Monday, August 8, 2011

Summertime squirrel damage

   We are seeing two types of summertime squirrel damage. The most noticeable is the stripping of smooth bark off of young branches and the subsequent death of leaves on that shoot. The second, is early feeding on nuts which is often overlooked.
    When food sources become scarce, flying squirrels will strip the bark off smooth barked branches to feed on the tree's cambium. In the photo at left, you can see that both young, upright shoots have had patches of bark removed by squirrels. At the bottom of the photo, you see a branch of dried-up leaves which developed after the stem that supports those leaves was completely girdled by squirrels.
    Early nut feeding by squirrels usually goes unnoticed. This year, we are using drop cages to determine when and why nuts drop from trees during the growing season. Today we found a small pile of nut fragments in one of our cages (photo at right). It seems that squirrels are taste testing a few nuts long before kernels develop or maybe they are just looking for a water source in this drought.