Leon the squirrel gets a fancy snack of almonds and sunflower seeds from a well-meaning local, who really should be leaving Leon to his own foraging devices. (Submitted)

Leon the squirrel gets a fancy snack of almonds and sunflower seeds from a well-meaning local, who really should be leaving Leon to his own foraging devices. (Submitted)

Vancouver Island squirrels don’t need your nuts

Consider birding instead of wildlife feeding, SPCA suggests

Squirrel feeding is out of hand in Oak Bay, according to local resident Deb Williams.

“The squirrels are just everywhere. Yeah, they’re cute, but somebody is feeding them peanuts in the shell. Everywhere I look there’s peanuts. The squirrels are digging up flower pots, gardens and even lawns to hide their peanuts everywhere,” she said, saying it didn’t used to be like this.

Simply put, squirrels don’t need your nuts.

Yes their stuffed cheeks and tiny paws are very cute, but they are still wild animals with specific dietary needs that peanuts do not satisfy, said Wallis Moore Reid, the SPCA’s Wild Arc senior wildlife rehabilitator.

“Peanuts offer no nutrition, it’s like giving them popcorn. It’s the last thing you’d want to feed them.”

Feeding wild animals also encourages habituation, she said, which puts animals at risk of coming into conflict with humans, our pets and in some cases, our neighbours.

“You might love and respect wildlife but your neighbour might not,” Moore Reid said. Your pseudo-pet now thinks humans are safe, and could choose to nest in your neighbour’s soffit. But some folks look at that as a nuisance, not a cute work-from-home perk.

The slower life of the pandemic has encouraged many people to pay more attention to wildlife in their backyards, and some have gone so far as to welcome the creatures with custom picnic tables.

Feeding wildlife can lead to what look like adorable connections between humans and animals, as any browse through Reddit or TikTok’s “aww” channels will demonstrate, but it really does more harm than good to the animals, Moore Reid said.

As an alternative cute wildlife fix, she recommends investing in a pair of binoculars, and maybe taking up birding.

“You can bird by ear as well as eye, so you can learn their songs and calls. There’s a whole fascinating bird world that’s very rewarding if you learn about it.”

“You can go ‘mammaling’,” she suggested.

Look, photograph, even name them, but don’t feed.

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