A Gray Squirrel Can Have Multiple Nests
By Chris Williams on June 6, 2016.
We seem to have a squirrel explosion in our yard. I counted about 10 leaf nests way high up in trees. Does each squirrel have its own nest and why do they make them so high up? Seems like the babies would fall out. G. S., Ayer, MA
I presume you are talking about gray squirrels, and in that case it is not one nest per squirrel, it’s actually more like 5-10 nests per squirrel! A single gray squirrel can have several leaf nests (called “dreys,” by the way), presumably as a way to escape parasites such as mange mites, fleas, and ticks in a single nest.
Multiple nests may also reduce the amount of squirrel scent in any one nest that could attract predators (see Where do Gray Squirrels Live?). It’s believed that squirrels build their leaf nests up high to escape predators such as foxes. However, it puts them closer to the talons of hawks and owls.
Both male and female gray squirrels build dreys. Dreys look like a messy pile of loose leaves but they are actually made up of three layers and can weigh 6 to 7 pounds. The outermost layer is leaves and twigs, but inside that is a woven insulating layer of bark and vines. The innermost layer where the squirrels sleep is composed of any fluffy stuff that the squirrels can find. The opening to the drey is a hole of sorts near the bottom on the opposite side of the prevailing wind and often facing a branch. Baby squirrels are pretty well protected in a leaf nest, but not as well protected as in a tree hole nest.
Squirrels Prefer Cavity Nests (and Your Attic!)
Squirrels also live in cavity nests like tree holes. Tree holes are the preferred nest site for females giving birth, especially in the winter, because cavity dens offer better protection from predators and weather; the young are susceptible to pneumonia. Squirrels often have both types of nests and may move into leaf nests in the summer because they are cooler and have fewer parasites that cavity den nests. Summer litters may be born in leaf nests (see Squirrel Breeding Cycles). When male squirrels are weaned, mom kicks them out of the cozy nest (although female young are allowed to stay), so the guys are forced to build dreys of their own.
Even with all these nesting options, sometimes squirrels prefer to live in the warmth and comfort of our attics instead. If you’ve had problems with squirrels getting into your attic or have seen evidence of gnawing around your roofline, give Colonial Pest a call. We humanely remove nuisance squirrels and also find and seal openings that squirrels could use to get into your home. Our squirrel exclusion work is guaranteed.