When I put up a bird feeder a couple of years ago it began to attract many...

Asked July 8, 2016, 11:45 AM EDT

When I put up a bird feeder a couple of years ago it began to attract many squirrels. At first I was upset but I started to fall in love with these adorable critters, so I put out more nuts and seeds for them. I noticed my lawn and garden became a lot greener and more productive, and I had less weed trees growing everywhere. So for the first twelve years, before the squirrels, I struggled with the lawn, garden, and insects. Now, for the last five years, the garden is so much better, and I also noticed less grubs and less cicadas when I would dig for my garden. We will be moving in a few years and would like to plant conifer producing trees that are healthy for squirrels in my 45' by 300' lot. What would you recommend that is healthy for squirrels and healthy and non invasive for Bergen County New Jersey?

Bergen County New Jersey

3 Responses

Dear Homeowner,

I love the photo you attached. It made me smile.

A balanced ecosystem is always a great idea. Sometimes residential areas can be more than a little bit out of balance, promoting non-native plants and animals at the exclusion of the animals native to the area. I am glad that you have found a reason to love squirrels and would like to ensure that you have them in your new yard.

It is pretty obvious that squirrels love nuts and seeds. The squirrels that you will find in New Jersey are Fox Squirrels and Gray Squirrels. These animals thrive on a variety of nuts and seeds. You don't necessarily need to plant conifer trees, and in fact, planting a variety of conifers, oaks, hickory or walnuts would provide a healthier, sustainable food source for the squirrels. The local Extension office in New Jersey can provide you with a list of Native Trees for you to plant. However another great source is the New Jersey native plant society. I've provided their website link here. http://www.npsnj.org/pages/nativeplants_Plant_Lists.html

Please remember that you CAN have too much of a good thing. I do not recommend setting out food for gray or fox squirrels in residential areas. Even bird seed can provide "too much" food, if there are 'mast' bearing trees (oak, walnut, hickory) and conifers nearby. These species of squirrel can reproduce young twice a year. Providing extra food increases the health of the females, and can cause them to have triplets. If the food resources create more squirrels than there is natural space for, the squirrels will begin to look for shelter in your house, shed, etc. And that is never a good thing.

All the best,

Thank you so much for the references! I will start using them right away! I've been concerned about the squirrel population because a lot of people have been clearing away their trees on our unusually big lawns for this part of our suburb. Most of the trees had been fruit (this used to be an orchard) various berry trees. My neighbor started trapping and killing squirrels many years ago. Our houses and driveways were covered with cicadas and our yards were crawling with grubs. The soil was very clay like. I begged him to stop (I'm convinced it was the deer I see in his yard every day that were ruining his garden, not the squirrels) and offered to help him build a fence. He took away the trap and everything is so much nicer. But I agree, I think it can be too much of a good thing and would like to restore some natural habitat for them. We are also guilty of cutting down old fruit trees making small hard fruits and mulberry that was messing up our cars, haha.

I'm happy to help. I'm glad that you appreciate our wildlife diversity. If you are worried about car damage from mast trees, Ash and Maple are also eaten by squirrels, although the seeds do require clean-up on the lawn.

I do agree that squirrels can be great at keeping cicada and grub populations down. The birds that used the trees that were cut down probably also helped remove those grubs! Biodiversity is the key to success, right?!

All the best,