Squirrels and Branch Clipping
February and March is nesting season for fox and gray squirrels. That means squirrels will be clipping branches and lining their nests for young and for the harsh weather than can certainly occur. Late winter and early spring are also periods of low food availability to squirrels. Clipping may provide them access to the sugury syrup from trees.
For property owners worried about their trees, it may be best to relax. Certainly the clipped branches scattered around the ground may be disturbing, but the long term effect to the trees is likely small. The opportunity for infection and stress to the clipped tree will occur but larger trees should be able handle most of these issues.
In the mean time, when you encounter branches with 45 degree angle cuts littering the lawn below a tree, you will know what the culprit is. It is just part of the natural process.
Controlling Branch Clipping Squirrels
Before initiating any control program, find out what your state and local laws are.
Option 1. Aluminum Wrapping
Wrap trees with 3 feet of aluminum flashing beginning at least 4 feet off the ground. This will prevent squirrels from climbing. Place wood shivs (1/4 inch wide should work) between the flashing and the tree to reduce capture of moisture. Make the wrap larger than needed so that you can loosen the wrap as the tree grows. Even if trees can be accessed squirrels jumping from the neighbor’s trees, adding the flashing will interfere with their freedom of movement. Increased stress means lower reproductive potential of squirrels.
Option 2. Trapping and removal.
Again know the laws and remember that squirrel traps do catch skunks. Be informed on how to handle skunks before you begin trapping.
Should you provide supplemental feeding to squirrels. No. Feeding will just increase their reproductive potential and create more problems.
Stephen M. Vantassel is a Certified Wildlife Control Professional and the first Master NWCOA Instructor. His latest book is The Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, 3rd edition published in 2012. Stephen is available for presentations, consultations, and research. He can be contacted at stephenvantassel(at)hotmail(dot)com.