Squirrels are certainly cute in their own fur ball sort of way. They scamper up trees, twitch their tails, yell at you, and are ubiquitous at the University of Houston. We all live, work and study together, so we should eat together too, right? Definitely not!
Squirrels should not be treated as pets. They are wild animals that certainly don’t need human food to survive. There are many reasons to not feed squirrels.
A squirrel’s diet generally consists of nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects. Their natural diet gives them the nutrients they need to live. Junk food like Cheetos don’t add sustenance to a human diet. The squirrels fare much worse!
If a wild animal is fed by humans often enough, they will stop foraging for their own food and will rely on humans. They may even seek you out for a treat. When they are no longer being fed and stop foraging on their own, what will they have to eat?
When animals are fed regularly, they become accustomed to humans and will approach them. If you do anything that threatens them or if you deny them food, they could decide to bite you. A bite from a wild animal hurts and will put you and that animal at serious risk for diseases. Rabies, hantavirus, and flea-and-tick borne diseases can be carried by animals that we encounter. The symptoms and effects are not pleasant!
Attracting other animals
Sometimes students decide to dump their leftovers on the ground thinking that they are helping out their squirrel friends. This kind of behavior may invite something less attractive than squirrels. Opossums, raccoons, and even coyotes have adapted to urban environments. They go where food and water is readily available, especially if their habitat has been developed. It might be cool to see these animals if you’ve never seen them before but to have a plethora of unpredictable creatures on campus will only lead to trouble – including bites and a risk of disease exposure. When wild animals become a nuisance and are accustomed to humans, euthanasia is a method of control used by some wildlife authorities.
Be the solution
Almost 40,000 students attend UH. Including faculty and staff, that’s over 40,000 encounters with wildlife on campus and so many opportunities to inform those who are feeding squirrels why it’s bad for the animal. Let’s keep our urban critters wild by not feeding them!