Why do grey squirrels "prune" nut trees?

Discussion in 'Celebrate Biodiversity' started by Jon45150, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. Jon45150

    Jon45150 Active Member

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    Cincinnati, OH, USA
    I am not sure if this is the right forum for this or not...

    OK, I used to think I understood why squirrels do this. I THOUGHT they did this because some of the nuts were near the tips of branches where they could not safely go.

    A few weeks ago my wife and I were sitting on our bench under a Shagbark Hickory tree and a squirrel was busy way up in the tree pruning a few twigs. I took a look at one of the twigs that had freshly fallen and there were no nuts on the twig.

    So I developed another theory - their teeth grow constantly so they probably need to chew on SOMETHING, and maybe pruning the twigs does this. But it may have another benefit in that it could encourage sprouting on the twigs the following year to produce more nuts.

    Last weekend this newer theory was destroyed when we discovered a very small bitternut hickory sapling that had been girdled just inches off the ground. It looked like the typical squirrel damage where the twig is chewed all around the circumference. It was left standing (only a toothpick-thick trunk was holding it up) just as I often see chewed twigs hanging from trees waiting to fall.

    I cannot see how this makes sense from a squirrel nor a tree survival standpoint. There are no nut trees in the immediate vicinity of the sapling - the closest mother tree was further uphill (I was thinking maybe the squirrel wanted to cut competition from other nut trees). The sapling probably would have survived since it was at the forest edge where it would have received plenty of sunlight.

    OK, so does anybody know why squirrels do this?
  2. togata57

    togata57 Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    Columbus, Ohio
  3. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    Kootenays, BC, Canada
    They do it to my Pine trees very early in spring.

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