Squirrels often chew on tree branches and trunks, removing materials for their nests and eating the soft inner bark. However, squirrels can overharvest fresh shoots and bark, knocking off tree limbs, slowing a tree’s growth, and leaving wounds in the bark. However, there are several tricks you can use to keep squirrels out of your trees and the branches intact.
To stop squirrels from chewing on tree branches, you can install a slick metal collar on your trees’ trunks, prune your tree, apply animal repellents, and make your trees less comfortable for squirrels. If all else fails, you can always hire a pest control expert.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the steps you can take to keep squirrels from chewing on your trees’ branches. I’ll teach you the most effective methods and share tips and tricks for warding off squirrels. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
1. Wrap the Trunk of Your Trees With a Slick Material
The best way to keep squirrels from eating your trees is to make the trees inaccessible.
Squirrels may be excellent climbers and jumpers due to their claws, but they can’t go up a tree if they cannot get a good grip. So, covering trees with a slick material such as aluminum or tin flashing can prevent them from getting onto the tree.
Most experts recommend using a piece of metal at least 2 feet (0.6 m) wide. It should also be long enough to overlap at the ends after you wrap it around your tree’s trunk.
I always recommend this Amerimax 20-Inch x 10-Feet Aluminum Flashing (available on Amazon.com) since it’s a great value and has the perfect thickness for this job. It’s also 10 feet (3 m) long, which is the ideal size for most trees.
If you want to use this method, you’ll also need something to cut the metal with, a drill, a drill bit that will work with your flashing material, and some small nails or screws.
However, if you plan to leave the collar on your tree for years, you’ll want to get some springs to clamp the metal to the tree instead of using nails or screws. Using springs will allow your collar to grow with the tree, expanding with the trunk.
I recommend using springs like these Uxcell Extended Compressed Springs on Amazon since these are small, have hooks on the ends for easy installation, and are durable but not too stiff. These springs will provide the perfect resistance, keeping the collar on while stretching to accommodate new growth.
How To Install a Metal Collar on Your Tree To Stop Squirrels
Here’s how to install the metal collar to prevent squirrels from climbing up the trunk:
- Wrap the metal sheet around your tree’s trunk, leaving 6 to 8 feet (1.83 to 2.4 m) of the trunk exposed at the bottom.
- Allow the metal to overlap over itself by at least 5 inches (12.7 cm).
- Tack the metal flashing to the tree using a thin wire nail. If you want to use screws or nails, secure them in the tree.
Adding springs to the metal collar takes some extra steps:
- If you plan to use springs, drill two holes at the end of the sheet, with one hole in each corner.
- Hook the springs to the metal sheet’s end in the holes you just drilled.
- Press the end of the flashing back over the tree. Then, measure a place to drill holes for the other hooks on both of your springs. It would be best to create enough tension to hold the sheet in place, but don’t pull it so tight that you cut off the tree’s circulation.
- Drill the two holes you just measured, then hook your springs into them.
Once your flashing is secure, you’re all done!
2. Prune Back Your Tree’s Shoots and Branches
Although adding flashing around your tree’s trunk will keep squirrels from climbing up, it won’t stop squirrels from getting onto the tree via power lines, other trees, your roof, or other tall objects nearby.
Squirrels can jump up to 9 feet (2.7 m) horizontally, so anything within that distance of your tree’s branches will become an access point for your neighborhood rodents. They can also jump 4 feet (1.2 m) in height, so keep an eye out for anything nearby within either of those dimensions from your tree’s branches.
If you genuinely want to keep the squirrels away, you’ll need to remove any other access points by pruning back the branches.
This job is usually best when left to the pros, but if the tree is small, you can always prune it back with pruning shears or a chainsaw.
3. Apply an Animal Repellent to Your Tree’s Bark
Unfortunately, squirrel repellents are not very effective for tree-bound squirrels since most trees are too large to spray evenly. In addition, keeping up with reapplication can be a nightmare if you rely on repellent alone since you’ll have to spray the entire tree every time it rains.
That said, using repellents in conjunction with the above methods for eliminating squirrels can be very effective.
While the other methods will make the tree inaccessible via the ground or any tall object, the repellent will make the tree even less attractive to squirrels, who will likely move on to find a better place to nest without trying to climb up.
Since you’ll likely be treating a large area with the repellent, you might want to use a homemade recipe to cut costs.
Wildlife experts at the University of Kentucky recommend using a solution of one teaspoon of Lysol per gallon of water as an effective, inexpensive repellent. Then, spray the solution on the tree’s trunk and branches as evenly as possible and reapply for a few weeks until you stop seeing squirrels in your yard.
4. Make Your Trees Less Appealing to Squirrels
Adding a repellent and collar and removing any possible paths of entry should do the trick for eliminating squirrels, but if you can’t do all of those things, you’ll likely still see squirrels in your trees. In that case, you might want to make the areas surrounding your tree less hospitable to squirrels.
Here are some tips to help you make your yard more squirrel-resistant:
- Eliminate the squirrels’ shelter. Depending on where your squirrels have chosen to nest, you can block off cavities in your trees, remove existing squirrel nests, and hang birdhouses where squirrels cannot reach them.
- Clean up fallen nuts and seeds. Trees such as oaks, walnuts, and pines provide squirrels with food. To help ensure that squirrels do not set up camp on your property, keep your lawn clean and remove any fallen nuts and seeds. Removing these will encourage the squirrels to search for food elsewhere. Likewise, fallen seeds from bird feeders will only encourage squirrels to stay.
- Protect your garden. Installing mesh and chicken wire barriers on crops and bulbs can ensure that squirrels don’t eat them. If they have little food, they’ll likely move to another tree. If you want to learn more about protecting your bulbs from squirrels, you might find my article “How To Stop Squirrels From Eating Your Tulips” helpful.
- Keep your birdfeeders out of reach. Protecting your birdfeeders from squirrels is easier said than done, but depriving your neighborhood rodents of food will make them feel unwelcome.
If you keep up with lawn maintenance and try to make your squirrels feel less at home, they’ll eventually pack up camp and go somewhere better.
5. Hire a Pest Control Expert
If everything else fails, or if you want to make short work of the squirrel removal process, hiring a professional to help can be very beneficial.
A pest control expert will likely:
- Trap squirrels and relocate them.
- Apply repellents to your trees and other areas where the squirrels frequently go.
- Install flashing on your trees.
- Advise you on the best plant maintenance and squirrel prevention techniques for your property.
Pest control experts usually work quickly and have plenty of experience, so they are a great alternative to DIY squirrel prevention.
Squirrels chew on three branches to access the soft inner bark for food while they harvest small twigs and bark for nesting material. To prevent squirrels from eating your trees, install a metal collar on the trunks, prune them to eliminate access points, apply animal repellents, and make your trees less appealing to the squirrels.
Hiring a pest control expert makes the squirrel removal task more manageable and quick, so if your other efforts don’t work, call the professionals.