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Can Squirrels Eat Walnuts? (Should You Remove the Shell?)

Can Squirrels Eat Walnuts? (Should You Remove the Shell?)
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Squirrels are always busy gnawing at something, stuffing their cheeks, or storing food for later use. The omnivorous squirrel will eat whatever is on the menu.

We all know they love nuts, but do squirrels eat walnuts? And can they eat a walnut with a shell? Let’s look into the matter.

Squirrels could eat walnuts all day if they had a choice. A squirrel’s strong teeth design and powerful jaw has no problem cracking open a walnut to get to the flesh. Walnuts are beneficial as it contains protein, carbohydrates, fat, dietary fiber, and vitamins that keep our furry friends healthy.

uts are associated with squirrel food, ask anyone what you feed a squirrel, and nuts will be the probable answer. However, that doesn’t mean you can feed a squirrel any old nut, as some varieties can affect their health and even kill them. The same goes for some other food types.

Can Squirrels Eat Walnuts?

Whether you have a squirrel as a pet or have a synanthropic relationship with a few of them living in your neighborhood, it’s recommended that you know what they can and cannot eat.

Squirrels love walnuts, devouring them on sight.

Are Walnuts Good for Squirrels?

Walnuts are especially good for the squirrel diet as it contains a high ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Walnuts contain more antioxidants than other nuts, which helps prevent oxidative damage in squirrels.

Nutritionally it makes perfect sense to feed a squirrel a walnut, seeing that they struggle to digest foods that contain too much cellulose – an ingestible insoluble fiber found in plants, fruits, and veggies.

Walnuts are seeds that come from any tree from the genus Juglans, and the two most common species are the Persian/English walnut and the native black walnut from eastern North America.

Both types of walnuts offer similar nutritional value to the mouth that eats them, and here is a breakdown of that value:

  • 4% Water
  • 15% Protein
  • 65% Fat
  • 14% Carbohydrates
  • 7% Dietary Fiber
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B6
  • Copper
  • Phosphorus
  • Manganese
  • Folic Acid

Squirrels are very much addicted to nuts. Imagine a squirrel in your mind’s eye, and it will be one clutching a nut, one looking for a nut, one eating a nut, or one stashing a nut.

Walnuts also contain much-needed omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants that are very beneficial to our gnawing friends. Not that a squirrel gives a rat about what they eat, they go for food that tastes good.

Except when they are starved, anything is on the menu: small mammals, insects, amphibians, bird eggs, and baby birds; when hungry, they are not scared to go full omnivore.

Our flying, jumping, super-fast squirrel friends tend to struggle for food at the beginning of spring. It’s the time of year when the nuts they buried for winter survival start to sprout, making it inedible.

Squirrels normally tend to eat a variety of plant materials, such as the buds of trees during this time; adding some walnuts to your feeding schedule in early spring will help our furry friends tremendously.

How Do Squirrels Eat Walnuts?

The best way to present walnuts to squirrels is still in its shell. No, you are not being cruel by leaving the walnuts covered in their “homes” when handing out these treats to our squirrelly friends.

Squirrels are fitted with four prominent incisors that grow continuously; they keep them sharp and from growing by grinding them together or by chewing on the following items, typically found in or around your house:

  • Wood
  • Lead
  • Copper
  • Plastic
  • Siding
  • Sheet Rock
  • Vinyl
  • Asphalt
  • Mortar

Most nut lovers own a nutcracker, or else we would not be able to get the nuts out of its shells. Squirrels don’t need a nutcracker, as they are natural nutcrackers with strong teeth (four incisors and eight molars) and powerful jaws.

Feeding the squirrels’ incased walnuts will help them with their teeth regime and keep your home safe from being gnawed at. Walnuts in their shells are also more nutritional than those out of it.

Where Can You Buy Walnuts to Feed Squirrels?

Unless you have a walnut tree in your garden, you can buy walnuts at the following places on the cheap, as bird feed and squirrel feed tend to be on the pricier side.

