If You Give A Squirrel A Cookie...
By: Lola Olvera
They dash across the sidewalk when you least expect it. They chatter angrily at you for no reason. They chase each other up trees in spiraling blurs. They give you some Instagram-worthy content when you manage to catch them doing something cute.
As much a symbol on our campus as the streams of students and jacaranda trees, Cal State Long Beach’s squirrel population is a species we socialize with on daily basis. Students and even experts are divided as to whether you should interact with them and how you do so. Here are some general tips that most can agree on.
Don’t hand feed them.
When squirrels begin to associate humans with the positive reinforcement of food, they begin to trust us. Even though it may sound like a good thing, it can have negative repercussions for them. If the wild critters get a little too comfortable around humans, they might venture out farther from the relative safety of their grassy areas into more populated, dangerous areas in search of food. This increases their chances of getting run over by cars or encountering other predators.
Don’t try to touch or pet them.
It’s unlikely that wild squirrels will let you get too close, but try not to get too cuddly with them if they do. Squirrels can be swarming with parasites and diseases, which can affect both humans and even pets. Some pests, like lice and ticks, can easily hop onto new hosts nearby, while ringworm and tularemia can cause harmful symptoms in humans. Another good reason to avoid hand feeding!
Don’t feed them processed foods.
Processed foods are bad enough for humans, but they can be just as harmful to other animals. Signs at ponds and lakes may have warned you not to feed the ducks human food but this rule also applies to other animals. That squirrel may be eyeing your sandwich or cookies with the most irresistible eyes, but don’t cave to its begging!
Can’t help yourself?
If you absolutely can’t stop yourself from giving a squirrel a snack, or if you’re like me, and are just trying to lure them a little closer for a cute photo, make sure you’re doing it right. Here are some natural foods you can offer them but remember to keep your distance!
Fruits, such as pears, grapes, avocados, peaches, bananas and strawberries.
Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli and celery.
Nuts, including almonds, pecans, pistachios, cashews and macadamias.
Keep things clean!
Never toss a squirrel your leftovers, especially if they are still in their packaging. It’s not only a way of adding litter to our campus, but could present an asphyxiation hazard to a curious, hungry squirrel.