Squirrel Experts...stripping bark from cedar tree

Raleigh, NC

Ok all you squirrel lovers (I know you're out there...). I noticed a squirrel busily stripping the bark off a large Cedar tree today in my yard. For those who don't know, the bark is not really bark, but more of a fibrous stringy type stuff akin to what you find on the outside of a brown coconut. He has cleared a patch almost half way around the tree, and is working towards the other side. Is he using this for nesting material? Eating it? What? Think it will hurt the tree at some point? --its a large area, about 12 inches by 10 inches so far....

Dewitt, MI(Zone 5b)

I'd bet it is being harvested for nesting material. There is a LOT better stuff to eat than Cedar, even if you are a Squirrel. If the "bark" is removed to the bare wood and is stripped in a complete ring around the tree you will probably have a dead tree. This is called girdling and is used to kill specific, individual trees. If you want to kill a tree just cut a ring of bark off of it. The ring doesn't even have to be 10 to 12 inches wide, just a complete ring.

This was such an interesting question I went poking around the Internet to see what I could find. I had always been under the impression that they either stripped bark from cedars to use it to line nests. I knew some trees were stripped by squirrels in winter so they could get to the sugary sap to survive. Yet even other trees are stripped year round to keep their teeth in check. This I know can be a big cause for concern because they can transfer infections from one tree to another tree and as Mark mentioned- they can girdle a tree and kill it.

Lookie here-

West Pottsgrove, PA(Zone 6b)

Longwood Gardens has conifers that they protect from squirrel damage with metal screen around the trunk.
Squirrels are tearing up my brother's English Yews just by running up and down the trunk. Over time the bark is getting torn up, but I don't think the squirrels are actually pulling the bark off his trees, but they're getting pretty ratty.

Those wascally skwillels!

KC Metro area, MO(Zone 6a)


Raleigh, NC

Well, I was pretty sure what you were all going to say....and you said it. Now I'm really concerned about this tree--I don't see how I could protect it as the squirrels can access it from other trees at the top (branches intertwine), so the metal screen would not work. The damaged area, is about 2/3 up the tree, way too high to easily protect. I guess the good news is that it is high enough that even if they girdle it, the tree would survive, albeit topless. I have a topless one nearby which I assumed was topped in a storm/hurricane. Now, I'm wondering...

So this is all part of squirrel sex and dating, huh? I guess that puts the "wild" back in wildlife...! Always a party in my backyard, I'm just not invited!

Oh no, I don't know that what you are witnessing is part of squirrel dating and sex but I ran across it online and thought it was very interesting that's all. Personally, I think your squirrels are using the material to line nests just like Mark said and now your tree will become a nice snag in the landscape for other critters to enjoy. I hope you are in a postion to allow it to remain where it is after it dies. You can set up a lawn chair in front of your new snag and be a part of the party because all kinds of birds are attracted to the bugs on snags. See, you were left out of the skwillel party but you won't get left out of the woodpecker party that's sure to come.

Raleigh, NC

HaaaaHaaaa---made me laugh Equilibrium-- Actually, seeing the "source" of the article about the squirrel dating/ sex thing, I was pretty sure that they were joking. What really makes me laugh, though, is your idea that it the tree dies, I just leave it there and enjoy the new show. That made me laugh because I thought I was the only on who thought that way....!

Hope it doesn't die, though, because this one borders our neighbor's property so would probably have to come down despite its obvious value as dead wood. Ahh, the trevails of the urban gardener....Had to cut a large pine down this fall (it was leaning towards our other neighbor's house..) and the tree guy thought I was crazy because I wanted him to leave about 25 feet of it and put a large hole in the side at the top for nesting etc. It is too short to be a danger now, even dead.

They're not joking about the squirrels over there. They've got some pretty serious issues and the squirrels are contributing. It's the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. You can go online and pull up more information. I believe that article came from one of their tabloids though. British humor!

the tree guy thought I was crazy because I wanted him to leave about 25 feet of it and put a large hole in the side at the top for nesting etc. It is too short to be a danger now, even dead.
I did the exact same thing with one tree that was too close to our driveway where people park their cars. I was afraid one day it would come down and crush a car because to the way it was leaning. We topped off the dead tree at about 20'. People who come over to visit always want to know when we're going to take down the rest- we aren't. We get a few raised eyebrows. I think you are the first person I have ever heard of who did the same thing as a compromise.

