.

Some weakling youngsters can become quickly dependent upon your bird table, and they are particularly vulnerable if the bird food stops being filled up.

Most people think that the winter is the hardest time for squirrels due to the cold. However, they actually reach their peak weight of the year in January. In fact, if the tree seed and mast crop has been good, squirrels are unlikely to be hungry over the winter months at all, because they can utilize all the food that they buried in the autumn. However, if there were very few seeds and nuts for them in the autumn, a squirrel table could be vital during the subsequent winter.

Only squirrels that are well fed over the winter will breed in the spring, and in the event of a natural seed crop failure (for example, if there were few acorns, hazel or pine cones), there may be no spring litters at all.

Thus, it is best to gauge your winter feeding according to the natural food availability. If it seems like a fruitful autumn, feed squirrels lightly over the winter. On the contrary, if finding hazel nuts in the autumn is sparce, indulge your garden visitors a bit.

Summer is more frequently a hard time for squirrels because there isn't a lot about for them to eat. Once they have finished eating the young buds, shoots and flowers, they are left with searching for leftover caches, and any fresh young greenery available.

For red squirrel, it is during the summer that most deaths occurred as animals succumbed to starvation. On top of the food shortage problem, this is also the time of year when female squirrels have young, and those that have been weaned must learn to fend for themselves.

So, though, feeding squirrels at your table in the height of summer might seem illogical, you will probably be doing them more of a service than providing winter supplements.

Be careful, though. You don't want to encourage baby squirrels to spend all their time on your squirrel table or they do not learn to fend for themselves. So, it is best to feed small amounts every three or four days. This way, you may provide enough help to keep the squirrels alive until the more bountiful autumn, but you will not encourage them into bad habits.

 

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