Advice on Japanese Maples and Potential Squirrel Damage



I am planning to get Japanese maples for my garden. I am particularly drawn towards a fast-growing variety called “Seiryu.” and maybe some smaller purple-leaf varieties. However, I’ve learned recently that squirrels have the habit of stripping the bark off Japanese maples.

Squirrels do not live on my property. I think they live on the more mature trees of my neighbors. But some of them (maybe 3-5 at most) do visit my backyard on a daily basis.
Given their propensity to strip the bark of Japanese maples, I’m wondering if I should rethink having Japanese maples.

Does bark stripping by squirrels normally seriously damage trees? What are effective deterrents that botanical gardens use to keep squirrels from damaging their Japanese maples? And what alternative trees could I plant that are a good substitute for Japanese maples?

I want to have Japanese maples. In fact I already have a plan on where to put them in the garden, but it may not be worth it if they are constantly damaged by squirrels.

Please, some advice would be appreciated.

Thank you,


Japanese maples are a lovely addition to a garden plan.

I found a good article from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension (link below) noting that squirrels will often prune back new growth on maples. The gnawing keeps the growth of their teeth under control and they make use of twigs and bark to build their nests. The article further notes that they will strip outer bark in order to eat the inner bark when other food sources are unavailable. Several deterrents are offered to keep the squirrels away but note that the taste repellent treatments suggested may not always be humane to the squirrel.

All of this being said, I live in mid-Toronto. We have grown, as have our neighbours, beautiful Japanese maples which continue to thrive. Squirrels have never been a problem even though our lots are small and maples are close to the house.