Print This Page

Dallas Morning News - September 12, 2019

Squirrel Damage in Trees and Other Places


The person who figurers out how to eliminate squirrel damage deserves the fortune about to be realized. There are no foolproof solutions, but there are some relatively effective solutions to some of the damaging habits of these pretty little beasts.


Cute but destructive


Squirrels like to eat maturing fruits and nuts. Me too. Repellents don't well, so for some damage control, put netting over the plants. OK - it's too much trouble and sometimes ineffective but about all we have.


The squirrel's precision gnawing to get the tasty black walnut meat is fascinating. The symmetry of the work is impressive.


Black walnut squirrel damage


Bark eaten from trunks and limbs Japanese maples, redbuds, fruit trees and other thin barked trees is easier to control. It's reported that squirrels chew on tree branches to sharpen and clean their teeth. That's probably not true. They can sharpen their teeth by rubbing them together. The real reason for this damage is the attractiveness of the sugar accumulations in the tree. The solution is to uncover the root flares (bases) of the trees and apply the rest of the Sick Tree Treatment. Once healthy again the trees won’t be so attractive to munch on.


Squirrel damage is easy to recognize

Squirrel damage to live oak branch


The worse damage squirrels grace me with is their digging out beds, pots and flats. My solution for this behavior works well - most of the time. Lava gravel, not sand, used as mulch will repel them. They'll sometimes push the gravel out of the way and dig anyway, but it is rare. The jagged surfaces of the lava rock irritate their little paws. Other kinds of gravel won't work – too smooth.


Close-up of squirrel damage on live oak

Lava gravel as mulch repels squirrels


For damage to outdoor furniture and other wood structures, spray surfaces with Tabasco sauce or other hot pepper at 1 oz. per gallon of water. The only problem is that the treatment has to be repeated as the hot wears away.

There are lots of dead spots in trees right now, especially live oaks and pecans, because squirrels have eaten the bark and girdled stems and limbs.

Suggestions from listeners and readers:

I had saved broken china & pottery shards, (thinking of an art project before realizing a practical way of using them) to which I added any big enough broken glass pieces on the top of the dirt in my big pots outside. I no longer go out to find mounds of dirt around my pots in the morning. K Patton 

I put a bar of Irish Spring soap in my microwave for 10 seconds and then I  cut it up into small piece and put it in my large containers. The squirrels stopped digging in them! The pieces last quite a while even there after rain. Also I buy suet blocks with hot pepper in them. The squirrels leave them alone. J Poole

Nothing worse than a squirrel picking a beautiful red tomato from the garden. They will also ruin a bluebird house and make it their home.
And empty a bird feeder - no matter what you try. Answer - go to Target and buy a pellet gun with a scope. And never hit the brakes when a squirrel crosses the road. In Pecan Plantation, we are blessed to have the Best weapon: Red Tail and Red Wing Hawks that help control the squirrel population. P Graham

Use gold Listerine and caster oil mixed half in half in a spray bottle. Apply to the areas you want to keep them out and it won’t hurt your flowers, but you do not want to apply any oil directly on a plant in full sun! c Reichwein

Another way to limit squirrel damage is to get a hawk to nest in a nearby tree. We have one for the last couple years and it is amazing how the squirrel population has been reduced. G Stammen




  Search Library Topics      Search Newspaper Columns