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Friday, August 19, 2011

Is It Safe to Give Salted Peanuts to Squirrels?

“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.” 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.


Adam said...

Thank you for this information!

Julia said...

I have a lot of wildlife around my forested home and I like to help out some of the creatures large and small like squirrels and raccoons however rats are taking advantage of the buffet in my backyard. My house is an older loghouse and have lots of entry points for the rats to come into the house, especially through the basement. I rent the home and the owner has basically told us this is an ongoing problem, many renters and even his family have had to deal with the rat problem. My sister is disabled and feeding the birds, squirrels and raccoons brings her much joy so stopping the feedings isn't feasible plus the rats were an issue before we started feeding the others.

The owner of the house sent over a "wildlife conservationist" and he lay down a few traps and bait stations outside. Neither of us were wild about collecting dead rats from the traps but when one, bloody and half dead flung himself 6ft in the air at me, in the middle of the night, I knew my rat trap days were over. Same for the bait stations when I realized it was killing indiscriminately. I did use rat zappers in the basement which worked, again having to deal with a dead critter but I could just dump him in a bag w/o looking. Eventually they do catch on to it though and you have to remove it and clean it for a length of time. Finally I decided to take the smell approach and have fox urine spray, gravel with an unfavorable odor and lavender oil on cotton balls...this is actually working! In the basement at least it is but it is summer so they could be camping outdoors for now, to return when it gets cold.

When I put kibble out for the raccoons, just before sunset, rats come from all directions to get the kibble. I can't be monitoring it 24/7 to shoo away the rats and I don't want to leave the raccoons w/o food as they all have 4 or 5 young babies with them. I know by leaving food out that I am attracting the rats; I can't have one w/o the other. I read up on rats and found that raw sweet potato converts into cyanide in a rats stomach and kills it. I've googled and googled it and can't find any information that raw sweet potato is harmful to any other animal including squirrels, raccoons and my two Chihuahuas... In fact it seems to be recommended. My question is (finally) if another animal ate a dead rat who had died from the potato approach, would the cyanide be harmful or kill the other animal. I can't imagine what animal would eat a dead rat other than a cannibalistic rat but I just don't know. I would hate to kill one of our squirrels or raccoons with babies. Does anyone know a) if raw potato is harmful to any other animals than rats? b) Can a secondary animal be poisoned by eating a poisoned dead rat?? Thanks for any help/ suggestions!