Why Feeding Squirrels Is A Bad Idea
There has been a longstanding debate as to whether or not it is a good idea for residents to feed squirrels. Many wildlife experts state that feeding squirrels may lead to rodent pest issues, and that human food is not good for the health of wild animals. According to officials with the US Department of Agriculture, squirrels and other wild animals have specialized diets, and they can become malnourished and even die when consistently fed human foods. Squirrels also become dependent on the food that residents feed them, and if their human food source is abruptly cut off, they may not be able to locate food sources on their own.
When squirrels come to rely on human food, they let other squirrels know of the food source’s location, resulting in heavy squirrel populations in residential areas. Squirrel overpopulation in residential areas can contribute to the spread of lyme disease and rabies to humans, pets and other rodents. However, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that it is very rare for squirrels to carry rabies, but if squirrels become used to gathering food that humans leave in their yards, squirrels can unlearn their fear of humans and become more aggressive.
In addition to posing a potential health threat, an overabundance of squirrels in residential areas can lead to property damage. For example, many electricians claim that squirrels are responsible for much of the damage inflicted to wires and insulation in attics. Squirrels are also known for causing damage to the siding of houses, and they frequently damage gardens and lawn grass by digging pits in the ground for nut storage.
Despite the many negative consequences of feeding squirrels, many residents continue to do so in order to provide the rodents with an easily accessible food source during the winter. Officials with the Humane Society of the United States say that residents should keep squirrel feeding to a minimum, but consistently placing food into bird feeders is fine, even if squirrels frequently steal from feeders. In most cities and towns in the US, feeding squirrels in public parks is legally prohibited.
Do you feed squirrels or regularly load a bird feeder in your yard?
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