“My husband and I enjoy feeding the squirrels peanuts in the shell. We recently bought salted ones and my niece told me it wasn’t safe to give them salted ones. Is that true?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff understands people wanting to make sure they are giving animals proper foods.
The library’s copy of Squirrels: a wildlife handbook by Kim Long had a great deal of interesting information including the favorite foods of different kinds of squirrels. Unfortunately it did not address the issue of salted nuts.
We visited the website of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The section on squirrels did not have the information we needed, so we telephoned them. While waiting we listened to bird sounds and their identification. When we spoke with an individual, we were told that they “recommend not feeding wildlife.”
Continuing our online search, the website, Black Mouth Cur had the following pertaining to gray squirrels: “The amount of salt a squirrel requires can be easily obtained in its diet and the extra amount of salt . . . can affect its heart, raises the blood pressure and increases its pulse. This tends to shorten a squirrel’s lifespan. This is not too dissimilar to salt’s effects on a human.”
AvianWeb.com has an entire section titled Attracting to & Controlling Squirrels in Your Garden. Within are several paragraphs about peanuts. While a good source of protein, the site discourages feeding raw peanuts to animals because it often contains “aflatoxin, a fungal toxin. Aflatoxin is carcinogenic and causes liver damage in birds, squirrels and other animals -- even humans.” Roasting can reduce the toxin but does not eliminate it. “Also, raw peanuts and other legumes contain a . . . substance that inhibits or prevents the pancreas from producing trypsin, an enzyme essential for the absorption of protein by the intestine. . . Squirrels fed a steady diet of raw peanuts, soybeans, other legumes, and sweet potatoes could easily develop severe malnutrition. . . According to the Washington State Cooperative Extension Service, roasting hulled raw peanuts for 20 to 30 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring them frequently, will destroy the trypsin inhibitor and render them suitable for feed. If that sounds like a lot of work, buy roasted peanuts but be sure they aren't salted. (Salted nuts of any kind should never be fed to wild animals.)”
We passed the information on to our patron so she could determine what they would choose to feed their backyard wildlife.