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Friday - April 15, 2011

From: Tampa, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: red maple bark damage by squirrels
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We have two acres of land, largely covered by various oaks and cherry laurels -and, after many hours of cutting down chinese tallow trees..finally some red maples. Our problem is that we also have a squirrel 'infestation' (I like squirrels, but this place is crawling with them!), due to neighbor (with a tiny yard) who provides the squirrels with a constant meal of peanuts and corn. Our little maples appear to be being chewed by the squirrels, but I'm not 100% sure it's them. I'd consider the possibility of deer (we've seen one in a nearby pasture), except that the chewing is at the base of the trees (obviously moving up as the trees grow) -not at the level I'd expect deer to chew. Someone else mentioned something like 'bark split'(?), which I haven't researched. So, my questions are -What do you think is most likely the case? Should I try to 'mend'/repair the trunks? If it's squirrels..are they doing it just to chew (I concluded, some seasons ago, they were nipping off my husband's tomato plants for the moisture during a drought - In that case, would putting water out for them help?!). I know my questions are rambling, but your ideas would be greatly appreciated!

ANSWER:

There are many reports of damage to stems and bark of red maples by squirrels.  In New England, red maple sap has a relatively high concentration of sugar, and squirrels like to take bites out of the trunk, let the sap ooze out and dry for some time, leaving a "maple sugar" residue for the squirrels to enjoy later.  A second New England account confirms sugaring by squirrels.  I doubt that the sugar content of red maples in Florida would come anywhere close to that in New England, since the content is greatly increased by low winter temperatures.  But even a low level of sugar might attract squirrels.

You could discourage the squirrels by placing a shield of hardware cloth or other closely woven wire loosely around the trunk of the trees. This would protect the bark, but squirrels have been reported to nibble on the young leaf buds too, so keep checking. And maple buds have been known to attract deer as well.

 

 

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