Squirrels are cute woodland rodents found aplenty in spaces full of trees and vegetation. You must have seen one running around, looking for berries and nuts to eat or store inside the soil for the winter months. People usually feed them cookies, candies, and chocolates in their backyards. Hence, the question arises can squirrels eat chocolates, or is chocolate safe for squirrels?
So, can squirrels eat chocolate? Squirrels love chocolate, and you can give them a small piece of your candy every now and then. However, chocolate does not hold any nutritional value for them, and large amounts of chocolate can even be the cause of their death.
Squirrels are vital in sustaining and revitalizing the delicate ecological balance by planting nuts and seeds which grow up to become plants and trees.
Squirrels eat a variety of things, but the focus of their diet is mainly based on plants. However, this begs the question – can these little animals eat human foods, specifically chocolate? We got the answer but let’s discuss this topic into detail.
So, what do squirrels eat normally? What foods are safe for consumption among the squirrel population?
Diet of Squirrels
As mentioned before, the diet of a squirrel includes plenty of plant-based food. The most common types of vegetative food that squirrels indulge in are various nuts – mostly low in tannin – and seeds.
Squirrels help expand and propagate plants and vegetation by storing their nuts and seeds in the soil, which slowly germinates and becomes proper plants. Some of the other edible things squirrels draw nourishment from are:
- Certain types of non-toxic mushrooms
- Acorns with low tannin content
- Seeds of sunflowers
- Green vegetables like broccoli, zucchini, peas, etc.
- Small amounts of corn
- Walnuts and walnut shells
- Non-citrus fruits
- Pumpkins and the seeds of this vegetable
These are some of the things that squirrels find nutritional for their bodies. There are various other seasonal fruits and nuts squirrels can and do eat.
But where does chocolate come into this?
Health Benefits of Chocolate to Squirrels
The tasty sweet treat is full of health benefits if eaten in moderation. Several studies have shown a link between the regular consumption of dark chocolate and a reduced risk of contracting cancer.
Chocolate has also proven to have improved cardiac health. Flavanols present in chocolate help lower blood pressure and keeps your heart and arteries in tiptop working order.
Doctors recommend including dark chocolate in your everyday diet. You can consume at least a small square of dark chocolate containing eighty to ninety-five percent cacao daily. This inclusion in your diet holds a range of health benefits for you.
Avoid chocolate that has lower cacao content, and high amounts of sugar – these unhealthy chocolates will adversely affect your health and increase your chances of becoming obese. Too much chocolate can also cause high blood sugar and obesity-related health problems.
This brings us to the issue of squirrels and whether they can eat chocolate.
- Chocolate is a type of processed food that is a human invention. Human intervention has considerably altered the diet of squirrels, for better and for worse.
- Humans have improved squirrel feed by studying the behaviors and needs of these rodents, and have come up with supplements and nutritious additions for their meals.
On the other hand, human junk food is bad for both species and adds little nutritional value in a squirrel’s diet.
As to the matter of chocolate, squirrels can safely partake of little amounts of the beloved candy. It can be given to squirrels as a treat, but only sparingly.
Many human foods which have been processed or refined is not suitable for squirrels, or most animals, for that matter. A pretty easy way to remember this is to ask yourself, “Is what I am feeding a squirrel found in that naturally occurring state in Nature?” If not, avoid giving it to a squirrel.
Why Shouldn’t You Feed Chocolate to a Squirrel?
Chocolate is a delicious and delightful snack for humans, and certain types of enjoyable treats are even beneficial to our health when eaten in small amounts. For a squirrel, however, that is a different story altogether.
Squirrels love chocolate, but regular offerings of candy can create gastrointestinal issues in their small bodies. These rodents can suffer from stomach aches and diarrhea if they are fed too much of this snack.
Unlike the fatal effects chocolate has on other animals, squirrels are not as susceptible to death by chocolate when fed small amounts of it. However, if squirrels eat too much chocolate, they won’t be able to incorporate anything else into their diet.
Chocolate holds little to no nutrition for squirrels, so if these animals eat nothing but chocolate, they will suffer malnutrition from the lack of any other nutrients. The lack of vital nutrients can cause death in squirrels.
Chocolates contain an element that is toxic to many animals like cattle, horses, cats, dogs, etc. This toxic element is known as theobromine, which is poisonous to humans in large amounts.
In studies conducted on the rodents and their biological response to theobromine in chocolate, reports have concluded doses of this chemical upwards of 75 mg per kg of body mass are fatal and has caused severe behavioral problems.
A bar of chocolate contains 114 mg of theobromine on an average, so giving a squirrel a full bar of chocolate can severely impact the rodent’s health and can even be fatal for it.
If you want to share some candy with your squirrel friend, make sure it is milk chocolate – this type of chocolate has lesser amounts of the toxic chemical theobromine. However, do not feed squirrels more than a few morsels of chocolate at a time, and infrequently at that.
Squirrels are naturally survivalists in nature – therefore, they will not stuff themselves to the brim. However, chocolate in abundance can harm these animals, and dark chocolate specifically is packed to the top with sugar and cacao.
Since squirrels need 64g of food at every meal, they can essentially die if they eat a bar of chocolate at one go.
What Else Should You not Feed Squirrels?
Squirrels should not be fed anything that cannot be found or foraged naturally in natural settings.
Do not feed squirrels things like commercially processed food specifically aimed at squirrels; starchy foods like rice, taters, bread, etc.; artificially sweetened foods and sugary foods like candy and other junk food; beans, soy, soybeans, peas; food full of salts like French fries and crisps and chips.
Some Things You can safely Give Squirrels to Eat
These food items are detrimental to the health and development of squirrels. If you regularly visit places where there is an abundance of these shy rodents, carry some fresh sliced vegetables, non-citrus fruits, and ubiquitous seeds.
Squirrels also need plenty of fresh drinking water, so you can install a small bowl of water accessible and easily reached by these rodents.
In conclusion, chocolates are not good for squirrels, and you should avoid giving these small animals any part of your candy bar. While small amounts of chocolate will not kill squirrels outright as it does for some animals (dogs, cats, ferrets, pigs, poultry, to name a few), it is dangerous to feed them chocolate regularly and can even result in their deaths.
Avoid giving them human food. Not only does it hold practically no nutritional value for them, but the habit of feeding squirrels can also be detrimental for them as well as upset the ecological balance in nature.
A squirrel will stop foraging for and storing food if it is fed on a regular basis, and will suffer greatly if this regular feeding is stopped for some reason.
Squirrels may be nutty for chocolate, but it is best to avoid chocolate and other chocolate treats and dishes when it comes to squirrels.