Cherries are a favorite summertime fruit for many, and a beloved native wildlife food for birds, mammals, pollinators and insects. The slender branches of the black cherry (Prunus serotina) are loaded with these juicy fruits from late spring through fall, and this fruit is highly attractive to wildlife. As such, this is a popular native tree to plant in our yards and to use as a cropping system for fruit production.
The short answer is no — although squirrels love to eat cherries, they should be fed only on occasion. A single cherry pit or stem contains cyanide, which can cause asphyxiation if ingested in sufficient quantities. It’s also a choking hazard for dogs and can potentially cause an intestinal blockage.
However, whole cherries — including the stems and seeds — are not toxic to squirrels. They are herbivores that eat nuts, seeds and fruit and can digest the cyanide in these foods. However, if your squirrel accidentally swallows a whole cherry pit, keep an eye on them for symptoms of cyanide poisoning. These include labored breathing, bright red gums and dilated pupils.
The best way to prevent squirrels from eating whole cherries is to pick them and put them on a dish. This will help reduce the likelihood that they’ll take more than they can eat and will also make the cherries easier to chew for animals who do enjoy them. If you do want to feed your squirrels cherries, then we recommend providing them with only half a cup at a time and making sure that the stems and leaves have been removed.