For the last 150 years, the pecan tree has been widely cultivated as a high-yield crop in the United States with a yearly value of 100 to 200 million dollars. Currently, over 500 hardy pecan cultivars produce pecan crops, according to the University of Florida. One of the main threats to the pecan industry and crop yield is the common squirrel.
Squirrel Pecan Consumption
It is estimated that one tiny squirrel can easily consume 50 pounds of pecans per year, according to the University of Florida. Squirrels also hoard and bury up to two pounds of pecans per day. The squirrels do not care if the nuts are green or immature; they will continue to consume them and stash them in hiding locations. Squirrels also harm pecan trees by damaging delicate twigs, limbs and foliage.
Encasing pecan trees in two-foot-wide metal collars placed six feet above the ground can protect singular trees, but the squirrel must not have a point from which to leap onto the tree. An orchard of pecan trees located beside woodlands and close to buildings easily provides the squirrels with ladders by which to bypass the metal collars. A squirrel will simply climb a neighboring tree or building and leap from it onto the pecan tree's branches without ever touching the ground.
Establishing An Open Area
Establishing an open area around a pecan grove will often help keep squirrel populations away. Squirrels hesitate to run across open fields for fear of owls, hawks and other predators. The squirrel's natural instincts will kick in and keep the squirrel away from a grove of pecan trees that is surrounded by open areas.
Live traps are often utilized for squirrel control, but they only prove moderately successful, as new squirrels constantly replace the old. The live traps are easily baited and spring without injury to the squirrel. The squirrel can then be relocated to an area miles away from the orchard.
Many areas in the South offer a hunting season on squirrels. Some property owners readily hunt squirrels no matter what time of year it is. As with live traps, hunting only offers a limited control method. Orchard owners are strongly discouraged from using poisons to control squirrels because of the extreme danger to other mammals, birds and humans.