How to Protect Fruit Trees from Squirrels, Raccoons and Birds, Hunker

How to Protect Fruit Trees

The best way to protect fruit trees from squirrels, raccoons and birds is to use a combination of repellents, scare tactics and barriers. Making your yard unattractive to uninvited fruit eaters and triggering their fears of predators will discourage them from eating your trees’ fruit before you can pick it.

Make Habitat Changes

Taking away unnecessary sources of food, water and cover discourages pest animals from staying in a yard to breed and eat the fruit harvest. Don’t feed pets outdoors. Fix all leaking sprinklers and faucets, and dump all water containers. Cut back brush near the fruit trees to reduce nesting sites and cover for birds. Pruning nearby trees limits squirrels’ aerial highway access. Unnecessary branches and structures such as fences near fruit trees increases the ways squirrels and raccoons can get the fruit.

U.S. federal laws protect all wild birds, their nests, eggs and young — except for certain pigeons, English starlings and English sparrows. The protection includes birds and nests on private property. Some squirrel species are protected, and laws about squirrels and raccoons vary by state. Many states prohibit trapping wild animals and releasing them in a different location.

Repel the Invaders

Several items can be used to try to deter animals. For example, the scent from human hair or dog hair spread on the ground around fruit trees may help repel squirrels and raccoons from those areas. Collect the hair from brushes, or use hair removed during a haircut.

Blood meal doesn’t keep raccoons away for long, however, and no commercial repellents have been proven to keep them away, according to the University of California Integrated Pest Management Online.

If you want to try repellents, the best strategy is to rotate different products because raccoons and squirrels are quick to notice no threat is connected with the products’ aromas. Commercial formulas contain ingredients that suggest danger or irritate the sensitive noses of garden pests; the ingredients include synthetic predator scent, capsaicin and rotten eggs. Spray the repellent on the fruit trees, and reapply it after a rainfall.

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Use Scare Devices

Reflective products such as scare-eye balloons and bird tape often are used to scare birds, and they may startle invading squirrels and racoons, too. The shiny tape makes a crackling sound in wind. Scarecrows, model owls with bobble heads and devices that emit hawk screeches or electronic distress calls also deter birds.

Use more than one scare tactic, and move the devices every few days so the invaders don’t become accustomed to them.

Try the Radio Trick

Leave a radio playing all night near your fruit trees as the fruit ripens if the noise won’t disturb your neighbors. The sound can deter raccoons. Those thieves scavenge at night and are large and bold enough to harm a dog. So using a radio is a better option than risking your pet as a fruit tree guard. Because electricity and moisture don’t mix, and because electrical cords pose a tripping hazard, play it safe by using a battery-operated radio enclosed in a plastic bag.

Apply Barrier Protection

Bird netting is fruit trees’ best defense against birds. Use plastic mesh that has 1/4- or 1/2-inch-diameter holes. Although squirrels can gnaw through bird netting, it offers some protection against them, too. Leaving corn or nuts out for squirrels while the trees’ fruit ripens may distract them from the trees. For maximum protection, erect a wooden frame — four legs with crossbars connecting the legs at their tops — around each fruit tree, and lay bird netting over each frame to keep birds from pecking the outer fruit. Bird netting is reusable.

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Clear Plastic to Keep Squirrels Out of Pears

Squirrels ate every pear from my tree a few years ago. They start early in the season, well before the fruit ripens. The next year as soon as I noticed the fruit being eaten, I wrapped the tree with enormous sheets of clear plastic that I bought in the paint department sold as dropcloths. I bought 3 of the cheapest, biggest ones, spent less than $10. Then with the help of my son and a ladder, I wrapped the tree with the plastic, pinning it to branches and to itself with clothespins. My tree is about 10 years old and about 15 feet high.

The wrap job is nowhere near perfect but it works nevertheless. I concentrate on covering the branches with the most fruit. Some branches are too high so I don’t get those covered. I loosely closepin the gaps between the sheets and I pin the plastic to the lower branches and close to the trunk.

In my yard, the squirrels jump from other trees onto the pear tree as well as approach from below. Even though the plastic is rather thin, the wrap job stays intact for the season. Windy days pop a clothepin or two off so I repair it, if necessary. The fruit seem to ripen just fine. Hooray! I save the plastic for next year. I have done this 3 years in a row with very good results.

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Deer Cloth for Deterring Squirrels from Apples

This was my solution after every single apple disappeared last year. I go out several times a day and eyeball a count of ALL of the apples and they ALL seem to still be there.

I bought a fine mesh roll of deer cloth in July, about 36 inches x 50 feet and wrapped it around my Honeycrisp apple tree. I am going to have apple pie IN A MONTH! (8/8/13)

Supplies:

  • 50 ft deer cloth net
  • 12 ft pipe or pole
  • 40 in twist ties
  • 2 yd rope
  • 6 yd Top Hat lattice or 6 at 1/2 inch x 8 foot plastic pipes

The plastic pipes could be joined in the center of each to form a disc to extend and support net somewhat away from the branches.

Steps:

  1. First, I had help. We took a plastic pipe, about 3 inch diameter, and tied it vertically to the trunk of the tree. It is about 2 feet taller than the top branch.
  2. After encircling the 10 foot tree, starting at the top, several times, I tied where the wrapped deer cloth overlapped in many places, using twist ties from the produce department in the grocery store.
  3. I took the loose net that was next to the ground and tied all of it up to the trunk at the bottom of the trunk, using a piece of plastic rope.
  4. After the apples started weighing on the netting, I sorta crawled up and in and attached a leftover piece of plastic lattice fence horizontally on the tip top of the pipe to create a «hat» to hold the net away from the branches. I should have put in 2 or 3 to make an X. Next year.
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Basic Tree Guard

Wrap a 2-foot band of sheet metal around the trunk so it is about 6 to 8 feet off the ground.

Fasten the metal into place by wrapping wire around the trunk and attaching the wire to springs. The springs will allow the metal to expand as the tree grows.

Repeat steps 1 and 2 for any branches that are below 6 feet on the tree or trim the tree so no branches hang below that point.

Make sure no other trees are close enough to provide an alternative access. If there are, trim the branches to provide significant distance between the trees or wrap metal around the other trees as well.

Look around your trees for alternative access methods the squirrels may use. Any other trees, buildings, wires, poles or similar items within 6 to 8 feet of the trees may be used.

Cover telephone and electric wires with long plastic tubing to discourage squirrels from using them.

Trim branches that are close to buildings so there is a distance between them of 6 to 8 feet.

Extra Measures

Install a squirrel feeder and keep it stocked. Squirrels will follow the path of least resistance. If they have easy access to food, they will not bother to scale your trees for it.

Cover the trees with plastic bird netting. Although squirrels can chew through the netting, it will deter them if they use other trees or buildings to gain access.

Apply taste repellents. According to Cornell University Cooperative Extension, the active ingredient in hot peppers, capsaicin, has been a proven (but not 100 percent) deterrent for squirrels.

Hang mothballs around the tree and sprinkle them around the base of the tree. To hang in the tree, place the mothballs into a piece of nylon hose about 1-foot long. Some brands, such as Enoz, work better than others.

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