Clatskanie, OR(Zone 9b)

Equilibrium, that site is no not green. It is yellow. OK. I admit it, I am a squirrel lover. If everyone would study their life cycle, they wouldn't be calling a she a he when seen gathering nesting material. They have even been known to take the yellow ribbons off of trees for nesting material. Give them a break. I like the fact that they make noisy sex!
There is nothing wrong with that. That tells us what time of year it is, because it doesn't happenn every month. Well at least not with squirrels anyway.

The last cat finally died and now the squirrels are, "FREE AT LAST"
' and it is fun to watch nature take its natural place. We feed the birds and my wife has a 25# bag of sunflower seeds. The Chip Munks always seem to find it and fill their pouches with the suncflower seeds.
Next, they dig deep down into the flower pots and the window boxes and everything else, where floweres are expected to grow.
The funny thing is that the chipmonks dont know that they will never be able to go back and use those seeds. Mother nature uses them to plant many kind of tree seeds, so that they can continue.

Bless all of your hearts, I am getting old and remembering all the stories about the pets my daddy had in his life , and this is the last one I have left to duplicates his pet list.

After reading in this thread, and went to the noisy sex quote, you know, all those species out there have noisy sex. You always know it is breeding season for some specie. Now that I have gotten old and have been replaced, I can only say this.


We like squirrels over here too. We also like chipmunks, moles, shrews, and all kinds of furballs. We made glass juice bottle feeding stations for the chipmunks so that they could eat in peace. The squirrels seem to do fine but the chipmunks have a tough go of it.

Our chippies stash sunflower seeds in flower pots too. I always know exactly where they have done it because a wad of sunflowers will germinate and I have to go and pull them out. It's sort of funny to me but I realize some might not be all that amused.

Now, outdoor cats... I have no use for those. They eat my entertainment!

KC Metro area, MO(Zone 6a)

My cat can't eat the squirrels because they love to torture him. They will find a spot on a tree above the deck and he will just be sitting there dozing and they just start chattering really loud, throw not shells at him, then throw hissy fits when he glances up at them. LOL. It is really funy to watch.

Raleigh, NC

I should really hate them--they are eating all my strawberries, despite my best endeavors to enclose them all with netting. Yesterday I watched from my deck as a squirrel searched the whole edge of the netting until he found just the place where he could squeeze under. I got my revenge, though, as I ran out to chase him off and in his haste to escape he momentarily forgot how to get out. He was caught for about a minute while I watched him scurry around, then finally escape.

I'm sorry, any animal as intelligent as that is to be worshipped and revered, no matter how much of my food he steals..how do they figure out the one weak area of any squirrel proofing method you try to use? Last year, they waited until just when the pears on the pear tree were ripe--I mean, just the day I planned to pick them, not a second sooner--to take almost all of them. One night they were there, I went out the next morning to get them and all had been plundered and were laying on the ground with little rodent bite marks!

I have to say, in their defense, though, that I've heard their food supply is low due to heavy spring freezes in our area. Apparently this is going to impact them all year, as the acorn/nut crops are expected to mostly fail due to this freeze. So come fall, I'm giving up and just getting out the squirrel feeder. You know the one, right? It looks just like a bird feeder and, in fact, silly me, that is what I thought I'd be feeding with it, but the squirrels have always had other ideas....

Asheville, NC

FYI to yotedog. I grew up on a small farm in western Washington. We had a group of cedar trees growing near our pond. For a while our cows would grab a loose chunk of the "bark," rip off as much as possible and chow down on it. They did this over and over again. We thought sure the trees were goners but it didn't affect them at all. Cedar bark must be good stuff!

Raleigh, NC

Thanks--must be an acquired taste!! Based on the smell (which I do love), doesn't seem like it would be too palatable...But I'll quit worrying now!

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