top of page

Squirrel Tree Damage

      High population density of the Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) in Des Moines, Iowa has reached a breaking point for Trees. Olson Tree Care estimates it is the Number #1 damaging factor of our urban trees.


      With no public awareness, monitoring of fox squirrel populations, or thresholds in place, this adaptive squirrel is on track to decimate urban tree populations in Iowa.

fox squirrel in tree

      Some Arborists in Des Moines, IA believe that they damage trees due to dietary needs and in an attempt to keep the their teeth short. Olson Tree Care's observation of specificity to certain tree species gives credence to the dietary deduction, yet there is also a functional use of squirrel tree chewing. Chewing often causes the formation of a usable perch that functions as a water basin. While this is creative and useful to

the squirrel, large populations are increasing damage to the environment.

      It is hard to find a study on fox squirrel populations in urban areas, but Olson Tree Care in West Des Moines, Iowa speculates that the current squirrel problem in Des Moines, Iowa is due to an urban fox squirrel population increased 10x’s from that in rural areas in Iowa. While other species of squirrels face extinction the fox squirrel seeks to replace them.

Squirrel Damage effects on Trees

- Branched die back

- Branch failure.

- Depletion of resources.

- Tree decline.

- Tree death

Tree Services and Des Moines Arborist offering Aerial inspection is required as squirrel chewing occurs to the tops of tree branches preventing observation from the ground.


- Tree guards.  ($40 per foot of circumference)

 Olson Tree Care recommend annual Arborist Inspection with removal after 2 growing seasons. After 1 year with the guard off this cycle can be repeated if needed. (Another Tree Care option

is winter installation with removal during the growing season annually)

- Remove bird feeders and bird baths away from the tree.

- Selective pruning cuts to limit access to tree.

*In extreme circumstances professional relocation of groups may be required.

Before and After Tree Guard installation for Squirrels

     The environmental problem of Fox squirrels is much bigger than a tree guard can solve. While this is a good measure to protect your tree there still are some areas that need correction by Iowa DNR. Fox squirrels are invasive in other areas of the country and believed to be contributing to the extinction of more fragile squirrel species. In addition, they have been the cause of depleted historic tree stands, which is the current situation we find ourselves in Des Moines, Iowa.​

       While this current population problem has more to do with human influences on our environment, we can limit our impact with these slight behavior modifications.

bottom of page