Better Squirrel Habitat

Tips for improving squirrel habitat

Browse tips for improving squirrel habitat on your Missouri land.

Call your private land conservationist for more help improving your rural acreage or farm for squirrels.

Visit our Squirrel Control page for tips on controlling nuisance squirrels.

Want better Missouri squirrel hunting? Let your woods grow to maturity

Missouri’s two kinds of tree squirrels, gray and fox, depend upon the right combination of trees for food, shelter and nesting.

Squirrels thrive in nearly mature or mature forests. They are most attracted to land with at least 50 to 75 nut and shelter trees, such as oak, hickory, walnut, pecan, elm, maple and mulberry trees.

During drought, squirrels will migrate to within one-quarter to one-half mile of open water, such as a pond or stream, if their local water source dries up.

Threats to squirrel habitat

Wild fire. Uncontrolled burning destroys ground cover and food-producing shrubs, as well as slows regeneration of timber stands. Fire scars on trees develop into butt cavities, which are not suitable for squirrel dens.

Uncontrolled livestock. Continuous grazing removes wildflowers, shrubs and small trees that produce fruit and nuts. Acorn-eating hogs compete with squirrels and other wildlife.

Manage your woods for squirrels

Improve solid stands of even-aged timber by cutting an occasional tree or group of trees to open up the canopy. This promotes tree crown growth, and nut production and improves seedling growth. This encourages different kinds of trees and promotes the growth of uneven-aged stands, insuring a more dependable food supply and natural den development.

Give these trees room to grow: mulberry, wild cherry, elm, maples, hickories, oaks, pecan, walnutand ash are food producers for squirrels. Sycamores, cottonwoods, and hackberries develop den cavities more rapidly than many of the commercial hardwoods..

Build nest boxes: Young woods with few natural cavities can be enhanced for squirrels with nest boxes made from lumber, old tires, sawmill slabs, or sections of hollow log. Squirrels should have 4 or more nest cavities per acre. Several other species of wildlife will benefit from these nest structures as well.

Undergrowth and odd lots for squirrels

Manage for a good undergrowth of hazel, hawthorn, dogwood, redbud, brambles and wild grape (browse our field guide for these trees). Windfalls or downed trees help create ground cover that attracts gray squirrels.

Leave nut-producing trees in the fencerows and odd corners where possible. Trees and shrubs growing in the open with less competition are thriftier and yield more food than those in forests. Grape, sumac, hazel, brambles and other shrubs (browse our field guide for more info) furnish ground cover and food. These also provide protection for squirrels using fencerows as travel lanes.

Wildlife Reminders

Watch for the reddish orange blooms of the butterfly milkweed along roadsides and in diverse grasslands now through August.

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