What Eats Tree Bark? 7 Animals That Eat Tree Bark

Last updated on October 18th, 2022

What animals eat tree bark? We all have this question on our minds and we’ve all watched squirrels scurrying across tree branches.

But one day on my way home, I discovered an interesting fact about squirrels eating behaviors. They strip off the bark of the tree trunk and feed happily on them.

Animals that eat tree bark:

  • Black Bear
  • Mice
  • Vole
  • Porcupine
  • Rabbit
  • Mountain Beaver
  • Squirrel

List of Animals That Eat Tree Bark

1. Black Bear

black bear eating tree bark

Black bears are often seen in residential areas where they find adequate food supply.

Black bears are often attracted to yards, and one way to prevent them from entering is to remove anything outdoors that may be a food source for them. This includes bird feeders or even the trash bin.

Even if there isn’t any food in these places, black bears wouldn’t hesitate to come inside your yard to check out whether they can find any.

Alternatively, you can also prune or trim your trees to prevent black bears from damaging the bark.

A USDA Forest Service report has revealed that some fir trees, especially the Douglas species are 4 times more likely to get damaged if left unpruned.

Furthermore, in the Pacific Northwest, these black bears have a particular liking for Douglas fir trees.

The same goes for unpruned Western hemlock trees. Therefore, we advise you to take care of your plants by pruning them regularly.

2. Mice and Voles

mouse standing on twigs and dried leaves

Voles and deer mice generally rip off the bark from various plant species during the winter season. These creatures typically remove the part of the bark that is below the snow line.

This is why you may have seen that after the snow melts, the trees appear stripped off in and around the portion that was covered by snow.

You can easily catch voles or deer mice using a mousetrap.

Another way to prevent these rodents from harming your trees is by packing down the snow line as tightly as possible, especially near the tree.

It’ll prevent these creatures from building any passageways through the snow to reach your tree.

Additionally, you can also mow your lawn or yard during late fall, because this will help to decrease the ground cover that voles and mice use to hide.

After mowing your lawn grass, you can further place bait stations or mouse traps in the areas in which voles or other creatures have been living before.

There are other preventive measures you can take, such as placing hardware cloth cylinders at least three inches below the ground near the base of young trees.

It will prevent rodents from burrowing holes underneath the ground. Better yet, try to create physical barriers between the tree and these harmful rodents.

3. Porcupines

porcupine on tree branch

There are several methods to stop porcupines from destroying your tree bark. One way would be to build a fence around your lawn or yard to keep these rodents at bay.

Another option will be to set up traps if the above method seems difficult. However, if you’re sure that only a handful of porcupines are ruining your tree bark, then you can simply capture and release them as far away from your yard as possible, maybe around 10 miles away or more.

Alternatively, you can choose to use a repellent made for porcupines to prevent them from entering your yard.

4. Rabbits

rabbit in snow eating tree branch

To prevent rabbits from damaging your trees, you can use a small fence or even install cylinders under the ground near the tree base.

Wrapping a heavy-gauge aluminum foil or a commercial trunk wrap around the tree trunk would prevent rabbits from damaging your tree as well. While wrapping the trunk, keep in mind the snow line as well.

Considering the average snow line, you must warp the trunk at a minimum of three feet high.

You can always add extra layers to increase the height depending on the snowfall or the extent of the damage.

Alternatively, you can use rabbit repellents to keep these cute little fellows away from your beloved plants or trees. 

If you have rabbits or bunnies as pets, try to build a separate house for them and secure the surroundings to ensure they don’t get an opportunity to escape.

However, the house must have enough space for the rabbit to roam around or play.

5. Beavers

beavers eating tree bark

Beavers are basically semi-aquatic rodents that are large in size, and these species are typically found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere.

Beavers are not skilled in climbing up trees, which is why simply building a small fence around your tree would do the job!

Another option, as we discussed before, would be to bury hardware cloth cylinders underground to stop beavers from gnawing at the tree bark.

Make sure that the cylinders are placed at a distance of around 6-12 inches from the tree trunk. Also, the cylinders should be placed at a minimum height of 3 feet.

To make this trap last longer to support you during the winter months of heavy snow, you can use galvanized and welded wire instead.

You don’t need to have the entire tree protected if it’s these beavers you’re trying to keep away because they can only harm trees as high as they can reach.

6. Mountain Beavers

Like beavers, mountain beavers too can target these tree barks, especially those mature trees or smaller plant species. You can even see specific horizontal tooth marks on the trunk.

This is one of the best ways to identify that it was a mountain beaver who has been the culprit! Another indication left by these mountain beavers is their irregular claw marks.

At other times, you can also find clipped or chopped-off branches or twigs on a higher level, usually leaving behind 2-inch stubs.

7. Squirrels

squirrel sitting on tree branch

Squirrels usually eat tree bark during the late winter months and even during the period when trees produce seeds or acorns. Both of these items serve as a great food source for these medium-sized rodents.

Squirrels generally prefer to gnaw at the horizontal branches because these are easy to grip. But they also target the main trunk, which seems to be more healthy.

Squirrels are often known for damaging large portions of the tree bark’s surface area. You’ll also find small bits if the twig or bark leftovers have fallen on the ground.

It’s interesting how these rodents can manage to bark-strip major portions of the trunk or branches. While we’re not quite sure of the reasons behind this action, three theories are explaining this behavior.

  1. In search of water: Squirrels often cater to bark stripping, specifically during the hot, dry months, in search of water.
  2. In search of food: Squirrels may attempt to find some delicious treats or essential nutrients inside the inner bark.
  3. To cope with pain: Squirrels feel pain too, which is why they randomly strip off tree bark to let out the frustration or stress. This behavior is particularly seen in pregnant female squirrels. Researchers believe that they simply do so to cope with the tremendous labor pain.

How to Identify the Animal That Stripped Off the Bark

Here’s a fun fact, if you didn’t catch any animal red-handed while doing this act, you could easily determine by examining the parts of the bark that’s been stripped off or the patterns formed on the tree trunk or branches.

For gardeners, farmers, and plant growers, this would be a sorry sight. If animals start ripping off entire portions of the tree bark, it damages the tree’s appearance and functions.

Moreover, it becomes unbearable for people who have grown their favorite plants with so much hard work and patience.

So, if you’re a plant owner, here are some signs that enable you to narrow down your suspects’ list. You also need to keep in mind the season or time of the year when your tree bark is found stripped off.

For instance, if you notice that the lower portion of the bark is ripped off from the tree (near the ground level), then there’s a high possibility that it could be a rabbit or a beaver.

This is because these animals are unable to climb up a tree. Hence, they manage to rip off the bark from the ground or as high as they can reach.

Coming to the season, some animals, like deer, are often found removing bark from the trees with their antlers during the rutting season (or the deer mating season).

The rutting season usually commences in the middle of October and ends in late November or early December.

Similarly, some other animals, like squirrels, deer mice, and voles, scrape off tree bark during the winter months.

Aside from these bark-eating animals, we also wrote about the leaf-eating animals here.

Animals That Eat Tree Bark 10 Feet High

Porcupines, tree squirrels, and groundhogs consume tree bark as part of their diet and they can climb higher than 10 feet in trees when looking for food. 

What animals eat tree bark?

Like beavers, they’re lots of animal species that feed on tree bark to survive. Some of them include porcupines, capybaras, voles, rabbits, squirrels, even deer, deer mice, and black bears, however, black bears are known to strip off the bark from trees to eat the soft layer between the heartwood and bark.

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