Squirrel Management


The eastern gray and eastern fox squirrels are the most common members of the squirrel family living in Missouri. Although both squirrels occur throughout the state, the "grays" are more common in bottomlands and rivers with a bushy understory and the "foxes" along higher ridges. 

Squirrels rely on the right combination of trees for food, shelter, and nesting. You can increase the number of squirrels on most lands. Certain practices, such as installing den boxes, give prompt results. Others require several years to take effect.

Image of a gray squirrel
MDC Staff
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Cover Needs

The supply of den trees — those with cavities for shelter and nesting — is a major factor limiting squirrel populations. A mature forest usually has more cavities for squirrels than younger woodland. Visit the woodlands page to learn how to manage your property’s forest for den trees.

In woodlands with fewer than four natural dens per acre, artificial dens will be of value. A pair of squirrels usually requires two to three dens — one for the male, female, and raising the young. Competition for dens among squirrels, owls, bees, snakes, and other cavity users is intense. When artificial dens are supplied, some of this competition is reduced.

You can build squirrel dens from auto tires, lumber, sawmill slabs, or hollow logs cut in sections.

Food Needs

Good squirrel habitats have woodlands of around 40 acres or larger with at least 50–75 trees that produce nuts, seeds, or fruits — such as oak, hickory, walnut, elm, maple, and mulberry. Mature trees will increase the volume of food produced.

Timber stand improvement reduces competition among trees and will increase the production of acorns and other squirrel foods. Any practice that increases the diversity of plants within a woodland will usually benefit squirrels.

Important food plants for squirrels:

  • American elm
  • American plum
  • apple
  • bitternut hickory
  • black oak
  • black walnut
  • chestnut oak
  • chinquapin oak
  • corn
  • fungi
  • grapes
  • honey locust
  • mockernut hickory
  • Osage orange
  • pecan
  • pin oak
  • post oak
  • red mulberry
  • red oak
  • shagbark hickory
  • shellbark hickory
  • shumard oak
  • silver maple
  • wheat
  • white oak
Related Content

Squirrels can eat garden plants and bulbs, gnaw on decks and siding, and wreak havoc if they get inside your house.


Want better squirrel hunting? Let your Missouri woods grow to maturity. Get tips for improving squirrel habitat.