Is It Bad To Feed Squirrels? What You Need To Know

by Derrick | Last Updated: August 7, 2021

There has been a long time debate regarding whether or not it’s ok to feed squirrels. While there are pros and cons of both arguments, the ultimate decision is up to you.

It is ok to feed squirrels, especially in the wintertime when food is scarce. However, it is best to not feed squirrels directly to prevent them from becoming overly aggressive or desensitized to humans. Instead, feed them with a squirrel feeder or by planting food-producing bushes in your yard.

Next, we’ll go over the pros and cons of feeding squirrels. Then, we’ll discuss whether it’s ok to feed squirrels in the wintertime and what foods they like to eat. Lastly, we’ll explain a way in which you can feed squirrels without directly interacting with them. 

Pros and Cons of Feeding Squirrels

Many people debate about whether or not it’s ok to feed squirrels. Some people view it as harmful and think it’s disruptive to wildlife, while others think it’s a great help to the squirrels. 

We’ll go over the potential benefits and disadvantages of feeding squirrels so you can decide if it’s something you’d like to partake in. 

Pros of Feeding Squirrels

Squirrels are cute, engaging, and so fun to watch. Feeding them can be beneficial not only for the squirrels but for you and your family. We’ll go over the benefits of feeding squirrels below. 

May Help Them Survive When Food Is Scarce

If squirrels live in specific environments, such as urban neighborhoods or cities, finding food can be difficult. So, feeding them may help them get by. Similarly, during certain times of the year, food is more scarce, making it harder for squirrels to survive. So, if you supplement their diet during these challenging times, you may help them live to see another day. 

Can Enhance Your Appreciation for Wildlife

Attracting squirrels to your backyard with food can enhance you and your family’s appreciation for squirrels and other forms of wildlife. You’ll begin to understand their patterns, their favorite foods, how they move, and more as you observe them feeding in your yard. Your relationship with the squirrels may make you feel more connected to nature and other living things. 

Additionally, your attitude towards conservation may change when you develop a closer relationship with the squirrels. You may begin to recognize the importance of natural spaces, and the relationship may inspire your family to get involved in eco-friendly activities. Interacting with wildlife, even in a small way, may help you and others in your life develop a greater desire to protect the world we live in. 

Cons of Feeding Squirrels

While feeding squirrels has some advantages, it can also be harmful to the squirrels and may even be illegal depending on where you live. We’ll go over the disadvantages of feeding squirrels below. 

Squirrels Can Become Desensitized to Humans

Some people choose to feed squirrels directly with their hands which is not ideal since they’ll eventually become desensitized to humans, which can have dire consequences. 

Squirrels that aren’t afraid of humans may approach them in dangerous areas, such as in parking lots or by main roads where they could get run over. Additionally, to get food, squirrels may approach humans who have pets, which may harm or kill the squirrels. Similarly, the squirrels may be less cautious when they are around humans, leaving them exposed to other predators. 

Desensitized squirrels can also be harmful to humans. Many become more aggressive, biting humans who interact with them or don’t provide them with food. Therefore, directly feeding squirrels can have negative consequences not just for the squirrels themselves but also for you and your family. 

It’s Illegal To Feed Squirrels in Some States

Some states have laws that prevent you from feeding squirrels. These laws are in place to help prevent the squirrels from becoming overly dependent on humans. Additionally, some states put these laws in place to avoid neighborhood quarrels since some people love attracting squirrels to their yards, but their neighbors do not, which can cause a lot of problems. 

Therefore, you should check your state and county laws to determine if you are allowed to feed squirrels. Some areas have rules that you can’t feed squirrels on public land, but you can do whatever you want on your private property. Therefore, you should look up your specific region’s wildlife feeding regulations to avoid breaking the law! 

Is It OK To Feed Squirrels in the Wintertime?

While some people think it isn’t good to feed squirrels during most of the year, many have a change of heart during the winter when food is scarce. 

In the wintertime, squirrels are only active for a few hours a day, during which time they have to scrounge for food. While squirrels typically store food during the warmer months that they eat during the winter, sometimes they cannot find their hiding spots again, especially if they put their food in a garden, park, or another area that humans regularly alter. This can leave them hungry, without enough food to survive. 

Additionally, female squirrels start their gestation period in the wintertime. During this time, they need to eat a lot of food so that their growing babies can survive. Additionally, they try to stockpile food so that they’ll have some available for their babies when they are born. So, if female squirrels aren’t able to eat or collect enough food in the winter, they and their offspring likely won’t make it.

So, while the negative aspects of feeding squirrels still apply in the wintertime, it may be worth the risk to help them survive through these difficult months. 

What You Should Feed Squirrels in Wintertime

If you choose to feed squirrels in winter, you should provide them with safe foods that are a part of their regular diet. Additionally, you should spread out the food in your yard so that different squirrels can avoid each other, which may help prevent aggressive behaviors. If you’d like, you can set up squirrel feeders to feed your squirrels, which are devices that allow squirrels to eat while preventing other wildlife from taking their food. 

We’ve listed some of the most common foods squirrels eat below.

  • A variety of nuts, including walnuts, beechnuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts
  • Various seeds, including sunflower and hornbeam
  • Certain fruits, including apples, pears, oranges, and kiwis
  • Certain vegetables, including carrots, corn, squash, and broccoli

Make sure to check what foods are native to your region and feed the squirrels accordingly. You want the foods you provide to be as natural as possible! 

How To Feed Squirrels Without Human Interaction

Instead of feeding squirrels from your hand, or even from a feeder, why not do the most natural thing and plant native berry and nut bushes in your yard? These bushes will attract squirrels to your home without them becoming dependent on humans, which is excellent for you and the squirrels. 

Some great options are pignut hickories, hackberries, Chickasaw plums, and red maples. However, it would be best to do some research to ensure these plants are native to your area before you plant them. Try to pick shrubs that squirrels enjoy but that are also indigenous to your region! 


Feeding squirrels has its advantages and disadvantages, so whether or not you choose to do so is really a matter of preference. If you want to feed squirrels, make sure you indirectly feed them with squirrel feeders or by planting native bushes to prevent them from becoming overly dependent on humans. Squirrels are especially vulnerable in the wintertime, so leaving them some food in the colder months may help them survive. 

We hope this article has taught you everything you wanted to know about feeding squirrels!