Squirrel damage to spruce branch tips

Spruce branch tips carpet the forest floor under a spruce tree. Squirrels will sometimes clip the ends of the branches off.

Spruce branch tips carpet the forest floor under a spruce tree. Squirrels will sometimes clip the ends of the branches off.

Have you ever found hundreds of green branch tips lying on the ground underneath or around a spruce tree? You’re probably observing squirrel damage. No one knows exactly why they do this although Shane Weber (former NOR Pest Specialist in Spooner) reported that he’s watched the little buggers clip and drop the tips of spruce branches without any apparent reason for doing so. There are also reports that they clip off the branch tips, nibble the new buds, and drop the remainder of the branch tip.

Michigan State University Extension has a document with photos of the squirrels eating the buds. I saw this damage near Woodruff this spring. Although it appears to be severe damage if you’re looking at the ground, when you look up at the trees you typically can’t see where any damage has occurred, so the health of the trees doesn’t appear to be compromised. 

Written by: Linda Williams, forest health specialist, Woodruff, (Linda.Williams@wisconsin.gov), 715-356-5211 x232.

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