University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension Educator Dennis Ferraro is the resident herpetologist at the School of Natural Resources. Dennis writes timely articles on animals that you might see on your acreage in Nebraska, ranging from mammals to insects. This month Dennis covers tree squirrels that may be causing some damage on your acreage, to the buildings or your plantings.
At this time of year, the common fox squirrel buries nuts and other foods in lawns and flower beds. This behavior is instinctive, and will occur even if supplemental food is provided. In the lawn, the buried food causes little damage and spring growth of grass will repair any that does occur. In flower beds and containers, food burying can be destructive. There is no chemical repellant that keeps squirrels from digging, but chicken wire or wire mesh installed loosely over pots or beds can prevent it. Remember to remove the wire before plants start their spring growth.
Many tree squirrels are also marking their territory. They do this by chewing on wooden objects like the base of trees, decks, picnic tables and garage doors. They may do this chewing every day for weeks in the same location. It is not for food but to leave a sign to other squirrels in the area that this territory is taken. You can stop this habit by applying a repellent to the chewed area. Commercial repellents can be effective at preventing this habit if applied on the marks and the area one foot surrounding it; remember to repeat the application often. A home-made repellent with vegetable oil and large amounts of hot pepper powders is fairly effective. Check that it doesn't stain the surface to which you hope to apply the repellent.
For more information, refer to UNL Extension’s NebGuide regarding Tree Squirrels.