13 April 2009

Please don't feed the squirrels?


A recent Associated Press story reports that the state of Wisconsin is asking visitors to stop feeding squirrels at the state Capitol because children visiting the area may have peanut allergies and this puts them at risk.

Please stop now, say the officials in Madison. Please stop so that schoolkids visiting the state buildings on classroom tours don't have an allergic reaction that could kill them.

Allergies are pretty serious matters. Children and adults can die from such reactions. And the warning is definitely well-intentioned but, I fear, it is off the mark.

First of all, people should indeed stop feeding the squirrels peanuts.

Peanuts are NOT a natural food for squirrels anyway - any more than Cheez-Doodles or Pop Tarts are a "natural" food for humans. Just because a creature likes a snack doesn't mean they need to make a steady diet of it. If people insist on feeding the squirrels, a handful of walnuts will do.

But better still, feed the squirrels something more helpful: a healthy dose of wariness of humans. Why encourage friendliness in wild animals by feeding them? The humans could risk an inadvertent chomp on the hand.

And the squirrels face an even worse fate: they begin to trust humans. Especially near a government building, is this kind of trust a safe thing? These innocent squirrels are milling about in close proximity to politicians.

Picture a state lawmaker luring a squirrel over with a juicy nut, and then handing the poor creature some campaign literature! If squirrels eventually get the vote, no one in Wisconsin will ever be able to unseat their state legislator even if they wanted to! The squirrels would outvote them!

Think about it, folks! Keep squirrels wild, for democracy's sake!

15 comments:

WatchfulEye said...

Well, now that's a thought! Do you think we could get some kind of decent health care system in this country if we let the squirrels vote?

squirrelmama said...

It's possible but there is also a danger that all our human health care might then come under the purview of wildlife rehabilitators! Instead of hospitals we would all be forced to recuperate in cages!

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Why don't they provide visitors appropriate food to feed? They could sell it in small brown bags and then everyone would be happy

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Squirrels are anarchists by nature and do not believe in a strong central government that keep all the good grub for themselves.

squirrelmama said...

Then let ANARCHY reign! (If such a sentence is grammatically and politically possible)

Anonymous said...

Well I'm still leaving nuts (pecans) out for my squirrels to help rebuild the population after a poisoning several months ago.

Squirrelmama - OMG, I just saw my first little face peeking out from the window ledge nest. Not a tiny baby, more like a kiddo. Yikes! How many can I expect? This is quite thrilling. Dallas

squirrelmama said...

Congrats, Dallas! Your "babies" should be between 5 and 6 weeks of age by now. (Texas squirrels arrive on this planet a few weeks sooner, owing to the warmer temps). You could be the godparent of between 4 or 5 youngsters. Litters average between 4 and 5, sometimes it's three or fewer. And occasionally you get 6! But I'd bet you have 4 or 5 there, keep LOOKING, and keep those nuts coming!

Anonymous said...

One more question, SM. Do you think I can acclimate the nest to noise/light/movement on my side of the window without scaring the mama and babies? I keep the room closed and blinds shut, but when my daughter was home from college she used the room normally and we didn't see any big change. Your thoughts? Dallas

squirrelmama said...

Hi Dallas! It's entirely possible it didn't matter to Mom and babies because they are active during the earliest morning hours and then right before sunset....and your daughter probably didn't stay in the room and hang out during the daylight hours. The babies wouldn't care at this point, especially if the babies are still in the nest and not coming out. Momma would only move if she perceived a threat. Obviously your daughter is a GOOD neighbor, you raised her well!

Poetikat said...

Really? No peanuts? Walnuts are too expensive - I've got too many mouths to feed.

Kat

Anonymous said...

Oh...NO! One kid out of how many is going to be affected.
Stop doing this...
Stop doing that...
BAH freaking humbug!

J in AK

merinz said...

I think I am missing the point entirely here - the children shouldn't be eating the peanuts anyway - aren't they intended for the squirrels?

Oh well, I suppose just being around peanuts is not good for those with allergies.

squirrelmama said...

I think they're afraid the kids will pick up and handle any peanuts that the squirrels leave behind. But...can't parents/teachers control their kids??

Mr. Valentine said...

I'm in Brockville, Ontario, Canada, It is November 1, could someone please tell me if it is possible that our favorite mama squirrel is just in the nest and hasn't come out for nearly 2 weeks because of newborn babies. In other words is it common for a squirrel in this region to have a litter at this time of the year?

squirrelmama said...

Hi Mr. V.,
It is a little late in the year for mother squirrels to be giving birth, particularly as far north as you are. Even here in the northeastern U.S., it is not very commonplace. With that said, let me add that it is not impossible. A few wildlife rehabilitators have told me they have indeed gotten in "eyes closed" squirrels that have been abandoned by Mom (and it's possible Mom left them behind in order to prepare for the winter, cruel as that seems.)
If you haven't seen Mom in two weeks, you may start seeing her in another one to two weeks because, at 4 weeks, they are old enough to hold heat at least for a little bit while she forages.
I am wondering about another possibility though: If she has had babies, could she have moved the litter to an alternate location? Mother Squirrels usually have at least two nests.