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Old 01-12-2012, 08:10 AM
lieu lieu is offline
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Why are squirrels chewing off Italian Cypress branches?

I have a number of large, mature Italian Cypress throughout the back yard that are integral to the landscape. Some are focal points, some aid in creating privacy and with established plants around them replacement really isnít desirable or practical. Iíve worked hard to preserve their health, even bringing in professional assistance, this after the previous owner let spider mite and root fungal issues go untreated. They were finally starting to respond and I hoped they could again be the foundation and centerpieces they were intended to be.

A few weeks ago I noticed a number of low branches appeared to have been chewed off on seven of them. I asked my nursery what could be doing this, we agreed squirrels were the likely culprit and perhaps they were looking for minerals. So I secured two weathered deer antler sheds to the fence along which Iíve seen squirrels travel. The next week a high limb had all the foliage chewed off except at the very top, making it look like some ridiculous topiary popsicle. So I applied a hose end spray of animal repellant and an unpalatable pepper extraction on all fourteen trees. Then yesterday the entire right side of a tree was chewed clean of branches up to and past the neighbor houseís window, thus effectively removing a privacy barrier. It now looks, in a word, stupid. I sprayed neem oil and more of the pepper concoction but this would be stop gap at best, removed over time with rain.

Why in the world are squirrels chewing off these branches? Their nest is in my front yard oak and is strictly of oak limbs, no cypress. I see all the sheared limbs at the tree bases, abandoned. They donít appear to do anything with them once they cut them off. It doesnít seem to provide a pathway, they can move inside the canopy at will with it in place. The deer antlers show little if any evidence of gnawing. This didnít happen last year, nor in the dozen years I lived at another residence also with Italian Cypress. If I trap or remove the squirrels thereís no guarantee others wonít move in and continue the destructive behavior. This is really distressing as theyíre ruining the aesthetic of a once attractive yard and doing many thousands of dollars in damage.

Is there a rational answer as to why theyíre doing this and does a remedy exist? Many thanks.
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  #2  
Old 01-12-2012, 08:41 AM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lieu View Post
Is there a rational answer as to why theyíre doing this
They're destructive little bastards.
Quote:
and does a remedy exist?
Trapping would be my suggestion (maybe the next crop of tailed rats will focus on other activities). On the other hand, given that you're already battling other pest and disease problems (and seeing how this tree is known to be susceptible to such ailments), maybe it's time to start planning more pest-resistant replacement(s).
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Old 01-12-2012, 12:36 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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Googling showed me others have been frustrated with this behavior before too but I didn't see any answers as to why. There has to be one. I see lots of Italian Cypress that this doesn't happen to. I'd like to find some way to modify their behavior as nothing tried to date has been successful.

I've called Gander Mountain and will be buying traps, although there's no guarantee they'll 'bite.' Plus, as mentioned, that lasts until others move in.

As for replacements, I've considered it but these were big, expensive trees when planted, 11 years in the ground, 30' high, higher than the roof of a two story by 5 feet and they're back behind rows of manicured, perfectly healthy and thriving shrubs. It would be a major loss and then undertaking that would take years to return to attractive.
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Old 01-12-2012, 01:06 PM
Hero From Sector 7G Hero From Sector 7G is offline
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I wish you luck.

I've battled with squirrels over birdfeeders, gardens, and decorations. They always win, and in the end I have to carry with me the knowledge that I have been defeated by a teensy mammal.

I still love 'em and think they're adorable though. But I also laugh when I see spinning squirrels.
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Old 01-12-2012, 05:59 PM
Tully Mars Tully Mars is offline
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I will offer up a guess based on some behavior I observed this past summer. The extended drought is beginning to take its toll on their food supply. I have some sort of tree at my place in East Texas that produces a hard, tasteless, cherry-looking fruit. They are not edible. For many years, in the fall, the faux cherries fall to the ground and remain, uneaten, until they rot.

This year, the squirrels ate them.

I sat on the porch one morning and watched one gnaw on one for a while, then slink away. A few minutes later, it came back and picked up another and gnawed on it awhile.

There are two adjacent pecan trees that didn't produce pecans this year. The walnut trees produced a few nuts, but not as many as usual. The chestnut trees didn't produce any nuts.

It's going to be a tough winter for the squirrels.
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Old 01-12-2012, 06:06 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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I have quite a few squirrels, and I hardly ever see a dead one. But just a few days ago, a found a dead one... right under my Italian Cypress tree. I think some have moved into that tree since the owls left.
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Old 01-13-2012, 10:28 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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Originally Posted by Tully Mars View Post
I will offer up a guess based on some behavior I observed this past summer. The extended drought is beginning to take its toll on their food supply.

It's going to be a tough winter for the squirrels.
That's an interesting possibility. I have though talked to neighbors with both Live Oa
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Old 01-13-2012, 10:37 PM
lieu lieu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tully Mars View Post
I will offer up a guess based on some behavior I observed this past summer. The extended drought is beginning to take its toll on their food supply.

It's going to be a tough winter for the squirrels.
That's an interesting possibility. I have though talked to neighbors with both Live Oaks and Pecans that report there's still a good crop of acorns and papershells, this because of the sprinkler systems. We're 25" behind on the year but I've still seen plenty of squirrel-hid acorns in my planters that have sprouted into seedling oaks.

One plastic owl, six rubber snakes and five traps found their way home with me today. The fence they use as a highway next to all fourteen trees now looks like Bearclaw Chris Lapp met the set of Wipeout. And if that doesn't dissuade them, there's also a new pellet gun.

Eta: Sorry about the duplicate, one peril of posting from an iPhone.

Last edited by lieu; 01-13-2012 at 10:40 PM..
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Old 01-13-2012, 11:35 PM
Encinitas Encinitas is online now
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If the plastic owl doesn't work, try attracting some real ones. http://www.barnowlboxes.com/
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Old 01-15-2012, 11:16 PM
robinson robinson is offline
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Rodents have to gnaw because their teeth grow continuously. They will gnaw anything. Have had past problems with squirrels in the attic (they will gnaw through wood), and found they love to nibble Romex. Have also observed several instances of squirrel damage to aluminum electrical conductors (the neutral on aerial drops). They love pine cones, and will nip off a branch to free the cone. This fall I observed in my yard increased damage to yellow pine branch tips - with no nearby cone cores. We have plenty of acorns, so I don't think it is just food supply. It may be the habit of an individual. Don't know where Bedrock is - I'm in central South Carolina.

Last edited by robinson; 01-15-2012 at 11:19 PM.. Reason: punctuation, add info
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  #11  
Old 01-16-2012, 09:28 AM
lieu lieu is offline
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Thanks, robinson, that would make a lot of sense. It just threw me because it began all of a sudden after years of no issue. Right now I'll focus on removing the ones that are here and hopefully whatever replaces them won't have the same preference for I.C.s. I'll stop at Lowes on the way home and pick up some Romex. Some I'll leave out so they can whittle away on it to their dentin's content. Some I'll use as bait in the 5 traps now set.

I do think the snakes are having an immediate deterrent effect, but still think it wise to seek a more permanent solution.
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  #12  
Old 01-16-2012, 12:30 PM
DiosaBellissima DiosaBellissima is offline
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Why are squirrels chewing off Italian Cypress branches?

Because they are delicious.
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