An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide –

Red Squirrels & Sugar Maples

2-20-15 red squirrel2 IMG_7851We’re approaching what is often a very stressful time of year for many animals, including red squirrels. In the fall they feed on all kinds of conifer seeds, mushrooms, insects, nuts and the many fruits and berries that are available. They also have caches of cones, which they turn to once there is a scarcity of food elsewhere.

Once these caches are used up, usually by late winter or early spring, red squirrels turn to sugar maples for nutrients. Their timing is perfect, for this is when sap is starting to be drawn up from the roots of trees. Red squirrels are known to harvest this sap by making single bites into the tree with their incisors. These bites go deep enough to tap into the tree’s xylem tissue, which is where the sap is flowing. The puncture causes the sap to flow out of the tree, but the squirrel delays its gratification. It leaves and returns later to lick up the sugary residue that remains on the branch after most of the water has evaporated from the sap.

Not only do red squirrels help themselves to sugar maple sap, but they have developed a taste for the buds, and later in the spring, the flowers, of both red and sugar maples. Red squirrels are not the only culprits – gray squirrels and flying squirrels also make short work of buds and flowers from these trees.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to and click on the yellow “donate” button.

5 responses

  1. Joe Lopes

    We live in SE Massachusetts on Cape Cod. We have one sugar maple on out 2 acre property and the gray squirrels start gnawing on it usually in March. Last 2 years we’ve noticed a significant lack of foliage on it and think it’s because the squirrels have eaten so many of the buds. They absolutely love the sap! Thanks for these posts. We are new to your site. My sister in NH intro’d me to it.

    February 20, 2015 at 9:06 am

  2. elizabeth stewart

    After a relatively quiet winter the noise in my walls and ceilings last night from red Squirrels or flying squirrels was something else – loud. b

    February 20, 2015 at 10:30 am

  3. Cute photo! Rascally little devils rule our feeders!

    February 20, 2015 at 10:38 am


    Hi Mary, I read your blog every day and have learned and been reminded of so much. I live in Concord, MA and found rabbit tracks and scat under my bird feeder. Since I haven’t been able to reach the bird feeder in weeks, I’ve been throwing bird seed on the ground below it. Do rabbits eat bird seed? Thanks,

    Nancy Reilly

    Nancy Reilly 145 Monument Street Concord, MA 01742 978-369-2705 Website:


    February 20, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    • Oh, yes, Nancy. Cottontails will scarf up bird seed!

      February 20, 2015 at 3:54 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s