Online you can order your squirrel nuts from the following institutions:

Should you have one squirrel as a pet, or one regular visitor in your garden, feed them two walnuts per day.

What Other Types of Nuts Can You Feed to Squirrels?

Walnuts are nutritional and a favorite food source for many a squirrel. Everybody knows that acorns are also a staple of the squirrel diet, but what other types of nuts can you feed to squirrels that are healthy and liked by them?

Nuts That Are Beneficial to Squirrels

If you think that you can feed just about any nut to our furry friends, think again. Squirrels aren’t known to be fussy eaters. They will devour anything you present to them.

To keep them healthy, you must feed them nutritional nuts. Here are some of the best nuts that you can feed a squirrel:

Type Of NutNutritional Value
Acorn From White Oak (Low Tannin)Good
BeechnutGood
ButternutGood
HazelnutGood
Hickory NutsGood
Pecan NutsGood
White PistachiosGood
AlmondsGood

Nuts That You Shouldn’t Feed a Squirrel

As mentioned, not all nuts are meant to become squirrel food, and some can even make our nibbling friends sick in the process. Here are some nuts that you should keep away from them:

  • Raw/Salted Peanuts
  • Pine Nuts
  • Cashews

What Are Aflatoxins?

Have you ever heard of aflatoxins – fungi causing toxins that grow on certain foods and crops? Aflatoxins are natural pollutants that can cause cancer and death in humans and animals when large amounts are ingested.

Aflatoxins were first discovered when more than 100,000 turkeys died in England in 1960. An investigation revealed that the cause of death was a peanut meal fed to the turkeys.

The peanut meal was laced with a fungus, Aspergillus flavus (toxin-producing), and the name aflatoxin was derived from it.

Food types that are mostly affected by aflatoxins are:

  • Peanuts
  • Corn
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Figs
  • Spices
  • Cottonseed
  • Meat

The US Food and Drug Administration considers aflatoxins as unavoidable contaminants, allowing low levels in foods. Foods that pose a serious risk are put through rigorous testing methods.

The level might be low in our foods, but a squirrel is much smaller than us; even a low level becomes a high concentrate for such a small critter.

When stored improperly, even the generally safe walnut can be susceptible to fungal mold (can produce aflatoxin) and insect infestations. Should you find any mold on a walnut – discard the batch immediately.

The perfect temperature when storing walnuts is 27 to 32°F, in low humidity. If you don’t have the refrigeration options to make this happen, it’s suggested that you store walnuts below 77°F.

Humid conditions above 70%, paired with temperatures above 86°F, will lead to walnuts being spoiled and unfit for consumption. Humidity conditions over 75% can result in a fungal mold likely to form dangerous aflatoxin.

What Other Types of Food Can You Feed to Squirrels?

Suppose you have run out of nuts to feed the squirrels. What will you feed them? And will you feed them food that is beneficial to their health?

Healthy Food That You Can Feed to Squirrels

To make things easy, here’s a list of beneficial foods that you can feed squirrels that are not nutty:

  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Leafy Greens
  • Radishes
  • Parsley
  • Beet Greens
  • Kale Spinach
  • Turnip Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Zucchini
  • Green Beans
  • Radicchio
  • Fennel
  • Yellow Squash
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Apple
  • Bananas
  • Cherries
  • Blackberries
  • Kiwi
  • Apricot
  • Cranberries
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Mangos
  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Blueberries
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Nectarines
  • Rodent Block

What Foods Shouldn’t Be Fed to Squirrels?

The following foods are not to be fed to squirrels, as it places strain on their digestive system, lowers their calcium levels, and ultimately isn’t good for them health-wise:

  • Dried Fruits
  • Dried Corn
  • Oak Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Figs
  • Raisins
  • Prunes
  • Dates
  • Plums
  • Fruit Juice
  • White Potatoes
  • Bell Peppers
  • Dried Vegetables
  • Eggplant
  • Fresh Corn
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Sprouts
  • Turnip
  • Yams
  • Take-aways
  • Sweets

Can You Feed Squirrels By Hand?

