Why Do Squirrels Break Branches Off Trees?

why do squirrels break branches off trees

If you notice the branches of your trees look like they have undergone warfare, chances are, you are witnessing the work of squirrels. These rodents will often sink their teeth into branches and break them for several reasons. So why do squirrels break branches of trees?

Squirrels will break branches off trees to maintain their teeth, as they are rodents and need to keep their teeth sharp. They also use branches for nests, stress relief, or food shortages. Other reasons squirrels break off tree branches include a desire for sodium, or it might be part of their diet.

Squirrels may be small and adorable, but they can soon become pests. Let’s take a look at why squirrels will break branches off trees and if there is some rhyme or reason to this behavior:

Squirrels Will Break Branches To Maintain Their Teeth

Animals like squirrels, along with other rodents, have to maintain their teeth consistently. Because a squirrel’s teeth never stop growing, it is up to them to find ways to shave them down, as this keeps their teeth a comfortable and manageable length. 

Squirrels will maintain their teeth by breaking off branches and gnawing at them. These rodents will not only chew on branches to keep their teeth manageable and clean, but they will also often chew away at trees to sharpen their teeth. 

If squirrels do not do this, their teeth will not be as efficient and effective. 

Squirrels Will Break Branches To Use As Nesting Material

A squirrel’s nest is known as a drey, and these dreys will vary in size and can be made of several different materials. These materials depend on what is available in their location, including bark, moss, twigs, leaves, and tree branches. 

Using nipped-off tree branches is especially helpful in a squirrel’s nest, as the branches provide insulation from cold weather and wind. 

Squirrels will use these twigs and tree branches to construct a basket-like nest, and this basket will serve as the foundation of the nest and is a huge structural element. 

They will then prefer to use softer materials on top of the twigs and tree branches. 

Squirrels Will Break Branches For Stress Relief

It is said that pregnant squirrels under stress will produce better pups. However, pregnant and stressed soon-to-be mother squirrels will still try to find ways to calm themselves down during the pregnancy. 

Several harmful environmental conditions will cause pregnant squirrels to become stressed. For example, if a pregnant squirrel experiences higher stress levels, she will break off tree branches as a way to cope with her stress. Soon-to-be mother squirrels are known to break off branches the most!

Squirrels Will Break Branches When There Is A Food Shortage

The competition for food can become incredibly intense in the squirrel world, especially when their numbers are higher than usual. 

When squirrels cannot access their preferred dietary staples, they will often resort to chewing tree bark, which is usually also located on tree branches. When food becomes scarce, squirrels usually have less access to their typical food during the cold winter months. 

When food such as nuts, seeds, and berries become less obtainable, a squirrel will go as far as eating plant matter, including branches. Gray and fox squirrels will do this regularly, as they are both types of tree squirrels. 

They will break off the branches of a tree to gain access to the cambium layer. The cambium layer is the type of tissue layer that consists of all the needed cells for healthy plant growth. 

This layer is rich in sugars and nutrients, and the squirrels will feast on this if the food is scarce.  

Squirrels Will Break Branches If They Crave Sodium

Some types of squirrels have strange habits of going after bark that comes from the highest branch of a tree. For example, Eastern gray squirrels will mainly do this, even when there is no food shortage. 

When this type of squirrel pulls off the bark of these branches, they are merely trying to consume their sodium requirements, as the sap underneath is full of this element. 

Some other types of squirrels will also do this at the beginning of spring and autumn each year. If squirrels breaking off your tree branches are a significant concern to you, there is a way to stop this. 

You can help sodium-craving squirrels by helping them to consume this element. For example, you can offer them tiny salt blocks, which you can easily purchase at a pet shop. 

If you place these blocks close to the foundations of the trees in your yard or garden/ 

It will keep them away from your trees!

Squirrels Will Break Branches As A Part Of Their Diet

While some pesky squirrels are capable of causing extreme destruction on bark from branches and tree trunks, they will usually feed on a lot more diverse types of food. 

Some of the typical components in a squirrel’s diet include berries, seeds, plant foliage, nuts, and acorns! 

However, squirrels will often eat whatever it takes to ensure that they survive, whether it includes corn, eggs from bugs or birds, or even mushrooms. 

How To Know If A Squirrel Is Stripping The Bark Of A Tree

If a squirrel is stripping the bark off your trees, you’ll notice patches of bark disappearing from a tree’s branches or trunk. 

They may also be girdling, which is when you see a ring of bark missing from around a tree’s trunk. When you notice a tree trunk has been girdled, you can consider chopping off the branch or even cutting down the tree below the girdle. 

If you do not do this, the tree may die, causing it to fall on something valuable in your garden or yard. You can only be sure that a squirrel is stripping the bark or branches off your tree when you see them do it. 

Several other animals like to strip bark from trees, including rabbits, rats, and beavers. 

Final Word

Squirrels can be pesky rodents, especially if you are a gardener and working hard to maintain the beauty of your trees. 

Remember, when squirrels break off tree branches, they always have a reason, and there are many ways you can help these beautiful creatures to maintain their health, along with the health and beauty of your trees!

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