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Bark Stripping Squirrels

Squirrel bark stripping damage on a Chinese elm.

Squirrel bark stripping damage on a Chinese elm. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS Extension

Barked stripped from the trunk of a Chinese elm.

Barked stripped from the trunk of a Chinese elm. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS Extension

The squirrels are at it again! This time they are stripping the bark from the trunks of my Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia) trees. Squirrels feed on the bark of a number of other different tree species including oaks, maples, and pecans. There are a few theories as to why squirrels feed on tree bark.

  1. Pregnant Females – Pregnant squirrels don’t eat prior to giving birth, but it is thought they chew on bark to help them bear the pain of pregnancy.
  2. Water Source – This theory isn’t very reputable due to the fact that squirrels have been seen feeding on bark come rain or shine.
  3. Food Source – The inner bark layer (phloem) contains sugar and nutrients which help satisfy a squirrel’s appetite.

The good news is squirrels generally do not eat enough bark to kill a tree. A squirrel will typically only strip a half inch section of bark about three inches long. However, the squirrels in my yard were much hungrier this year as you can see in the featured pictures.

Because squirrels do not usually girdle the trunk of the tree, they generally do not cause enough damage to kill a tree. However, their bark stripping habits can be unsightly in a well-maintained landscape. A few control options are available.

  1. Tree Wrap – Tree trunks can be wrapped with 24″ or longer aluminum flashing. Unfortunately, this option can be more unsightly than the bark stripped trunks.
  2. Repellents – A number of different wildlife repellents are on the market. Most repellents do not smell very good because they contain egg solids.
  3. Harvest – This is my favorite method of control! Make sure you follow all state and local laws.

For more information on wildlife management, please visit EDIS or The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.