As you walk through the forest this fall, you will see fallen leaves and perhaps the occasional mistimed acorn – 2015 was not a mast year for oaks (Quercus) or hickories (Carya) here at Sewanee. In addition to these fallen leaves, you might see bunches of scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) twigs with living leaves still attached. These leaf clumps are not the result of natural processes or boring beetles as may commonly be the case – instead, squirrels are the culprit.
Below, you can see where the squirrel severed the branch. While we aren’t sure of the motives of the squirrels, it is possible that they snip off scarlet oak twigs for the purpose of a building winter nests. Why squirrels appear to be most heavily targeting scarlet oaks is a mystery, but they certainly aren’t being tidy with their clippings.