elm tree disease?

Asked July 9, 2017, 10:10 AM EDT

I have a huge , 60 year old American elm tree in my front yard. Every year it has to be sprayed for elm leaf minor so its leaves don't die early in the summer. Now this year for the first time , I see hundreds, if not thousands of small, 2 to 4 inch shavings from the bark of the tree on my lawn. Someone at a nursery said it must be squirrels. I don't think so, there are just too many of these shavings on my lawn & in the street. Do you know what might be causing this & what to do for it?

Arapahoe County Colorado trees and shrubs

1 Response

This does appear to be squirrel damage. Squirrels seem to favor elm, maple, honeylocust and Russian olive more than other types of trees in this area. Here is an informative link, however, note that Nebraska wildlife laws may differ from Colorado.


Squirrels strip bark for a number of reasons. It can be a food source or they may use the strips to line their nests. Pregnant females chew on bark to help them bear the pain of pregnancy. Some studies show its boredom, or just doing what comes naturally to them. Whatever the reason, damage levels vary between years and seasons.


The tree damage can be messy and a real annoyance, but it also may threaten the health of the tree depending upon the depth and amount of damage. Bark protects the inner part of the tree that grows and transports water and nutrients. Stripping exposes living tissue to dry out and possibly die. The wounds can create entry points for pests and disease.

Preventing squirrel access to a tree can be difficult, especially if they obtain access from a roof, fence or nearby trees. If they jump from the ground, barriers can include two foot wide bands of plastic or metal at least six feet above the ground. Pruning branches at least six to eight feet away from structures and neighboring trees can hinder access. Tanglefoot is an organic product which creates a sticky barrier around the base of trees that will deter squirrels from climbing them. Deterrent sprays with the active ingredient Capsaicin (chili pepper) can be applied frequently and after rains. Pets, natural predators, and food diversions are alternative possibilities. Trapping and relocating can be done without a permit, however, you must receive permission from the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.


If the damage is too high within the tree to treat, or you need to trim branches away from the roof, fence and other trees, contact a certified arborist. They can also help with other necessary controls.