Even though squirrels are one of the cutest critters found in the wild, they are still by defect a wild animal. Due care should be taken when feeding them, as they can become overly excited when food is presented to them.

The act of getting a squirrel to eat out of your hand is a magical experience, an instant bond between man and little beast. Please be aware that these critters get super-excited when food is on the table; some carry mites and fleas that can be transferred to you.

With the disclaimer out of the way, feeding a squirrel out of your hand is awesome. Be sure to present the nuts on your palm, don’t let it get stuck between your fingers, as squirrels are overzealous eaters who may accidentally bite a finger instead of a nut.

Should you be nervous about being nicked in the process of providing food for these smart animals, you may have to opt for a squirrel feeder. Their own little “restaurant” will also keep them from destroying your birdfeeder.

Seeing that we are discussing birdfeeders, a very important thing to know is that squirrels don’t like Nyjer seeds at all. It’s like spinach to a small child. On the other hand, birds love Nyjer seeds, and their constant presence in the birdfeeder will keep the squirrels away.

The good idea is to invest in an all-metal constructed feeder so that the squirrel can chew and gnaw its way through. A bonus of buying a metal-mesh feeder is to ensure that Mr. Squirrel doesn’t empty the feeder in one go.

Are You Allowed to Feed Squirrels?

Believe it or not, tame squirrels can become pests. When they become so used to their surroundings, you included, and when they don’t perceive you as a threat anymore, they have no problem invading your space.

Should they outgrow their nest, a squirrel will not think twice before making your attic space their new home. You can be certain of the fact that a tame squirrel will also expect room service in its new home.

In the US, there are many states and municipalities that prohibit the intentional feeding of squirrels. Some states limit the feeding of squirrels on public land but not on privately owned property.

These individual laws are introduced to keep the squirrel population in check and prevent these little rodents from becoming a nuisance to society. Best to check your municipal and state laws regarding the feeding of these creatures.

How Much Food Can You Feed a Squirrel Per Day?

Squirrels require a balanced diet that contains protein, vitamins, minerals, fat, and lots of calcium. You can contribute to a squirrel’s health by feeding it the following amounts of food (estimated for a squirrel that weighs 450-grams – 1 pound.

If you reckon that the squirrel is bigger than the size indicated above, amend the amount accordingly:

Nuts & Seeds:

Feed them two per day (still in the shell if possible):

  • Acorns
  • Almonds
  • Macadamia
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Whole Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Vegetables High in Calcium

Feed them 5-7 pieces per day (thumb-sized):

  • Arugula
  • Beet Greens
  • Chicory
  • Bhak Choi
  • Cilantro
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Escarole
  • Kale
  • Mustard Spinach
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Radishes
  • Water Cress
  • Swizz Chard
  • Squash
  • Radicchio

Other Healthy Vegetables

Feed them 2-3 pieces per day:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Green Beans
  • Pumpkin
  • Mushroom (1 per week)

Fresh Fruit

Feed them 2 slices per day:

  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Raspberries
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Watermelon
  • Nectarine
  • Peaches
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Banana

Animal-Based Protein

Feed them 2 live/dried per day:

  • Mealworms
  • Crickets
  • Moths

Natural Food Sources

Feed them as much as you like while in season:

  • Pine Cones
  • Pine Branches
  • Branch Tips (Non-Toxic)
  • Roses
  • Wild Rose Hips
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Purslane

Final Thoughts

You can feed squirrels walnuts; they love them. Feed them to our furry friends with their shells intact, as this will help with a squirrel’s teeth maintenance – and reduce the need to perform maintenance around your home due to their gnawing habits.

Never feed them walnuts with mold on it, as they may contain fungi that cause cancerous toxins. When you have run out of nuts to give to the squirrels, you can feed them an alternative food source, as discussed in the article.

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