Can Squirrels Eat Popcorn?

Say you’re enjoying a movie in the park, munching on some popcorn, when a curious squirrel approaches. Would sharing a kernel or two be a good idea? Well, squirrels are known for their love of nuts but have you ever wondered – can squirrels eat popcorn?

can squirrels eat popcorn: a squirrel sitting in front of a pile of popcorn

Let’s dive into their favorite menu items and see if popcorn makes the cut! We’ll also chat about any snack-time no-nos to keep our furry friends in tip-top shape.

Squirrels and Popcorn

Can Squirrels Eat Popcorn?

Yes, squirrels can eat popcorn, but it’s not a natural part of their diet. A smal amount of plain, air-popped popcorn without salt or butter can be a harmless treat occasionally, but it doesn’t offer nutritional benefits for squirrels.

Understanding Can Squirrels Eat Popcorn 

We must understand what squirrels eat before delving into squirrels and popcorn. Squirrels are omnivores whose diet primarily consists of nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. They also occasionally consume insects, eggs, and small vertebrates.

Squirrels have a diverse diet that allows them to adapt to different environments. For example, in urban areas, they may rely on bird feeders and trash cans for food, while in forests, they may consume a variety of nuts and seeds found on the ground.

It’s important to note that different species of squirrels may have slightly different dietary preferences. For instance, ground squirrels may consume more insects and small animals, while flying squirrels may destroy more fungi and lichens.

Regardless, it’s clear that squirrels have a varied and adaptable diet that allows them to thrive in various habitats.

a wild squirrel holding popcorn

Can Wild Squirrels Eat Popcorn?

If you’re wondering whether wild squirrels can eat popcorn, the answer is yes, they can. However, just because they can eat it doesn’t mean they should. Wild squirrels have evolved to rely on a natural diet that provides them with the nutrients they need to survive and thrive. Popcorn is not a natural food source for them and doesn’t offer the same nutritional benefits as their usual diet.

While it might be tempting to toss some popcorn to the squirrels in your backyard, it’s important to remember that they have specific dietary needs. Providing them with foods similar to what they would find in nature will help them stay healthy and strong.

a wild squirrel eating popcorn in the woods

Can Pet Squirrels Eat Popcorn?

If you have a non-releasable pet squirrel, ensuring a diet that meets its specific nutritional needs is essential. While squirrels enjoy munching on popcorn, it’s not a recommended snack due to its potential health risks.

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It’s best to consult a veterinarian specializing in exotic pets to determine an appropriate diet for your non-releasable pet squirrel. They may recommend a combination of nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables tailored to your pet squirrel’s needs.

a group of squirrels standing on a tree branch tossing up popcorn

Popcorn and Squirrel Health

Feeding your pet squirrel popcorn regularly can lead to health issues such as obesity, dental problems, and digestive issues. These problems can have long-term effects and lead to permanent damage. It’s important to prioritize their well-being and choose snacks that are safe and healthy for them.

Should You Offer Popcorn as Squirrel Food?

You can offer your non-releasable pet squirrel many safe and healthy alternatives to popcorn. Nuts, seeds, fresh fruits, and vegetables are all excellent choices that provide a range of nutrients and flavors. These options enhance your pet squirrel’s diet and provide a satisfying and balanced snack.

a squirrel eating popcorn

Health Concerns Related to Popcorn

While popcorn is not toxic to squirrels, it’s essential to be aware of potential health concerns related to feeding them this snack. Buttered popcorn, a popular choice among humans, can harm squirrels due to the high levels of salt, fat, and artificial additives. These ingredients can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.

Do Squirrels Eat Popcorn Kernels?

Yes, squirrels do eat popcorn kernels, particularly the unpopped ones, as they help keep their teeth sharp. Popcorn is a favorite snack for squirrels, alongside nuts and grains. You can give them unpopped kernels by the handful, but steer clear of flavored or oil-cooked popcorn.

However, there is a risk that unpopped popcorn kernels can risk squirrels’ dental health or even cause choking. These kernels can be hard to digest and may get lodged in their teeth or throat.

can squirrels eat popcorn

Instead of Popcorn Give These Safe Foods

Instead of popcorn, you can offer several safe and healthy snacks to squirrels. These include:

  • Nuts: Squirrels love nuts, and they are a great source of protein, healthy fats, and vitamins. Almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts are all good options.
  • Seeds: Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are also popular choices among squirrels. They are rich in nutrients and provide a crunchy texture.
  • Fresh fruits: Squirrels have a sweet tooth and enjoy apples, berries, and bananas. These fruits are a good source of vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Vegetables: Leafy greens like spinach and kale, carrots, and sweet potatoes, are all healthy options that provide valuable nutrients for squirrels.

Offering your furry friends a varied and balanced diet is key to promoting optimal health for squirrels. Providing a mix of these foods can help ensure your squirrels get the nutrients they need to thrive.

Safe FruitsSafe VegetablesSafe Nuts – Unsalted
Apple (no seeds)BroccoliAlmonds
BananaCarrotsWalnuts
BlueberriesSpinachHazelnuts
GrapesSweet potatoesPecans
KiwiLettucePeanuts (unsalted)
Pear (no seeds)CucumbersHickory nuts
MelonBell peppersMacadamia nuts *
StrawberriesZucchiniPine nuts
RaspberriesPeasAcorns
Mango (no pit)Green beansChestnuts
Table of safe snacks for squirrels

*Note: Macadamia nuts are generally safe for squirrels in small amounts, but as always, it’s a good idea to introduce any new food in moderation and observe for any reactions.

