Do Squirrels Harm Trees: How To Minimize Squirrel Tree Damage

Do Squirrels Harm Trees: How To Minimize Squirrel Tree Damage

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Why do squirrels dig holes in trees? Good question! Squirrels typically build nests, also known as dreys. In generally, squirrels don’t create holes, but they sometimes take advantage of abandoned woodpecker holes or other pre-existing cavities. Additionally, squirrels sometimes gnaw trees, usually where bark is rotten or a dead branch has fallen from the tree, to get to the sweet sap just below the bark. Let’s take a closer look.

Do Squirrels Harm Trees?

Squirrel tree damage is generally limited on healthy trees. However, although it is uncommon, removal of too much bark around the circumference of a branch can block movement of sugars and the branch can be damaged.

Bark may also be damaged if fungal infections enter the damaged wood. Broad-leaved trees are most vulnerable to damage by squirrels. Again, tree damage by squirrels isn’t a common occurrence.

Preventing Squirrels from Making Tree Holes

You may be fighting a losing battle when it comes to preventing squirrels from making tree holes. It’s extremely difficult to remove squirrels and even if you do, more will move into the vacated area. However, you can take steps to limit squirrel tree damage.

The most effective way to limit squirrel tree damage is to care for trees properly, as a healthy tree is very resistant to damage by squirrels. Water, fertilize and prune properly. Treat insects and diseases as soon they appear.

Wrap the base of the tree with a sheet of tin to prevent squirrels from climbing up the tree. Be sure the top of the tin sheet is at least 5 feet (1.5 m.) from the ground. Keep in mind, however, that this method won’t work if the tree is within jumping distance of structures or other trees. You’ll also need to remove all low-hanging branches.

You can also wrap the base of young trees with 1-inch (2.5 cm.) thick chicken wire to prevent squirrels from digging in the tender bark.

Try spraying trees with squirrel repellant such as a capsaicin-based product. Reapply the repellant if it rains.

If your squirrel problem is out of control, contact your local fish and wildlife department for advice.

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Squirrels relish many of the same plants that we do, including fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, and berries. They will also make quick work of tulip bulbs, and even tulip blossoms. However, there are many plants that squirrels find distasteful, or are even toxic to squirrels.

Some plants have developed a defense mechanism of bitter or toxic sap to stop animals from eating them, so include these in your beds, borders, and hanging baskets.


How to Prevent a Squirrel From Digging Up My Plants

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Squirrels can wreak havoc on a garden, even if they aren't interested in the plants. These pests are often drawn to the loose soil in a well-tilled garden for digging and burying their food. In the process, they unearth tender plants or damage the roots of more mature plants. Making your garden beds unappealing to a digging squirrel requires a bit of effort at the beginning, but will continue to keep squirrels away for many years. You can install the barrier before you plant or afterward. Seedlings can grow through the barrier, but squirrels can't dig into it.

Dig a 4-inch deep trench around the perimeter of the garden bed. Place the removed soil from the trench outside the bed.

Cut a piece of poultry wire or hardware cloth with 1-inch openings to fit the bed, leaving it an extra 4 inches larger on all sides. Wear gloves and use wire snips when cutting through the wire.

Lay the wire on top of the soil in the bed. Bend the edges of the wire down so they rest inside the trench. Fill the trench with the removed soil.

Cut holes in the wire for any existing plants, making the holes large enough so you can slip the plant through. Alternatively, cut a hole large enough for the base of the plant, and then cut a slit from the hole to the edge of the wire. Slip the wire around the trunk through the slit. This method covers more soil so the squirrels can't dig near the bases of larger plants.

Cover the wire with up to 2 inches of bark or wood mulch to camouflage it. Squirrels may disturb the mulch, but they can't penetrate the wire and dig up plants. Plants can still grow through the wire.


  • .22 (check local ordinances. killing them may not be allowed)
  • trap and release (release far away. again, check local ordinances)
  • metal mesh. Squirrels don't like digging through wire. This is a great technique for protecting flower bulbs. not as practical for a yard.
  • repellent (the stuff I've used that seems to work OK is a mix of garlic, dried blood, and pepper. Alas, it STINKS. so your yard will smell like a bad italian restaurant, but it did seem to repel the squirrels

Granted a dog can end up digging bigger holes.

You can make your own all natural squirrel repellent at home that won't (shouldn't) kill the grass.

In a 2oz pot of water add the following ingredients.

  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • one chopped Jalapeno pepper
  • one chopped onion

Boil for 20 minutes and then let cool with the lid on it.

Strain liquid threw a cheese cloth into a spray bottle, then spray covering the trouble areas.

Be very careful not to get any on your skin, and if you get some one your hands you need to wash it all off. The slightest touch to the lips or eyes will result in immediate irritation.

I use chicken wire to keep squirrels out of my garden. They are always digging holes there and burying acorns. One thing I've noticed: they always go for open soil, and once plants are established there they don't seem to dig and bury stuff anymore. So you might try the mesh until you can get other vegetation better established.

I was going to put mesh over more of my garden until I figured this out. Now I have a couple pieces of mesh and a mesh box that I move around to cover newly started areas. Once established I don't need it anymore, the squirrels stay away.

I had/have the same problem -as they never go away, keep coming back once they get used to one solution. Check if there are no chipmunks, they might also be digging and making a mess. I have used moth balls and it worked for a while. When they came back to a different area -I have a very small flower bed area- now I'm using the pepper solution w/o jalapenos yet. I just spread a mix of pepper, onion and garlic, and so far it seems it is working! My next step would be trying the bucket with water and sunflower seeds -I'm sick of them- I read they go in and drown in the water as they cannot come out. I will let you know when that comes around.

They hate the smell of bleach. Put bleach on rags and hang them round the garden fence but do keep the rags damp!

There is a human solution to this problem that will also nurture your lawn. Buy a box of Blood Meal at Home Depot or a garden center. Here is a description of it:

"Blood meal is a high nitrogen fertilizer (it rates a 12-2-0 a very high number for a natural product), as are fish meal (and fish emulsion), horse and poultry manure and corn gluten meal (which also prevents seed germination, making it the only natural springtime weed and feed for lawns)."


Watch the video: Cool Trick To Stop Squirrels From Climbing Tree TIY, Silbanditvs Squirrels