If you notice that the branches in the trees of your backyard look like they've recently undergone some havoc, you could be witnessing the work of a squirrel (family Sciuridae). The wee rodents frequently sink their teeth into branches, whether they're doing so because they're trying to maintain their chompers or simply because they're hungry.
If a nameless critter has been chewing away at the branches in your backyard, it could be a squirrel who is looking to keep his teeth tidy and in good working condition. When squirrels chew on branches, they're not only often trying to spruce up their teeth, they're also often trying to keep them razor-edged. If a squirrel has been using your trees as massive toothbrushes, you might see many fallen tiny branches surrounding them.
Branches and Nesting
Trees squirrels frequently chew off trees branches as a means of constructing nests -- or dreys. Dreys are usually situated about 30 feet up in the air. They consist of branches squirrels chew off, and also of foliage and pine needles.
Desire for Sodium
Some squirrels have habits of going after bark that comes from the highest branches of trees. Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) as an example are big on this. When they pull off the bark on these branches, they're trying to get their sodium requirements, as the sap underneath is packed with the element. Some squirrels do this at the beginning of both the spring and autumn seasons every year. If this is a concern for you, you can help squirrels out by offering them tiny salt blocks that are usually easily available at pet goods shops. If you leave these blocks by the foundations of trees in your yard, it might keep them away from your branches.
Food Shortages and Tree Bark
Competition for food can be intense in the squirrel world, especially when numbers of the furry guys are higher than normal. When squirrels can't access their favorite dietary staples, they sometimes resort to chewing tree bark, often from the branches. Fox and gray squirrels alike do this regularly -- both types of tree squirrels. The dilemma of scant sustenance often occurs in the winter and at the start of the spring. When squirrels have to be more resourceful about food, they also dine on tree buds. They regularly extract bark from trunks and branches alike.
While squirrels are capable of inflicting destruction on bark from trunks and branches, the foods they commonly munch on go a lot broader and more diverse than just those things. Some typical components in squirrels' feeding plans include acorns, nuts, seeds, foliage and berries, just to start. They often eat whatever it takes to ensure their continued survival, whether corn, mushrooms, eggs from birds or bugs.
- Critters and Company: Pamela Byrne Schiller
- The Florida Times-Union Jacksonville.com: Gardening Q & A
- Indiana Department of Natural Resources: Gray Squirrel
- University of Illinois Extension: Tree Squirrels
- Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife: Tree Squirrels
- The Washington Post: Squirrel Nests
- Squirrels; Justine Ciovacco
- National Geographic: Squirrel
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