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  • USA Wildlife Removal Education Guide - Squirrel nests, how they are built, and where

Squirrel nests, how they are built, and where

Tree squirrels, gray or red, and flying squirrels prefer to build nests in trees. A “dray” or dray nest is an assemblage of twigs, dry leaves, and grass and other natural materials in the fork of a tree branch or crotch of the tree as a high as the squirrel can go. Most squirrels prefer to put their dray 30 to 45 feet of the ground. A dray nest can also be found in the exterior overhang of a building, the attic space of a home, or rock face. A “cavity nest” or den is the nest of a squirrel that has taken up residence in a hollow tree or log.

In suburban areas these can be found in pipes barrels or any other convenient spot that provides shelter. These nests are made in much the same way as a dray nest, but is enclosed in a cavity, hence the name. You can easily recognize a dray because the finished product is a hollow orb, measuring up to 3 feet in diameter. This large spherical structure will have one to three entrances, depending on its size. Leafy twigs and other natural materials are woven on the outside and the inside is lined softer materials like, such as grass, and moss. Squirrels begin to gather their construction materials in late summer. They carefully gnaw off twigs that still have green leaves so that as they dry in place they will fill in gaps in the dray. Often one squirrel will build more than one day in a season just in case one is destroyed.

Materials used can vary from region to region and type of squirrel. Eastern grey squirrels prefer twigs for deciduous trees like elm, oak and beech while the southern flying squirrels prefers fungal rhizomorphs, the thread like parts of fungus spread across forest floors. The S. flying squirrels will combine this material with deciduous leaves and bark while the Northern flying squirrel is partial to Cedar bark and lichens. A squirrel will constantly perform upkeep on its dray to keep out bad weather and provide safety from predators.

Squirrels don’t always build their own drays. Often a scurry will simply take over an abandoned dray if it is well constructed and in a safe place. Some drays have been used year after year for over a decade and by generations of the same squirrel family.

During mating season and in extreme cold the males and females will share a day, but during pregnancy, birth, and child rearing, only the female and her pups will occupy the nest.

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