New Jersey squirrels always seem to be gnawing on something. Their gnawing behavior has a purpose. Like rats and other rodents, squirrels’ teeth grow constantly. Their incessant gnawing is necessary to keep their teeth sharp and worn down to the proper length for eating. If squirrels stopped gnawing, their teeth would soon outgrow their mouths and the animals would starve to death.
But their need to gnaw only partially explains a curious winter behavior that concerns many Monmouth County, NJ residents. Around this time of year and into spring, it is not unusual to see squirrels chewing the bark off tree branches. Bark stripping seems to serve two purposes. It exposes the tree’s nutrient-rich cambium layer hidden beneath the bark which may serve as a food source for hungry squirrels. Squirrels also use strips of bark in nest building and to line their nests before giving birth.
Bark stripping can damage Ocean County, NJ landscape trees. Removal of the tree’s protective bark exposes the plant’s softer inner layers, increasing the risk of disease and insect damage. A healthy tree will usually recover from squirrel damage, but recovery from extensive bark stripping may take some time during which leafing and blooming may suffer. Squirrels tend to strip bark only from the top sides of upper branches, rarely girdling the branch. Girdling cuts off the tree’s nutrient source and will cause the tree to die.
Squirrels that persistently damage trees may be nesting nearby, possibly in your attic. Squirrels are aggressive and not easily deterred. If squirrels are living in your attic or damaging your trees, contact Allison Pest Control’s wildlife removal experts for safe, humane trapping and removal of nuisance wildlife.