By Bonnie L. Grant
Squirrels may appear to be cute fluffy tailed little critters, but their damaging feeding behaviors and digging can cause problems in the home landscape. In spite of their non-threatening demeanor, squirrels eating fruit tree buds limit production and stunt new growth. They dig up bulbs and eat tender new plants. In extreme cases, the rodents can jump from trees and find ways into your home, nesting in your attic or crawlspace. Knowing how to keep a squirrel out of fruit trees and other tall plants will help you enjoy their antics without worrying about their destructive natural habits.
Why Worry About Squirrel Proofing Fruit Trees?
There are numerous varieties of squirrels throughout the United States and North America. Most of them are not considered pests but some find nesting, feeding and playing in your fruit trees utterly irresistible. This poses no problem for the gardener who has an excess of fruit and where the rodents aren’t displaying chewing behavior. But in some cases, squirrels eating fruit tree buds may also chew on bark, causing tree wounds that invite decay and fungal diseases.
Squirrel proofing fruit trees can protect young fruit and prevent the rodents from accessing power and phone lines, disrupting service. They will also chew on siding and gain entry to your home.
Squirrel Fruit Tree Protection
Most gardeners are familiar with squirrel baffles for bird feeders and some forms of tree barriers. Many a homeowner has lost the battle with the cunning local squirrel. Squirrel proofing fruit trees starts with management and planning.
Keep limbs away from the home where they will often gain access to the tree. Consider better planting sites at installation of trees. It is difficult to achieve total squirrel fruit tree protection due to the animals amazing climbing ability.
Try simple things like netting the crown of the tree to protect new buds and young fruit.
How to Keep a Squirrel Out of Fruit Trees
When the pests have gotten on your last nerve, it is tempting to attempt lethal methods. This is inadvisable unless you know your species. Some squirrels are protected species and killing them may hold a fine. Poisons and traps can inadvertently harm children or pets. Trapping is sometimes effective, but you will have to release the animal into a wild and appropriate habitat as part of good animal management.
Extreme problem animals will require extreme squirrel deterrents for fruit trees. Scaring the heck out of them is a good way to reinforce the notion that your yard is not a good place to stay and live. Fluttering flags or streamers in the trees can be a preventive measure that is simple and not dangerous to other animals.
Common squirrel deterrents for fruit trees include mothballs, Ro-Pel, capsaicin or hot pepper oil and sticky topical applications for trunks and limbs. A simple metal collar 2 feet wide around the trunk of a tree prevents entry to the canopy of the fruit tree too.
Squirrel fruit tree protection is a challenge and may be a losing battle, but it couldn’t hurt to try some of these simple methods and maybe your favorite tree will produce beyond your wildest dreams.