Squirrels! :(

Asked July 26, 2018, 10:16 AM EDT

Hello! We have a fiesta sugar maple we planted 7 years ago. It is the love of my life and the squirrels are attacking it. They are stripping large amounts of bark from it. My question is two-fold, I would love suggestions/tips on how to keep the squirrels out (Repel sprays? Flashing?) and also, how do I nurse my tree back to health to give it every opportunity to continue to thrive? (Boost watering? Fertilizer? Cages around ripped parts?) Other info, from what I can tell, none of the branches are stripped completely around, however, ones higher up have a significant amount gone (photo 2). The tree is a solo tree in our front yard and the branches are approx 10' from the edge of our roof. There are a large number of patches that are missing, more than my three photos can capture. I'm sending the largest/worst. I would appreciate your guidance! Thank you.

Hennepin County Minnesota nuisance wildlife maple trees squirrel damage animal damage

1 Response

Thank you for the question. It certainly looks like the squirrels are attracted to your tree and have done quite a bit of damage. If none of the branches are completely girdled, the tree can repair them over time. If there are some that are completely girdled, they are probably lost because the flow of nutrients and water is interrupted. You could take a wait and see approach to completely girdled areas because there have been reports of severely damaged trees repairing themselves over time.
We don't know for certain why squirrels do this. This publication lists some options and the one that makes the most sense at this time of year is that the squirrels are feeding on this soft, inner, nutritious layer under the bark to fill some nutritional need. http://articles.extension.org/pages/10776/barkstripping
It can be a challenge to protect your landscape from squirrel damage but trapping and repellents might be good options. Read this article to learn about techniques in depth: http://extension.missouri.edu/p/g9455

The best thing you can do for your tree now is to make sure it is well watered during weeks where we don't get 1 inch of water, and try to keep it from further damage. Do not fertilize at this time because fertilization can force growth that uses the trees energy. This energy is needed to repair the damage. Regularly scout your tree for general health and take note should it look like it's going into decline. If that happens, you may want to contact a certified arborist to come help you out.

Good luck to you and thank you for contacting Extension.