Squirrels and string (holiday) lights

Asked April 4, 2020, 11:36 AM EDT

Our holiday tree seems to be an off-ramp on the Squirrel Highway–the utility lines through our neighborhood. The lights were ravaged this spring. I’ve read that squirrels actually intend to detach the bulbs, mistaking them for nuts and it makes sense when I survey the damage to our little acorn-sized bulbs. Whether it’s true or not, is there a way to deter squirrels? I don’t think my yard in Tree Town USA can be made squirrel-proof, but I wonder if there is a deterrent. Signs saying “This Is Not Food” and “Do Not Eat” have not worked.

Washtenaw County Michigan

1 Response

Very enjoyable written account of your squirrel issue.

I assume the only time the squirrels will mistake the bulbs for acorns will be when the lights are on the tree, correct? It was not completely clear to me whether this is a year-round holiday tree or not. If only seasonal, removing the lights soon after the holiday will protect the lights. During the holidays, squirrels are collecting late season stash for their dens and will likely move past those lights to get real food given the urgency of needing to hunker down soon. They may inadvertently mistake a bulb for an acorn in their frenzy to collect that time of year, but it like a mistake from their panic collecting that time of year? During the holidays, consider spraying the lights and tree with a bit of animal deterrent spray (available on-line and in stores) that contains something like peppers, garlic, egg solids, predator urine, etc.

As for them jumping into your trees year round, squirrels typically do not cause very much limb damage to evergreens, so perhaps they are just a nuisance at that time? If so, as you suggest, it is difficult to prevent a squirrel from jumping into a tree from a power line. Overall, squirrels live everywhere in urban, suburban and rural areas. They can be more frequent in yards that have food that they like, including nuts, acorns, and birdseed. Assess you setting to try to understand the reason they make a stop on the power line highways. It may mean you have one of the best highway rest stops for them as they travel through their territories? If so, eliminate those snack shacks or reduce the quality of those offerings by raking up acorns and letting the birdseed go stale? :)

I wish you luck in your adventure! Focus on the cause with a bit of observation.