Most squirrel nests are called dreys, and consist of clumped-together collections of leaves, twigs, bark, moss, and other compressed materials. They look like small, round bulbs of leaves bunched together. Squirrels usually build their dreys into tree cavities or around tree branches that are 20 feet high or higher.
Dreys can vary in size, but they’re usually around six to eight inches in diameter. They’re usually largely constructed of leaves but could be paper, wood, or even garbage depending on what’s available. If you see a dray near your home, it probably means a squirrel’s home “range” includes your yard. To understand what that means, you should know a few things about why squirrels build nests and what they’re for. Here’s what you should know:
Why do squirrels build nests?
Squirrels build nests to survive winter, survey their territory, and care for their children. Most squirrels will actually build several different dreys in the region of their territory. These nests will be close to their food stockpiles or particularly plentiful food sources. Different nests may even serve different purposes.
Tree nests help squirrels survive winter by insulating them from cold winds. Most squirrels will hibernate in a particularly well-reinforced nest, usually built into existing cover. Likewise, nests meant for raising offspring will be particularly well-hidden or protected from possible predators. If you find one dray around your home, look for more nearby.
When do squirrels build nests?
Squirrels mate and give birth to litters twice every year, from February to April and from August to September. After mating, squirrels gestate for about 40 days. Mother squirrels will spend that time stockpiling food for their babies and building their nests. Squirrels are usually solitary nest builders, but they will occasionally nest communally in order to raise a litter of offspring.
Squirrels continue building nests into September and October in order to survive winter. They’ll usually build winter nests in more protected, covered areas in order to insulate themselves from the wind. All squirrel dreys tend to incorporate the existing architecture of the trees the squirrels build them around. Look for dreys in nooks, crannies, and junctures where branches cross.
How do squirrels choose what to make their nests out of?
Squirrels are largely opportunistic nest builders; they work with whatever they can access. That being said, the actual construction of a drey is more complex than it might appear. First, squirrels weave together a base of twigs to form a “basket” that lays the foundation of the nest. Then, they collect soft, compressible materials like wet leaves, paper, insulation, or moss. Next, they’ll weave a second, outer net of twigs around this material to keep it compressed. Finally, they’ll fill in gaps with more leaves or soft material.
In order to complete this surprisingly involved construction, squirrels require a combination of rigid, soft, sturdy, and pliable materials. Squirrels stay on the lookout for nest material constantly, just like they never stop looking for food. They’ll collect twigs, branches, leaves, moss, paper, garbage, vines, and anything else they can use constantly.
How do squirrels choose where to build their nests?
Squirrels are famously (or infamously) all about food. Starting in late summer, the rodents kick into overdrive fattening themselves up for winter. Squirrels virtually never stop eating, so they have to remain as close to reliable food sources as possible. They’ll establish a “home range” near food sources and build nests in advantageous places within that home range.
When squirrels aren’t eating or sleeping, they’re on the move. Most squirrels like to build in areas where they can remain highly mobile, such as forests. If they can easily work their way from tree to tree, they can cover more ground and protect themselves from predators more effectively. The more easily they can access and move around an area, the more likely squirrels are to inhabit that area.
Why are squirrels building nests near me?
If you see a squirrel’s nest near you, then that squirrel must be finding what it needs near you. Squirrels build near areas where they can stay safe, find food and building material, and move around easily. Squirrels eat a wide variety of nuts, seeds, weeds, grasses, shrubs, roots, fungi, flowers, and fruits. They’ll also raid your garbage or garden given the slightest opportunity.
Along with food, squirrels like yards that are easy to get in and out of. They’re more likely to build in shady, forested areas or yards with climbable vegetation. Not only does vegetative cover help squirrels get around, but it also hides them from predators. It’s particularly important for mother squirrels to find hidden places to build their nests when raising young. If your yard provides them with food and hiding places, squirrels will seriously consider making themselves your neighbors.
Squirrels are never directly dangerous, but they can be considered a serious nuisance. In the process of looking for food (or building nests!), squirrels can be disruptive or even damage your home.
If you see a squirrel’s nest on your property, we recommend against attempting to remove it yourself. Instead, give Varment Guard a call. Our experts can remove squirrels and make sure they don’t come back quickly, effectively, and humanely. Relocating the disruptive rodents isn’t just best for you; it’s best for the squirrels, too!