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Eastern Gray Squirrels Lining Nests

Congratulations to Wanda Rice, the first Naturally Curious reader to recognize sign made by a squirrel collecting nesting material. Many people thought it might be a porcupine at work, but porcupines, as “hellomolly” pointed out in her comment, do not leave strips of bark hanging, while squirrels do.

In the Mystery Photo, an Eastern Gray Squirrel had been shredding and collecting the thin bark of a Maple Sugar sapling to line its nest with.  Gray squirrels nest throughout the year, but nesting activity peaks during their two mating seasons (December -March, and May – July).  They build two types of nests – large, round, leafy nests among tree branches (dreys) and cavity nests, the latter being preferred during the colder months. Abandoned woodpeckers nests as well as natural-formed cavities provide additional protection in the winter from predators as well as the elements. (Drey broods are 40 percent less likely to survive than squirrels born in tree cavities — a hole no wider than three or four inches protects them from large predators such as raccoons.) Both types of nests are lined with soft material such as lichen, moss, grass, pine needles and shredded bark.

The effect of a squirrel’s stripping a tree’s bark depends on the extent of the damage. Usually a young tree is chosen due to the thinness of the bark and the ease with which it can be stripped.  Although a tree can survive with some of its bark removed, it will die if the damage is too severe or bark is stripped off around the tree’s circumference.  Stripped bark not only provides nesting material but the process of stripping the bark exposes the tree’s cambium layer which contains the nutrients and sugars a tree has produced and which squirrels readily consume. (Eastern Gray Squirrel photos by Margaret Barker Clark)

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8 responses

  1. Laurie Spry

    So amazing what I DON’T know about the common grey squirrel! I had no idea they did this. Thanks Mary for another amazing informative mystery photo.

    February 26, 2020 at 8:14 am

  2. Carole Hohl

    Yes, I do. I haven’t seen that kind of squirrel sign.

    Carole

    Sent from miPhone

    >

    February 26, 2020 at 8:30 am

  3. kathiefive

    Wow, this is so cool! I never knew this!

    February 26, 2020 at 9:04 am

  4. Alice

    I’ll be looking at those little rascals in a different way. Having a cozy home is important!

    February 26, 2020 at 9:39 am

  5. Wow–that makes more sense around here than a porcupine, since our “woods” looks much like the one in the photo, and since we have zillions of squirrels around here. I found a stick in the woods that had been stripped very much this way. Thanks for the information, as always!

    February 26, 2020 at 9:48 am

  6. Nancy Malcolm

    By mistake I went to wordpress and unsubscribed and now I can’t get you back. Help! I love your blog. Thank you Nancy Malcolm nanjune49@gmail.com

    On Wed, Feb 26, 2020 at 8:04 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: ” Congratulations to Wanda Rice, the first Naturally > Curious reader to recognize sign made by a squirrel collecting nesting > material. Many people thought it might be a porcupine at work, but > porcupines, as “hellomolly” pointed out in her comment, do not” >

    February 26, 2020 at 1:12 pm

  7. Bill on the Hill

    Thanks Mary, U never disappoint! I have indeed seen this on my property in the past & I obviously was mistaken assuming it was the work of porcupine!
    I rarely see grey squirrels on the property, only once in a blue moon, however there is no shortage of mischievous red squirrels!
    Bill… :~)

    February 28, 2020 at 11:39 am

  8. jimbo2611@hotmail.com

    Wow.  We have just had a lot of ash trees taken down because the woodpecker has taken all of the outside bark off the tree literally from the base to the t

    March 10, 2020 at 5:43 pm

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