Feeding urban animals

Wild animals that have moved to the city can also cope without human help


HUNGRY. The squirrel is quite happy to use a bird feeder. By: Karl Adami
HUNGRY. The squirrel is quite happy to use a bird feeder. By: Karl Adami


In cities, many wild animals have found a habitat next to humans – due to the easy availability of food and the lack of natural enemies. Fortunately, bears do not check out trash cans in Estonia (like they do in Canada, for example), but food waste does attract foxes and other smaller animals.


When you see hedgehogs and squirrels or other animals moving in an urban or settlement area, you may be tempted to start feeding them. However, this is not necessary, because wild animals can do without human help, and by feeding them, we encourage wild animals to move to the cities. Trash cans and composters must also be securely closed – this is necessary to prevent rodents and foxes from accessing them or spreading the contents around and to prevent wild animals transmitting diseases to domestic animals. For example, scabies is highly contagious and can be easily contracted by dogs.


The hedgehog is a common resident of city gardens


A hedgehog is a fairly common animal in home gardens, who many gardeners value as an effective controller of snails and pests. Hedgehogs love slightly dirty and littered places, moving in the twilight. They are smart animals and quickly learn where to get food.


Of course, the best food for a hedgehog is what it finds in nature itself, but if you still want to give the hedgehog extra food in urban conditions, dry dog or cat food with a smaller grain [1] or canned cat or dog food [2] are suitable. Dry food could be soaked in water beforehand, and it is wise to leave a small saucer or the base plate of a flower pot with water in the feeding place. If the hedgehog has eaten, you should clean up any leftover food, as it will attract foxes, mice and rats, or stray cats. Of course, hedgehog dishes must also be cleaned.


Many people recall from their childhood how a bowl of milk was placed in the garden for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs like milk, but unfortunately their digestive system cannot handle lactose. Therefore, do not give hedgehogs milk! Bread of any kind is not suitable for hedgehogs either, as they swell in the animal’s stomach and contain excess salt.


What to feed a squirrel?


The squirrel is a great animal that is often found in the city. Their graceful movement from tree to tree is a sight in itself. In some city parks, squirrels have become so brave that they are not afraid of humans at all and may come to ask you for food or even climb in your pockets to look for some themselves. You can also meet a squirrel as it is eating from a bird feeder.


The easiest way to feed a squirrel is to plate up some food and place it either on a tree branch or on top of a pole. The squirrel values hazelnuts, peanuts, grains, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds as food [3].


If there are hedgehogs and squirrels living near you, it is definitely worth taking them into account and avoiding using chemical herbicides and insect repellents in the garden.



                                                                                                                                               Last modified: 17.01.2022




[1] https://www.looduskalender.ee/n/node/184

[2] https://bioneer.ee/ehita-oma-aeda-siilide-toidujaam

[3] https://lood.delfi.ee/maakodu/aed/kuidas-taiendada-oravate-toidulauda?id=80828013