I know we all love to watch and feed those cute squirrels we see all over Cheyenne but what if I told you that we should stop feeding them! Squirrels can create a lot of damage to people's homes and gardens, personal items, urban birds, and most importantly our trees!
There are three common squirrels we see throughout Cheyenne. They are the American Red Squirrel, the Eastern Fox Squirrel, and the Eastern Gray Squirrel.
Squirrels chew through siding, underneath eaves, unscreened chimneys, and vents. They also create damage to roofs, electrical wiring and insulation to homes and structures. Squirrels often ruin plants, gardens, and lawns as well by digging. Unfortunately, they play a small role in the predation of urban bird nests by occasionally eating eggs and small chicks. As many of us can agree on, they are a nuisance when they invade and damage bird feeders.
What we are most concerned about is the damage they are doing to our trees here in Cheyenne. We have been seeing a lot of squirrels and damage to trees around Lions Park, Holliday Park, the Municipal building, and an extensive amount of damage to downtown trees. Squirrels love to chew on tree bark and twigs which strips all the water and nutrients. As they chew and eat, they 'girdle' the tree, and end up killing branches. This can lead to the killing of many trees around town and create great damage to young and older trees. This damage to trees is greatly reducing future forest canopy. The squirrel population in Cheyenne has gotten to an unmanageable or unsustainable amount and are a big contributor to the accelerate demise of so many mature and newly planted trees. We are asking you to please stop feeding the squirrels so tree canopy can be restored and maintained.
It is important that we communicate and gain the publics support though outreach and education, so we can help reduce the number of squirrels throughout Cheyenne and encourage the public to stop feeding them!
Don't Feed the Squirrels Flyer (PDF)
Squirrel Facts and Pictures
Here are a few pictures of squirrel damage to trees at Lion's Park, the Capitol Building, and Holliday Park. The squirrel's strip the bark which deprives the tree all the water and nutrients it needs to survive. As they chew and eat, they 'girdle' the tree, and end up killing branches. This can lead to the killing of many trees around town and create great damage to young and older trees. This damage to trees is greatly reducing future forest canopy.
Squirrels like to chew and feed on branches, and trunks of trees, often removing the bark and cambium layer which disrupts the movement of water and nutrients throughout the tree. With older trees, as squirrel damage increases, branches become girdled which results in extensive dieback which weakens the tree. With younger trees, squirrels often girdle the trunk which results in tree mortality. Unfortunately, this trend is occurring in several parks and is threatening the vitality of the forest canopy.
|Photos (left to right): Here is another mature tree outside of the Capitol building with extensive squirrel damage. The picture on the right of it is the same tree. As you can see, the squirrel damage is present on multiple branches throughout the tree. Squirrels do a bit more damage to newly planted trees that have not yet had time to become established. Branches become girdled which results in extensive dieback which weakens the tree. With younger trees, squirrels often girdle the trunk which results in tree mortality.
Mature Ohio Buckeye tree with extensive squirrel damage. As you can see, the squirrels have stripped away at the bark which disrupts the movement of water and nutrients throughout the tree.
Squirrels found in Cheyenne
- 3 "tree squirrel" species here in Cheyenne.
- American Red Squirrel, Eastern Fox Squirrel, and the Eastern Gray Squirrel.
- American red squirrel is the only native member of the genus Tamiasciurus ("pine "squirrels) to be located here in WY.
- The fox squirrel and the eastern gray squirrel are also found in scattered populations in Wyoming.
- Neither was historically found in this state but have either followed agriculture to Wyoming or are the result of released former squirrel populations (reproduction of many squirrels).
Why we should be concerned
- Damage to homes and structures.
- Damage to gardens, plants, and trees.
- Not many predators in town to help reduce numbers. Predators of squirrels include red tailed hawks, grey foxes, coyotes, nondomestic cats, and dogs.
- Impact on urban birds.
- Reduced fear of humans. Behavior could become aggressive.
- Human food is not healthy for wildlife. Have their own specialized diets.
- More squirrels than the ecosystem can really handle.
Damage to homes/structures
- Chew through siding, underneath eaves, unscreened chimneys, and vents.
- May chew on insulation and wires (fire risk).
- Can short out transformers when they run along utility wires and cables.
- Damage to roofs, electrical wiring, and insulation.
- Damage to trash cans.
Damage to property: chew up golf bags, etc.
Damage to gardens, plants, and trees
- Damage to landscaping and plants.
- Dig in gardens and lawns.
- Chew on bark and twigs of trees and shrubbery.
- Strip the outer bark from tree trunks and main branches.
- Chew bark and clip twigs - ultimately killing branches and trees, damage to young and older trees.
- "Makes it harder for crew to replace older trees with young saplings because of the damage to the trees from the squirrels because they are killing them" –Mark Ellison.
- Squirrels strip trees of their bark.
Impact on urban birds
- Squirrels are omnivores.
- Small role in predation on urban bird nests.
- May eat eggs/chicks from bird nests.
- Invade/damage bird feeders.
- Eat from feeders, reduce food for urban birds.
- Scare off bi.
- Potential decrease in urban birds in parks, gardens, etc.
- With less birds, comes less birders to admire all the urban birds. Could make them upset or stop visiting the parks, etc.
What we can do to help with the increasing squirrel population
- Exclusions and Habitat Modifications: make area of concern less appealing or less habitable.
- Squirrel proof your home. Inspecting for potential entrances and making repairs. Cover the inside of attic vents.
- Fencing to protect gardens (1 inch mesh wire). Should be 30 inches high and extend 6 inches below ground for optimal results/coverage.
- Bird feeders off ground. 6 feet off ground.
- Petroleum jelly to help reduce climbing up bird feeders.
- Wrap trees with a special protectant material (metal sheeting) or with a loose wrap of mesh fencing to help protect stripping of tree bark.
- Trim up branches that are within 6 ft reach of any house or structure.
- Repellents: to keep squirrels from burrowing in trees or gnawing on the bark.
- Coyote urine or other attractants.
- Chemical repellants.
- Squirrel away for bird feeders.
- Noise Devices: to potentially scare away squirrels from specific areas.
- Live Trapping/Capture:
- Relocation of squirrels.
- Best to Call WY Game and Fish or Animal Control about their rules, advice, management, and regulations.
- Stop feeding squirrels throughout Cheyenne.
These are our Please Don’t Feed Squirrel signs.
Due to habitual feeding of squirrels, populations have grown to an unmanageable level in several parks and natural areas. This growing population of squirrels and their aggressive habits have led to an increase in tree dieback and mortality. We decided here at the Cheyenne Urban Forestry Division to place “Please Don’t Feed Squirrels” signs throughout Cheyenne parks in response to an abnormally high population of destructive squirrels. We have placed these signs around Holliday Park and Lion’s Park so far.