Squirrels are charming little creatures. They are entertaining as they perform acrobatics to reach all sorts of comical high jinks. However, sometimes they can become a nuisance if you are trying to grow an orchard to feed your family. Squirrels take taste bites from fruit, leaving it still hanging on the tree. In a world where finances are increasingly pressurized, people may consider eating fruit bitten by a squirrel, but is this a safe practice?
It is safest not to eat fruit bitten by a squirrel if you have a choice. Squirrels carry some deadly zoonotic diseases that may be transferred to people. If you want to eat fruit bitten by a squirrel, it is best to wash it under running water. Then, cut away the bitten area and peel the fruit.
It is frustrating to plant, grow and tend your fruit, only to have the harvest spoilt by squirrels taking bites out of it. You may wish to try and use some of the fruit, but what are the risks, and is there any way to use the fruit safely.
Is It Safe To Eat Fruit Bitten By A Squirrel?
When a squirrel bites into a piece of fruit, it leaves traces of its saliva on the fruit. This can contain pathogens that can cause disease. Squirrels groom themselves by licking and biting at their fur. Any contaminants on their fur are passed into their mouths. The contaminants can contaminate the fruit.
Squirrels can have dental disease, which consists of bacteria. Then when the squirrel nibbles the fruit, bacteria from dental decay are deposited on it.
Squirrels use their front paws to grasp their food. When holding fruit, they may have traces of urine and feces on their paws, contaminating the fruit.
The urine and feces may not be only from the squirrel but also from other animals around the area. Squirrels do not wash their paws and are therefore likely to carry germs.
Do Squirrels Carry Zoonotic Diseases?
Zoonotic diseases are contagious diseases carried by animals, meaning they can be transferred from animal to person.
Squirrels are known to have numerous zoonotic diseases.
- Tularemia is known as Rabbit Fever and results from the bacterium Francisella tularensis. It can be transmitted to people causing fatalities when not treated.
The incidence in people is relatively low. It is transmitted via arthropod parasites such as ticks. In addition, it can spread via saliva or contact with the bacteria.
Tularemia attacks the lymph nodes, eyes, lungs, and skin.
Typical symptoms consist of chills, headaches, and exhaustion. Other symptoms include pneumonia, ulcers in the mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain. Antibiotics can help treat Tularemia when caught early.
- Sylvatic typhus is a disease caused by the bacteria Rickettsia prowazekii. Sylvatic typhus is more common in the Eastern United States and is associated with flying squirrels.
Scientists are not sure how the disease contaminates humans. However, they believe that contact with squirrel feces could spread the disease. As we have already stated, squirrels holding fruit could contaminate it with feces.
Sylvatic typhus causes flu-like symptoms with fever, rash, chills, muscle pain, headache, confusion, and light sensitivity. Doxycycline antibiotics is the method of treatment.
- In August 2021, Californian officials announced that a resident had contracted the Bubonic Plague from contact with ground squirrels. The plague is spread by respiratory droplets and saliva or insect bites.
A squirrel infected with the Bubonic plague would leave saliva carrying plague pathogens on fruit. The bubonic plague is a disease caused by a bacteria called Yersinia pestis.
Symptoms include chills, fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, pneumonia, and blood infection. It can kill quickly if treatment is too late.
- Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease found in squirrels and spread by contact with the infected animal’s urine. People who eat fruit bitten by a squirrel may have accidental contact with urine from that squirrel.
Leptospira bacteria require a moist environment to survive, which would certainly be provided by the fruit. Leptospirosis causes liver and kidney damage and reproductive dysfunction. Antibiotics are the preferred method of treatment.
- Leprosy is a debilitating disease that has been found in squirrels in Britain. It spreads via respiratory and salvia droplets. Although it does not survive well outside the body, there is still a slight risk of contracting leprosy by eating fruit bitten by a squirrel.
- Salmonella and E.coli are bacteria that can make people extremely sick. These bacteria are associated with extreme vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, and fever. Eating fruit bitten by a squirrel would put you at a much higher risk of exposure to these bacteria.
- Rabies is a fatal and excruciatingly painful viral disease. It has a low incidence in squirrels but does exist. Although the rabies virus does not survive well outside the body, it transmits via body fluids, including saliva.
Rabies is such a severe disease it’s essential to take all precautionary measures to avoid contracting it. Eating fruit bitten by a squirrel may give you a tiny chance of getting rabies. However, it is wisest to avoid the risk as there is no cure for rabies.
Can Fruit Bitten By A Squirrel Be Cleaned?
If you feel the squirrels have wasted too much fruit, you may want to salvage some of your crops. You could try to clean the fruit and minimize the risk of exposure to bacteria.
The FDA advises washing all fruits and vegetables under running water. Do not use any soaps or detergents. Fruit is porous, and soaps and detergents penetrate the skin and could make you sick.
Cut away the section of fruit bitten by the squirrel. Try to cut a good margin around the bite mark.
The FDA advises that peeling the skin of fruit helps to remove contaminants.
Processing the fruit can Make It Safer To Consume
Using fruit bitten by squirrels to make jams or canned goods can help to minimize the risk of disease. Wash the fruit, cut away the bitten area and peel it before processing.
The cooking heat used for making jams or canning will kill bacteria and help improve the safety of using this fruit.
Eating fruit bitten by squirrels is not advisable and should be avoided. Cleaning and processing fruit can lessen the chances of being exposed to diseases.
However, if you are starving and your only choice is fruit bitten by a squirrel, it is probably worth the risk. That said, it’s always best to be safe and choose something else to eat.
- Why Do Squirrels Keep Dying In My Backyard?
- Do Squirrels Have Rabies?
- Why Does My Squirrel Nibble on Me?