Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: Feeding Squirrels in a Cold Winter Climate?

  1. #1

    Default Feeding Squirrels in a Cold Winter Climate?

    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.

    Mike
    SE Idaho

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    somewhere over the rainbow
    Posts
    16,989

    Default Re: Feeding Squirrels in a Cold Winter Climate?

    If you are feeding the birds, he will continue to raid the feeders for both suet and seeds (my wilds always go after the suet, too). You can get some rodent block, drizzle with a tiny bit of vegatable oil, then plop some peanut butter in. Microwave on high for a minute or two, get it bubbling hot, then mix so the pb coats the blocks. Let them cool completely and then put some out (I keep mine in the freezer and take out as I need them). I use Mazuri rodent block, you can order 25 lb bags of it. I also feed in shell nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans mostly). Thank you for taking care of this little guy, I am sure he appreciates it!
    President--Meemor Anonymous,
    Mary...
    MISS YOU NUT, LOVE YOU FOREVER.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Feeding Squirrels in a Cold Winter Climate?

    Quote Originally Posted by pappy1264
    If you are feeding the birds, he will continue to raid the feeders for both suet and seeds (my wilds always go after the suet, too). You can get some rodent block, drizzle with a tiny bit of vegatable oil, then plop some peanut butter in. Microwave on high for a minute or two, get it bubbling hot, then mix so the pb coats the blocks. Let them cool completely and then put some out (I keep mine in the freezer and take out as I need them). I use Mazuri rodent block, you can order 25 lb bags of it. I also feed in shell nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans mostly). Thank you for taking care of this little guy, I am sure he appreciates it!

    Thanks for the input, much appreciated.

    I don't actually care if our wild squirrel friend eats the bird suet if it is not unhealthy for him but I have been unable to find an answer to this. That would certainly be the easiest, simplest way to provide food for Henry over the winter as I wouldn't have to buy squirrel proof feeders for the birds. I have found that there is suet marketed specifically for squirrels but didn't find a nutrient analysis so I don't have a comparison regarding the very high fat content of bird suet. I'm concerned that 20 - 25% fat would be unhealthy for a small mammal such as a wild tree squirrel.

    Any info on this question would be much appreciated.

    Mike
    SE Idaho

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Roman Forest, Texas
    Posts
    10,999

    Default Re: Feeding Squirrels in a Cold Winter Climate?

    Black oil sunflower seeds.
    High calorie.
    If only the one squirrel, half a cup a day would probably help.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Feeding Squirrels in a Cold Winter Climate?

    Mike
    Your question is actually very complex. The authority on this subject would be the owner of Henry's Healthy Pets. She has done extensive research on squirrel nutrition and would be a good reference source. You can contact her through her website. Based on what I have read, Henry's Healthy Blocks were based on research gained from studies of laboratory rats. Of course, squirrel and rats are both in the rodent family. While extensive research has been done for lab rats, no research has been done for the lowly tree squirrel. Bottom line ... other than us ... almost no one cares about squirrels so very little research has been done with squirrels.

    The data behind the Henry's Block is obtained from this source:
    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=4758&page=11

    I read some of it but it is very complex and rather dry to be honest with you. One thing that I did find from it is that the optimum fat content for laboratory rats (we infer squirrels also) is 30%. The bottom line is that rats/squirrels (not flyers) requirements are high fat and low protein. So if your concerns are that the 20-25% fat in the suet is too high, the data suggests that it is not. The problem is that fat is just one facet of the equation. If the suet is corn based it will have problems with the calcium phosphate ratio. Corn is high in phosphate as compared to calcium and will cause calcium to be leeched out of the bones and cause MBD. So while the high fat might not be a problem, the other ingredients with high phosphate/low calcium might be a problem.

    If I was you, I would buy a bag of HHB wild bites and put them in a feeder. They don't have preservatives so they need to be frozen or refrigerated but that doesn't sound like a problem for you in Idaho. If your squirrel will eat them, I bet Henry's would sell you uncut Henry's in a cake form. It wouldn't hurt to ask.

    These are just a few thoughts but if you're up to it you can read the link.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Feeding Squirrels in a Cold Winter Climate?

    Mike, I did want to mention that MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) is an affliction that affects captive squirrels and would usually NOT be seen in wild squirrels. Wild squirrels eating wild foods are better able to balance their diets than are captive squirrels so I didn't want to leave the impression that your hand outs would cause this condition. Now if he was 100% dependent (unlikely) on hand outs to survive I suppose it could be an issue.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Feeding Squirrels in a Cold Winter Climate?

    Thanks to all of you for your input. That's very interesting that such a high fat content is appropriate for wild squirrels. It's hard to imagine how they could eat a diet that high in fat out there in the natural world, but if that's what the research shows it's a relief regarding the suitability of suet.

    I have some Henry's wild squirrel bites on order and will get some black oil sunflower seeds also. If Henry doesn't like the Henry's I will try the home recipe described above. In the meantime it's good to know I don't have to worry about him raiding the bird suet (I've never seen him eat the bird seed).

    Thanks again for your help.

    Mike
    SW Idaho

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •