Issue 4, May 23, 2017

Squirrel Damage

Squirrels are often blamed for damage that may be caused by other animals, particularly rabbits and deer.  As day feeders, you should be able to see the squirrels do the damage, particularly to ground plants.

Gray squirrel on air conditioner.

Squirrels are diggers, and will eat bulbs (mainly tulips and crocus, but not so much daffodils) or dig up plants in order to use the loosen soil to store their cache of nuts and other food.  They aren't commonly known to feed on flowers and vegetables unless other food sources are limited.

They gnaw on wood, from branches and limbs to wood house decks and railings.  Damage to trees tends to be in the upper branches, where bark can be stripped from young twigs and limbs, with some limbs gnawed through to make part of their nests.  The height of the damage distinguishes it from rabbit damage.

It is common during the spring or summer for a squirrel to decide to clip off the tips of tree branches. The ground will become littered with twigs about 8" long, typically with a few leaves attached. After a few days, 100 or more twigs may litter the ground. The cuts will be angled, looking similar to those made by pruners. There seems to be no plausible reason for this, but squirrels commonly cause damage with no apparent purpose.

More damage will come from squirrel digging, particularly in landscape beds and containers.  This can be prevented by putting in larger rocks, pieces of chicken wire or sticks laid horizontally. Some have success with bamboo skewers (used for barbecues) placed vertically with the points up.  Essentially, you are limiting their digging or making it more difficult. 

Capsaicin (pepper) sprays or flakes can be used to deter squirrels, but must be applied after rains or heavy irrigations. 

Exclusion really isn't an option.  There are more than enough squirrels in a neighborhood and nature abhors a vacuum.  Trapping and removing the squirrels only leaves the area welcoming for another squirrel. (David Robson)

David Robson

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