Squirrels are likely the most frequent uninvited “guests” to your property—as far as mammals go, anyway! Many of you may be excited to see them; maybe you find them cute and their games, play, antics, acrobatics, and curious noises brighten your day. Others may find them rude to dogs and birds, consider them vermin thieves (stealing bird food and most of our pecan crops), and just altogether annoying.
However you view squirrels, it is important that you know that some of the squirrel population are habitual tree murderers.
That’s right, some squirrels will methodically chew the bark and cambium right off branches. Sometimes they full girdle them, which directly causes the branch to die, but often it is a compilation of weather (wind gusts breaking now structurally-weakened branches), insect pests, and pathogens that continue the downward death spiral begun by the evil squirrel. Why do they do this? Besides being evil, these particular squirrels may be bored (in equestrian terminology we call these “cribbers”), need nutrients/minerals, have hormonal imbalances, want to keep their teeth sharp, and plan to use the results of their chewing for nesting.
It is important to note that in my experience, most squirrels do not chew trees to shreds. I would estimate one in 10 squirrels, maybe less. I’ve managed numerous properties for almost a decade—many of which are home, no doubt, to 5 or more squirrels and some of these properties have little to no evidence of chewing. Clearly it is not a required practice for squirrel survival! Usually, when I do find a property with chewing, every tree has some chewing and it worsens every year. I believe this to be the work of a serial tree-killing squirrel.
What to do about it? I recommend sending this squirrel to squirrel heaven. I do not believe a geographical re-location will stop the chewing. It will just be on someone else’s trees!