Handling Squirrel Habitats: When to Remove Nests from Trees

Understanding the delicate balance between human needs and nature often requires nuanced decision-making.

When faced with a squirrel nest delicately perched in your backyard tree, you might wonder if it’s right to remove it.

Delving deep into this matter, we aim to provide a holistic understanding, prioritizing both the squirrels’ habitat and human concerns.

Understanding the Critters in Your Backyard

Let’s delve into understanding these fascinating backyard inhabitants and the dynamics they bring to our immediate environment.

Overview of Common Squirrel Types:

Tree squirrels, as nature’s agile acrobats, possess the ability to intrigue and frustrate homeowners in equal measure.

Most commonly, you’ll find the Eastern gray squirrel frolicking in North American backyards, especially in regions like Ontario.

But understanding these creatures goes beyond merely identifying them.

Habitats and Behaviors:

Trees provide more than just a playground for squirrels; they are home. Building nests, or “dreys”, these critters use a combination of twigs, leaves, and other available materials.

Their arboreal nature makes them exceptional climbers, adept at navigating the treetops.

Identifying a Squirrel’s Abode: Signs & Signals

Before embarking on a detailed exploration, let’s first understand the unmistakable markers of a squirrel’s dwelling and the telltale signals they offer

Visible Squirrel Activities:

If you spot squirrels frequently darting about a specific tree, chances are there’s a nest. Unlike birds, which might frequent various branches, squirrels tend to be territorial about their nesting space.

Characteristics of Squirrel Nests:

Understanding the architectural brilliance of squirrels can be fascinating.

Dreys often appear as leafy clumps, distinct from the organized structures of bird nests.

Nest placements, typically high up in trees, provide safety from predators.

To Remove or Not to Remove: Assessing the Impact

Before diving into the details, let’s consider the main reasons for and against taking action in our backyards:

Damages & Disturbances:

While squirrels can be a delightful sight, they might not always be the best neighbors.

Their exploratory nature might lead them to nibble on garden plants, cause potential structural damage, or even find ways into home interiors.

However, it’s essential to understand that most of their activities are driven by survival needs rather than malicious intent.

Ecological Considerations:

As much as they might inconvenience us at times, squirrels play a pivotal role in our ecosystems.

By burying nuts, they inadvertently participate in tree propagation, thereby promoting forest growth.

Deciding to remove their nests should consider these broader ecological implications.

Professional Help: When and Why You Need It

Let’s explore when and why seeking professional assistance can be the best choice for both homeowners and the critters:

Expertise Over Enthusiasm:

While it might be tempting to handle squirrel nests personally, it’s not always advisable.

DIY attempts can pose safety risks and may inadvertently harm the animals.

Instead, consulting with wildlife experts can offer insights and solutions tailored to your specific situation.

State Laws & Ethical Considerations:

Unknown to many, there are legal parameters surrounding the removal of squirrel nests in certain states.

Additionally, ethical considerations like the potential harm to young squirrels or the breeding cycle can play a significant role in deciding the right course of action.

The Return of the Squirrel: Post Removal Concerns

Reoccupying Habits:

An essential aspect of squirrel behavior is their territorial nature. 

Removing a nest doesn’t guarantee another won’t appear.

Prevention, in this case, might prove more effective than cure. 

Breeding Patterns & Nesting Seasons:

Squirrels typically have two primary nesting seasons.

The timing of nest removal should ideally avoid these periods, ensuring minimal disruption to their life cycle.

Prevention Over Cure: Keeping Squirrels at Bay

Stopping squirrels before they settle can save a lot of hassle.

Let’s look into effective methods to keep these agile creatures from making a home in your space.

Strategies for Deterrence:

Maintaining a squirrel-free zone might require a combination of strategies. From physical barriers to reducing food sources, several methods can deter these critters from making your backyard their home.

Modern Techniques and Solutions:

In our technologically advanced age, solutions like motion-activated sprinklers and ultrasonic sound devices can play a role in squirrel deterrence.

Additionally, ensuring homes are adequately sealed can prevent interior infestations.

Understanding Squirrel Behavior and Nesting Habits

While squirrels are often viewed as playful and harmless creatures, they are also skilled builders, creating nests called “dreys” for shelter and to raise their young.

A drey consists of twigs, leaves, and other natural materials intertwined to form a protective sphere.

  • Breeding Patterns: Squirrels typically have two primary mating seasons, one from February to April and another from August to September. This means nests found during these periods may contain babies.
  • Multiple Nests for Safety: It’s not uncommon for female squirrels to build several nests. This behavior can be attributed to their instinct to protect their offspring from predators or to ensure they have alternate shelters.

Before deciding to remove a squirrel nest from a tree, it’s essential to understand both the legal and ethical implications.

  • Legal Restrictions: In some states and countries, removing nests, especially those with babies, can be illegal or require special permits.
  • Ethical Concerns: Beyond the legal perspective, there’s the ethical consideration of removing a nest with babies. Such an action could lead to the babies being orphaned, which significantly reduces their chances of survival.

Professional Squirrel Nest Removal:

While it may be tempting to remove a squirrel nest personally, seeking the help of professionals is often the best course of action.

  • Safety Measures: Professionals are trained to handle wildlife and are equipped with the necessary safety gear. This ensures that both the squirrels and homeowners remain safe during the removal process.
  • Humane Techniques: Trained wildlife experts use humane methods to ensure the least amount of stress and harm to the animals. For instance, they might use live traps or one-way doors that allow squirrels to exit but not re-enter. 
  • Post-Removal Solutions: After removing a nest, professionals can also provide solutions to prevent future squirrel nesting. This might include tree trimming, installing barriers, or offering advice on how to make your property less appealing to squirrels.

Alternative Solutions to Nest Removal:

Instead of removing a squirrel nest, consider alternative solutions that cause less disruption to the animals.

  • Relocation: If the primary concern is damage to property or potential health risks, consider relocating the nest to another part of your property. However, ensure the new location is safe and suitable for the squirrels. 
  • Deterrents: There are several humane squirrel deterrents available in the market. These can range from motion-activated sprinklers to squirrel repellents. 
  • Provide Alternative Nesting Sites: By providing alternative nesting sites, like squirrel houses, you can divert squirrels from nesting in undesirable locations on your property.


Deciding whether or not to remove a squirrel nest from a tree is a complex decision that requires careful consideration.

By understanding squirrel behavior, being aware of the legal and ethical implications, and knowing the available options, homeowners can make informed decisions that are both humane and effective. 

When in doubt, always consult with wildlife professionals.

Life often presents us with moral quandaries, and the decision to remove a squirrel nest is no different.

Balancing our needs with those of nature is the crux of coexistence. 

About The Author
Hi 👋, I’m Billy Thomas, a passionate wildlife biologist with over 10 years of experience. With my expertise in wildlife biology and as a proud owner of over 20 squirrels as pets, I aim to provide reliable information, fun facts, and insights into the world of squirrels.

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