Can homeowner overfeed squirrels?


Q: My husband loves to feed the squirrels. He feeds them cubed bread three times per day and hangs out squirrel corn.

Is it possible to overfeed the squirrels? I think my husband is going to start cooking meals for them next.

They don't bother the birdfeeders because they are so happy.

A: Well, it just may be your husband has hit upon the ultimate deterrent for gray squirrels raiding birdfeeders.

As for them eating too much, I would think not. Based on my observations, especially in the autumn, squirrels tend to hide extra food

Without your husband's help, the diet of this active rodent includes acorns, beechnuts and hickory nuts -- both fresh and stored. Locating cached food comes easily to them because of their highly developed sense of smell, not because they have good memory.

Depending on the season and availability, they also feed on many kinds of seeds, apples, fungi, grapes, tree buds and blossoms. They also eat birds, mostly small songbirds and their eggs and young, and on and on.

They are omnivores, and like me, seem to have a hard time saying no to a slice of Portuguese Sweet Bread, or any other kind of bread, for that matter. During winter thaws they are also known to dig up and consume flower bulbs.

Last summer, we apparently grew two types of tomatoes that our neighborhood grays relished, and a decorative pumpkin placed on our front steps did not last very long.

Many readers may be surprised to learn that there are not only a variety of squirrel feeders on the market, but also a variety of foods and treats designed and packaged especially for squirrels, ranging from peanuts to mixed nuts, dried corn, and even cakes of mixed seeds, peanut butter, corn and sunflower seeds. Bread isn't mentioned.

Q: A barred owl last night let rip with the call that is distinctly NOT the "Who cooks for you" routine. It was more of a noise like a cat/dog fight.

Is that vocalization territorial or to attract a mate or for other reason?

PAUL, Windsor

A: The barred owl, is not only our star hooter but on occasion will make other sounds "suggesting demonical and derisive laughter," as explained by F. Schuyler Mathews in his 1921 edition of "Wild Birds and Their Music."

They are also known to emit blood-curdling shrieks, although I cannot explain why.

Their deep hooting call is primarily territorial and for mating.

Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email


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