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veronica_carr71

Help! Heavy squirrel damage to Japanese Maple

V Carr (6b/MO)
5 years ago
last modified: 5 years ago

We have a massive population of evil tree rats which have damaged our deck, and now over a couple weeks, our Japanese Maples. Is this maple going to die? And how do I get rid of a whole lot of squirrels?



Comments (9)

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Japanese maples have a very thin bark that squirrels find attractive for building nests. As long as they do not strip the bark from around the full circumference of the trunk, the tree should be fine.

    Other than trapping, shooting or the attentions of a big dog, I have no suggestions on how to control the squirrel population :-) But carefully and loosely wrapping chicken wire around the base and affected branches should deter them.

    V Carr (6b/MO) thanked gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
  • V Carr (6b/MO)
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Thanks. The feeder is just decor, there's been no seed in it for a long time. I tried a cage trap, baited it with peanuts and peanut butter, they haven't touched it in days despite it being in a high-traffic area for them. I've tried putting cayenne and peppermint oil on the branches. My husband's "Red Ryder" BB gun does absolutely nothing and we've got no fence for a dog. The chicken wire wouldn't keep them out because the trees are right next to our house, they can get in the trees by jumping from the roof.

    I think it's come down to getting a large barn cat and learning how to use my inherited Nylon 66. We live in the country and neighbor is fine with me trapping/shooting squirrels. No idea how to dress em' out but I would hate good meat to go to waste.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    5 years ago

    If the trees are close enough to the house for them to jump on, then they are too close!! You are going to have worse problems than squirrel damage eventually.

    btw, the chicken wire is extremely effective. They are only looking for larger branches with an abundance of bark they can remove. You just need to be a bit creatve in how you apply it.

  • V Carr (6b/MO)
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    These trees are mature Japanese Maples and are naturally small. We didn't plant them but simply prune back any branches that may be too close to roofline. The squirrels are chewing on any branch they can reach, including ones with a small diameter. Can you include any pictures of how the chicken wire would be applied?


  • User
    5 years ago

    My guess is that you could hang pokey stuff like square pieces of hardware cloth or bits of chicken wire, as if they were Christmas ornaments. There being no safety glasses in squirrel size, I'd think getting poked in the eye by a sharp-edged something might be worse than being shot, to a critter. At least it's over with the latter. When I was a kid we had a cat that hunted squirrel, but she had hungry kits in the barn. Usually a cat will just look at a squirrel and you sorta watch it thinking, "Not in the mood today...." Our neighbors do not have fences, either. Even those that do, don't put their dogs on the inside of them. But ours is a country setting, 12 houses each with an acre or more, and outside of the city limits. We all know each other's dogs and they sort of "belong" to all of us, in many ways. I don't want 'em digging and tromping around in my garden so I've had to fence to keep them OUT.

    I've read about some people that have those motion-sensor water sprayers and they say that works for just about anything that moves, including a homeless person that was in the habit of peeing on trees in their neighborhood. I have a friend that hangs Christmas tree icicles and shiny ribbon, maybe some old CD's, from some of her trees. Keeps away the jaybirds. Not sure whether it would help with squirrels.

    V Carr (6b/MO) thanked User
  • Lynn G
    3 years ago

    A lower branch died in my Japanese maple so I removed it. Lately I’m seeing a black squirrel on the tree, chewing away on the bark. Now a larger, higher branch is dead. I’m worried I may loose the whole tree. I’m pondering mixing some peanut butter and boric acid and schmeering it by the chew marks. The boric acid and sugar works wonders on ants...

  • HU-298463511
    2 years ago

    There is something inherently wrong with your argument about using the bark for nesting. I have only one small Japanese maple and hundreds of other nut-bearing trees around — a beech shedding nuts this year and dozens of red and white oaks with their acorns around — yet the squirrels are coming back repeatedly to the maple to chew, even within 30 minutes of being chased 100 yards away through a high canopy with a slingshot. I even tracked down a young squirrel through that canopy to a nest that is around 1/8 mile away via its tree-branch route to its nest. There has to be something beyond food shortage to their chewing. It is mostly likely a unique flavor to the sap, and boredom with the plain fare of acorns readily available on the ground this time of year (autumn).

  • Zachary Riley
    last year
    last modified: last year

    It is the inner bark of the japanese maple that they are after. They also harvest the bark from a few other trees, but if there is a japanese maple around its the one. The inner bark dries out to a very fine fibrous fluff after they chew it up and process it for their nests. The sap that runs in the spring is *decent*, but thats not what they are after—they can get much better sap from other species, such as red or sugar maple or river birch, etc. It’s the inner bark they want. They usually will not strip branches that are less than 1/2” to 1’ thick, unless they are desperate. Dogs/cats will not be an effective deterent. Squirrels are persistent and patient and very serious and committed concerning their nest-building endeavors. They will not be deterred by predators. They will simply learn routines and the yard’s vulnerable times when the trees are unprotected and they will adapt and overcome any predator threat they encounter while hunting for a gathering nest building materials. Trying to draw then away with food or another source of bedding will not work. They are not after food and they dont want your replacement mayerials like cotton balls or lint or anything else. Nothing is as good for their purposes as the inner bark just above the cambium layer of the japanese maple. So, drawing them away from the tree will simply not work—that is, unless you are using a bigger, more healthy japanese maple for the squirrels as an alternative to your tree. (Where they can harvest all the bedding they please.) There are three approaches you can try. 1. You can try to physically stop them with aluminum foil/wrapping chicken wire around the braches several times, or using something even better like aluminum flashing. 2. You can try to deter them. Using sparlkly shiny stuff like christmas tinsel/icicles or CDs hanging in the branches. Will take a lot and its ugly but it only needs to be there during nest-building season. 3. You can try to make it taste terrible. Using a combination of hot pepper and some terrible tasting grease, or whatever concoction you find works. Usually it will take a combo ot at least two of these tactics and sometimes all three, although if the squrrels areng desperate maybe only one. With squirrels and Japanese maples, you can follow the “how to survive a bear attack rule”. (You dont have to run faster than the bear to survive—you only need to be faster than the slowest memeber of your party.) So yeah, You dont necessarily have defeat the squirrels and drive them off. You just need some neighbors with bigger and better maples than yours. Convince some neighbors to plant Japanese maples all over the place in the neighborhood and eventually they will have way more than they could ever utilize. And they‘ll leave you and your japanese maple alone in peace. Cheers.