I'm new to this forum but did to a search on this question and didn't find the exact information I'm looking for. For some reason I can't get past page 1 of this thread, it refusing to advance to page 2, further handicapping my search. Sorry if this subject is well covered somewhere - if so just point me in that direction.
Last summer a tree squirrel appeared at our cabin in the Idaho mountains for the first time. Although there are fairly numerous squirrels in the general area this is the first one we've had in the five years we have lived here. He's thrived to this point and appears to be a beautiful, very healthy and active animal, now with a heavy winter coat and we greatly enjoy watching his antics.
The climate here at 5700 ft altitude is very alpine, winter lows generally being in the 0 - 20 range and highs sometimes not more than that, sometimes up to the mid-thirties max. We have continuous snow cover from December to May, 3 - 5 feet for most of that time.
Although and animal lover I tend to take a "let nature take it's course, they're adapted to it by their evolution" attitude toward wildlife, However, I do feed the birds during the winter (only) because Chickadees are the prevalent species that over-winters here and I have read that in our area they have a quite high winter mortality rate.
So I put out wild birdseed feeders and suet cakes for birds after we get complete snow cover. Our squirrel has begun eating a lot of the suet (I have not yet attempted any specific feeding for him/her.
Given this situation, my questions are:
1. Is suet healthy for squirrels? It is VERY high in fat, 15-25%, far above what I have seen listed for squirrel specific foods. If it is unhealthy I shall have go get some sort of squirrel-proof feeder for the birds.
2. What should I feed the squirrel that would be optimally healthy for such a cold, snowy climate? I would assume it should be of high caloric content. I would prefer a cake or chunk type food rather than individual components if those are appropriate for this situation. I had named him Henry (or Henrietta) and was amused to later find there is a Henry's line of squirrel foods.
3. Does he need water, which would be difficult to supply because of the freezing ambient temps, or can he get it from snow? I can't imagine what other source of water those squirrels living in the area on their own would have during the winters.
4. Does he actually need any help or can he get through our winters on his own? There are lots of pine, spruce, and aspen trees around our house and I believe these do produce edible seeds, at least for birds (and possibly squirrels?). Obviously squirrels do survive naturally in our area or they would be extinct, but I wonder if there is a significant winter mortality rate among them, as there is for the Chickadees, and if so would like to help him survive.. We really enjoy watching him and would like to keep him around if possible.
Any info or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.