Living in Harmony with Squirrels: Feeding & Exclusion

Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Whether you love them or aren't really a fan of them, the fact is, squirrels are here to stay. And if you feed birds in your backyard, you're inevitably offering food to squirrels as well. To live in harmony with our bushy-tailed friends, we have a couple of options: feed them or exclude them (or both).

* Note: this blog contains only feeding and exclusion methods proven to be effective for Eastern Gray (or black) Squirrels. For tips on excluding Red Squirrels & Chipmunks, click here

Eastern Gray Squirrel asking, "More food please!"

Eastern Gray Squirrel drinking from a WBU Heated Bird Bath

Feeding Squirrels

  • What to feed: As you may already know, squirrels aren't super picky when it comes to the food they choose to eat. But, we can help ensure that they stay healthy & thrive in the wild by offering them healthy & natural food options. Here is a list of some delicious and nutritious foods to offer the squirrels in your yard: WBU Wildlife Blend Seed, bird seed blends, peanuts in or out of the shell, Bark Butter Bits, Bark Butter, suet, cracked corn, tree nuts (black walnuts are a favourite!), chopped apple, strawberries, pumpkin, squash, and live or freeze dried mealworms. 

  • How to feed: Letting squirrels have a free-for-all at your feeders is one option for offering food, but giving squirrels their own special dining area can be beneficial to them and the birds. For squirrel-specific feeding, you can offer foods in a shallow dish on the ground or raised area such as a deck or tree stump, or in a specialty squirrel feeder such as the WBU Interactive Squirrel Feeder or Picnic Table Squirrel Feeder. Whichever method of feeding you choose, be sure to clean and disinfect your feeders as often as possible to help mitigate the spread of any illnesses between your squirrels or birds. 

  • Habitat tips: There's much more to survival than food! Squirrels need a consistent source of fresh water to drink and aid in grooming, safe places to hide from predators, natural food sources, and nesting material. To help squirrels thrive in your yard, be sure to have an accessible water dish or bird bath with fresh, clean water available at all times. Keep brush piles and dense shrubs where possible to allow for a quick getaway when fleeing from predators. Brush and leaf piles can also be used by squirrels as nesting materials in the spring. Plant native plants that produce fruits, nuts, and support insects that squirrels feed on. Last but not least, keep kitty inside. Free-roaming cats are introduced and invasive predators that pose a huge threat to our native wildlife species. It is much safer for both squirrels and our cats to be indoor-only, unless on lead or in an enclosed space such as a "catio".

Gray Catbird feeding on Hot Pepper Bark Butter

American Goldfinch & Northern Cardinal feeding from an Eliminator feeder

Squirrel Exclusion Methods
Let's face it - squirrels break the bank with all the birdseed they consume. Sometimes they will even damage feeders, making it even more costly to keep up with backyard bird feeding. In addition to the cost of allowing squirrels at your feeders, there are some municipalities who have bylaws against feeding wild animals, so sometimes excluding squirrels is the only option. Here are the best methods to help exclude squirrels from your feeding stations:

  • Pole System & baffles: The most effective way to exclude squirrels is to install an Advanced Pole System with a squirrel or raccoon baffle. There are some rules with ensuring this method is effective, including making sure the top of your baffle sits at least 5' from the ground, and your system is situated at least 11' from any surface stable enough to support a squirrel (house, fence, tree, etc). Squirrels are excellent jumpers and can easily clear baffles when the system is not set up just right! To learn more about this method, click here. Note: Avoid the use of oils, grease, adhesives, or slinky-type apparatuses to keep squirrels off of feeding poles. These methods are not only ineffective, but can be dangerous to squirrels, birds, and other wildlife who visit your yard. 

  • Squirrel-proof feeders: There are tons of supposed "squirrel-proof" feeders on the market, with many failing at their job. Brome Bird Care Feeders are truly squirrel-proof feeders with guarantees to back them. Brome Bird Feeders, such as the popular Eliminator and Squirrel Buster Suet, feature feed doors that shut closed under the weight of a squirrel and can be adjusted to even exclude some larger birds as well. An option to make your existing feeders squirrel-proof, is to add a cage. Cages are designed to allow smaller birds in, while keeping squirrels and larger birds like grackles or starlings out. These can be purchased for a number of feeders including Tube Feeders, Seed Cylinder Feeders, Mealworms Feeders, and more. 

  • Offer less-desired foods: Believe it or not, there actually are some foods squirrels don't like! Just like humans, every squirrel is different and will have different tastes so these methods are not always 100% effective against every squirrel, but will certainly help to limit their interest in your feeders. Some of these foods include Safflower Seed, Simply Suet, and WBU Hot Pepper Products. To learn more about our Hot Pepper products and how to safely offer them, click here

    For more tips on squirrel exclusion, visit our Problem Solving page. 
* Note: In the Province of Ontario, squirrels can be trapped and relocated 1 kilometer from where you trapped them. They can easily travel that 1 kilometer distance back to your house. Moving your squirrels also makes room for more squirrels to enter the habitat, with one gone its neighbour will move in. So the most effective way to deal with squirrels is to accept that they are a part of your yard and invest in a good pole system and baffle. Putting a feeder out just for squirrels will not do much to distract them from your other bird feeders it may simply attract more to your home.

Photo by Ramon Delgado

Whether you choose to feed squirrels, exclude them, or a little of both, remember to be kind. Squirrels aren't greedy or malicious, they are just doing what they can to survive in the harsh conditions of the wild. I think we're all a little part squirrel these days, right? 😉

Happy trails!
- Shayna 

1 comment: