Wildlife Education - Information, Advice About Squirrel nests, how they are built, and where

Squirrel nests, how they are built, and where

Squirrels build their nests up high, and in the wire this would have meant in the forks of high tree branches. These days, high tree forks are hard to come by and that’s why these wild animals are moving into urban and residential areas. They have nowhere else to go - we are forcing them into OUR world. From a distance away, a squirrels nest will look like a clump of twigs and leaves, but when you take a closer look you’ll see that it is quite an intricate design, with a hollowed out center. The inner lining is usually made up of things such as bark shreds, moss, leaves and also grass, and is stuffed in between the woven twigs. With a family of squirrels huddled up inside, the nests actually prove quite warm throughout the colder months. Not quite as warm as a nest hidden within the safety of an attic, however, and seeing as this is one of the least-visited areas of your home, thy can normally get away with living up there quite comfortably for a while before you notice them.



There are a number of types of squirrels in the world. They all have many similarities, as well as differences. Part of learning to identify a squirrel is learining to identify where it lives. Gray or red tree squirrels, as well as the flying squirrel prefer to live and build their nests in trees. A squirrel's nest is called a “dray” or dray nest. It is usually a gathering of twigs, dried out leaves and grasses, as well as a host of other natural materials built carefully into the fork of a tree. It is normally placed in the tree as a high as the squirrel can physically climb. Squirrels most often try to have their dray a minimum of 30 off the ground. If trees are not readily available, such as in an urban setting, a dray nest can be found tucked into the exterior overhang of a tall building, stashed away in the attic of someone's home, or even in the crevices of a rock wall. If looking for it, you can easily recognize a dray in a tree.

The finished product is a large hollowed out orb that can measure up to a full 3 feet in diameter. This ball like structure is built with one to three separate entrances, according to its size. Squirrels will use lots of leafy twigs, leafy grasses, and small vines as well as other natural materials. These gathered things are woven together to form the outside. The inside is them lined with softer materials like, such as young grass, and moss. Squirrels usually begin gathering and storing their building materials in late summer. You will see them carefully gnaw off twigs that still have green leaves so that as they dry they will ask as a patch to fill in air gaps in the dray. Squirrels will often build more than one dray each season in case one nest is destroyed, or taken over by a larger creature.

Unlike a dray, there are a number of different types of dens or “cavity nests”. Cavity nests are most often a den of a squirrel that has found refuge in the hollow of a dead tree or a log in the woods. It is different in the city. In an urban setting, squirrel dens can be found in culvert pipes, exhaust vents, old barrels, or any other secluded spot that provides ample shelter. A den nest is made from the same type materials as a dray, and in much the same fashion, but is tightly enclosed in a cavity, hence the name, “den”. Materials used for a den or a dray can vary from place to place as well as from the type of squirrel. Eastern grey squirrels are partial to twigs taken from deciduous trees like elm, oak and beech. Their southern flying cousins prefer thick and spongy fungal rhizomorphs they gather batches of the thread like parts of fungus that spread like tendrils across forest floors. This fungal matter is combined with deciduous leaves and tree bark to make a tough and comfortable dray.

The Northern flying squirrel prefers Cedar tree bark and the lichens that grow around them. Squirrels in the city may use bits of trash or manmade materials in theirs. No matter what the squirrel, all of them will maintain upkeep on a dray assure it can keep out bad weather, provide ample coverage, and assure safety from predators.

There are some Squirrels don't build their own drays. A scurry (Communal group of squirrels) has been known to take over an abandoned dray if they find it well constructed, conveniently located, and in a safe place. Sometimes, Drays are just repaired and then used year after year for decades by descendants of the same squirrel family if the location is extremely favorable.

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Please be kind to squirrels! They are intelligent animals, and believe it or not, they definitely have emotions!
If you have any questions about squirrels in attics, just email me at david@squirrel-attic.com