Squirrel eating a nut

Unsafe Snacks for Squirrels

Unsafe Snacks for Squirrels
Chocolate
Coffee/caffeine
Onions
Garlic
Raisins
Apple seeds
Cherry pits
Avocado skin
Rhubarb leaves
Salted snacks
Processed human foods
Foods with artificial sweeteners
Note: Always be cautious when offering any food to squirrels, especially if it’s not part of their natural diet. If in doubt, consult with a wildlife expert or veterinarian.

Conclusion

So, can squirrels eat popcorn? While they might enjoy it, it’s not the best or safest choice.

Understanding a squirrel’s typical diet helps in picking the right snacks. Wild squirrels thrive on natural food sources, and pet squirrels need a diet tailored to their needs.

Though popcorn isn’t toxic, buttered popcorn and unpopped kernels can be risky. Instead, choose healthier options like nuts, seeds, fresh fruits, and vegetables. If you’re curious about other foods squirrels can eat, check out my article on can squirrels eat bread.

Let’s prioritize the well-being of these delightful creatures by offering a varied and balanced diet to keep them healthy and happy.

FAQ

Can wild squirrels eat popcorn?

Squirrels can eat popcorn, but it is not a natural or ideal food for them. There are better options that are more suitable for their overall health.

Can birds and squirrels eat unpopped popcorn?

Yes, both birds and squirrels can consume unpopped popcorn. Softening the popcorn is essential as it makes it easier for them to digest and reduces the risk of choking. Here is how to soften the popcorn:

  1. Softening the Popcorn:
    • Place the kernels in a bowl.
    • Cover with water.
    • Soak overnight.
    • Drain and rinse the kernels before offering.

Serving Guidelines:

  • Squirrels:
    • Measurement: Offer about a tablespoon of softened, unpopped popcorn.
    • Frequency: Serve as an occasional treat, preferably once a week or less.
  • Birds:
    • Measurement:
      • Small birds: A few kernels to a teaspoon.
      • Larger birds: Up to a tablespoon.
    • Frequency: Treat them once a week or less.

Note: Unpopped popcorn should be an occasional treat, not a primary food source. It doesn’t offer the complete nutrition they require. Always prioritize natural foods and formulated diets for wildlife.

Is Corn Ok for Squirrels?

Squirrels do enjoy eating corn and peanuts, but these foods aren’t the best for their health. While corn and peanuts are nutritious for birds, they don’t offer much nutritional value to squirrels. However, in small amounts or as part of a varied diet, they can be fine treats.

Can pet squirrels eat popcorn?

It is best to consult a veterinarian specializing in exotic pets to determine an appropriate diet for your non-releasable squirrel. In general, it is best to avoid feeding squirrels popcorn due to its potential impact on their health.

What are the health concerns related to popcorn and squirrels?

While popcorn is not toxic to squirrels, buttered popcorn with high salt, fat, and artificial additives can be harmful. Unpopped kernels can also pose choking or dental issues.

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29 Comments

  1. Really loved the section on safe foods for squirrels! It’s so important to know what we can share with our little backyard friends without harming them. Thanks for the insights, Merideth Sweeney!

  2. Not sure feeding wildlife, like squirrels, is a good idea at all. Doesn’t it make them too dependent on humans? Might be worth considering the long-term effects here.

  3. After reading about the health concerns, definitely reconsidering handing out popcorn to the squirrels in my garden. Better safe than sorry!

  4. Good point on avoiding popcorn kernels for squirrels due to potential choking hazards. It aligns with what I’ve learned in vet school. Always best to stick to their natural diet as much as possible.

  5. Wondering if there’s a seasonal preference for squirrels when it comes to food? Do they lean towards different snacks depending on the season?

  6. Great to see an article discussing the impacts of human food on wildlife health. More people need to be aware of this!

  7. Absolutely adored this article! It’s so key to share knowledge about how we can coexist with nature without causing harm. Keep up the great work, Merideth!

  8. This makes so much sense. I’ve seen squirrels around but never knew what to feed them. Steering clear of popcorn now. Who knew?

  9. While the advice on safe squirrel foods is useful, aren’t we overlooking the importance of encouraging natural foraging behaviors instead of feeding them human food?

  10. Loved reading about what squirrels can safely eat. Always looking for ways to make my backyard wildlife-friendly without doing harm. Lots of useful tips here!

  11. Hey Merideth Sweeney, great piece on squirrels and popcorn! Just wondering, when you say ‘Unsafe Snacks for Squirrels,’ could you maybe list a few specifics? Want to make sure I’m not accidentally harming my backyard visitors. Thanks!

    1. Alex, generally, sugary treats, salty snacks, and dairy products can be harmful to squirrels. It’s best to stick with fruits, veggies, and nuts that are safe for them.

    2. Thanks, Tina W.! That clears it up. Will definitely keep the sugary and salty snacks away from the squirrels. Appreciate the help!

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