How to identify a squirrel nest on trees or in your house

squirrel upside down on a tree trunk
Squirrel nests are called dreys. Their nests are made of leaves, bark, twigs, moss, and other small natural items. Their nests appear as a clump of leaves in a tree since leaves are the material squirrels use the most to build the nest. Squirrel nests appear very similar to bird nests.

What does a squirrel nest look like?

The most popular type of nest that tree squirrels build is leaf nests.

The nest’s outer shell is made of twigs to form a basket-like foundation. Squirrels weave the twigs together to create it, and it is impressive that a squirrel can complete this complex process.

Next, the squirrel will make a layer of compressed materials such as leaves and moss.

Sometimes, the nest may also be made of garbage, paper, and wood. A squirrel does not prefer to use these materials, but if the natural resources are scarce, it will.

The squirrel will make a second layer of weaved twigs to keep the nesting materials compressed. The final layer is more soft materials again. 

Squirrel holding clothing fabric in its mouth to make a nest with

Where do Squirrels Place their Nests?

Squirrels usually build their nests inside tree cavities or on or around tree branches.

Their nests are typically made at least twenty feet high off the ground. Squirrel nests are often about six to eight inches in diameter. 

For the winter months, squirrels will build dens. These are nests inside of hollow tree trunks. This type of nest provides more warmth for the cold season.

Sometimes a squirrel will use an abandoned nest made by another squirrel or a different animal. Squirrels may use holes in trees created by woodpeckers to nest.

Squirrels will constantly search for materials to keep their nest in shape. Weathering and use will cause the nest to fall apart, so squirrels will continuously take care of their nest by adding and replacing materials.

To keep squirrels from nesting inside of your home, cover all access points and holes.

Trim branches that hang near your home so they can’t use the branches to help them climb inside. You can put a mesh guard on your chimney to block it off as a possible nesting spot. 

squirrel nest

What time of year do squirrels build nests?

Squirrels will typically build nests in summer and autumn.

When squirrels build nests in the summertime, mother squirrels teach their babies how to build nests.

Mother squirrels spend springtime taking care of their babies, and when late summer arrives, they begin teaching the baby squirrels how to live independently.

When squirrels build nests in autumn, they are preparing for winter. These nests tend to be in more enclosed spaces, such as tree cavities.

Squirrels will also invade human property during this season for warm shelter. They may nest in homeowners’ garages, attics, lofts, and more. 

Do squirrels return to the same nest?

Squirrels usually return to and reuse the same nest.

Squirrels could continuously use their nests for many years. Squirrels only relocate when there is a lack of food, water, and safety. A lack of protection could be that a predator is posing a threat. 

Squirrels often have more than one nest at different locations.

Their additional nests are usually no more than five miles apart. Squirrels have multiple nests to store more food and to have a place to go if their current nest is inadequate. 

squirrel hanging off a tree

Can you remove a squirrel nest?

You should not remove a squirrel nest without professional help.

Squirrels will defend themselves if threatened; although they are small creatures, they can bite and scratch. Just like any wild animal, squirrels can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans.

Squirrels will be especially defensive if they have babies in their nest. 

To avoid getting injured, call wildlife removal for assistance in removing a squirrel nest on your property.

Squirrels are harmless when left alone; unless they are being or causing a nuisance, there should be no harm in having a squirrel nest in your yard. However, if they have made a nest inside your home, call a professional to remove it. 

squirrel in a man-made feeder filled with cracked open nut shells

How do you stop squirrels from building a nest?

To avoid attracting squirrels to your property, ensure your trash cans are tightly secured so they cannot be used as a food source.

If you have a bird feeder, be selective with the type you purchase and where you locate it.

You can buy a squirrel-proof bird feeder, which squirrels have trouble climbing and getting into. Place the bird feeder in an open area, not near trees, decks, or items they can use as a launchpad to get to the feeder.

If you have a garden, squirrels will love to feed on the vegetables and fruits you’re growing. Protect your garden with a wire fence buried at least six feet underground so that squirrels cannot dig around it.

Hardware cloth is more effective than chicken wire since squirrels can squeeze through the holes in chicken wire.

Another option to protect your garden is to sprinkle cayenne pepper, ground chili peppers, or garlic pepper flakes on your plants. When the squirrels attempt to eat your plants, they will dislike the peppery taste and will likely go elsewhere for food. 

squirrel eating seeds in a grass field

Predator Urine

Predator urine can be purchased and applied to your property to scare away squirrels. Fox and coyote urine are effective for squirrels. 


The smell of dogs and humans will also deter squirrels. Oddly enough, some homeowners have buried pieces of their hair to keep squirrels away and have reported it as effective.

Dogs will naturally chase squirrels and scare them away. When dogs shed outside, this alone will help deter squirrels. 


Owls are predators of squirrels, and some homeowners place a fake owl in their yard to scare squirrels. If you do this, be sure to move the owl every so often so that the squirrel doesn’t catch on to the trick.


Whitney is a graduate of Georgetown College and a current graduate student at the University of the Cumberlands. She resides in the beautiful state of Kentucky, which she has always appreciated and endeavors to maintain the land's well-being. A lover of animals and the earth, Whitney strives to communicate accurate information that will help readers learn new information, ideas, and become informed stewards of the natural world.

Recent Posts