Squirrels Chewing Off Maple Branches #790549

Asked May 12, 2022, 8:54 PM EDT

I have a problem with squirrels chewing off red maple branches and just spitting them out. The ground under my maples are littered with them. This happens every year and only after the trees start budding in the spring. Why are they doing this? Also how can I stop this? I’ve put colored streamers and hung chimes in the trees, which didn’t work. Most of my maples are too large circumference wise for a baffle. I’m in Northern Michigan.

Otsego County Michigan

Expert Response


Squirrels rarely eat maple tree parts, but they love to “prune back” the new growth. It might help — or not — to know the squirrels aren't maliciously eating your maple. They aren't actually eating the tree at all, but pruning it. All members of the rodent family have continuously growing teeth, which requires them to gnaw and chew on things in order to keep their teeth from growing out of control. They use both the bark and the small twigs to build their nests. Squirrels may also use maple twigs and bark as chew toys. Their teeth need constant maintenance to keep them from growing too long, so this means they need to chew on things regularly. If other food isn’t readily available, squirrels may peel back the outer bark and eat bits of the inner bark. Depending on how hungry they are, they may also eat the buds, leaves, and samaras (seed pods). Japanese maples seem to be the most popular species among the squirrel population. This is one of the smaller varieties of maple and, if too many squirrels invade the tree, it could easily be killed by having too much bark stripped away or too much new growth pruned back.

How Do You Stop Squirrels From Chewing On Your Trees? - If you’re having trouble with squirrels chewing on your maple trees, don’t despair. There are a few things you can do to discourage the local squirrel population from picking on your maple trees.

1. GIVE THEM AN ALTERNATIVE - It is possible to distract squirrels from your tree by leaving a pile of sticks, twigs, bark, or bedding material for them. Use nuts to attract them to the pile and away from your tree. Of course, you will have to keep replenishing this pile to keep the squirrels coming back, and some homeowners may be concerned that this practice will actually attract squirrels to your property. Use your best judgment as to whether leaving a “peace offering” for the squirrels will work in your yard.

2. USE A SQUIRREL REPELLENT - There are various types of squirrel repellents on the market. Some are chemical sprays or pellets, while others make use of ultrasonic technology to scare the squirrels away. You may even be able to use cayenne pepper and other spices as a repellent Regardless of the type of repellent you use, make sure you use it according to package directions. Some repellents may need to be reapplied continuously or may need regular maintenance. Consider spraying your trees with a taste repellent such as Ropel, cinnamon/cinnamon oil, or capsaicin. Be sure that the label allows its use on plants. (Be doubly sure to follow directions, and never use the product on plants intended for human consumption.) Third, fence the plants so that squirrels can't get to them.

3. TRIM BRANCHES BACK - If you have trees growing near your house, powerlines, or fences, then squirrels may have easy access. Trimming branches away from these structures may make it more difficult for squirrels to get into your tree. Try and keep branches back at least 4 or 5 feet from any nearby structures. This may be difficult or impossible with some trees, depending on where and how they are growing. Be careful not to over-prune your tree in an effort to keep the squirrels out. Pruning away too much of the tree will cause more permanent damage than most squirrels ever could.

An Ask Extension Expert Replied May 13, 2022, 2:01 PM EDT

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