Q: I am having a terrible time with the squirrels eating the bark from my maple and oak trees. What can I do?
A: Eastern Gray Squirrels are the most frequently seen mammal in our area. They are members of the Rodent family, and spend most of their lives in trees. Eastern Gray Squirrels usually live to be about five years old. They survive with their good sense of vision, smell, and hearing.
Although squirrels may be amusing to watch (except when they are eating my bird seed); they can indeed damage trees significantly. They typically strip bark during winter and spring but there is no reason to think this could not occur any other time of year. Deciduous trees with smooth bark sustain the most damage, but other trees can be targeted. Remember, deciduous trees are the ones dropping their leaves in the fall.
Twig clipping occurs most frequently in spring and early fall. Fortunately, trees can sustain damage up to 50 percent of the trunk’s circumference and foliage losses up to 30 percent without significant impacts. If the squirrels chew more than 50% of a limb it is possible for the limb to die and ultimately break off and fall to the ground.
Landowners can prevent damage to trees by installing metal collars. The metal collars can be used to encircle trees and prevent squirrels from traveling up and down the limb. Collars should be at least 2 feet wide and placed 6 to 8 feet above the ground. Collar edges should be overlapped and connected by springs to allow for tree growth. These same types of collars could be placed on the limbs.