Where have all the squirrels gone?

Kris Brown Tuesday, 06 November 2018

5.0/5 rating 1 vote

I grew up in southern Pennsylvania and that’s where I learned to hunt. I started out by hunting gray squirrels in the early fall with my Dad. We’d find some nearby state forestland, walk in a few hundred yards, and then stop when we found a good log to sit on. Sure, there were times when we didn’t see any wildlife, but if you were patient, quiet, and sat still, squirrels just seemed to hop out of nowhere and into shotgun range.


As I got older, I became much more interested in bowhunting for deer and my feelings about squirrels became more complicated. Squirrels were my main source of entertainment when I wasn’t seeing deer, but squirrels also frequently blew my cover and my chances of seeing deer within bow range.

I had a brief break from bowhunting recently, so when my wife and I moved to Delaware County, NY this past summer, I was excited to get back into it. When September came around, I went out to Bear Spring Wildlife Management Area between Walton and Downsville to hunt squirrels and scout for deer sign. I did see deer and bear sign in places, but I was amazed that I didn’t see a single squirrel.


I even sat next to some oaks that were dropping acorns furiously… Nothing. I did see a barred owl near the oaks on my way out and I thought: “Is that why the squirrels are in hiding?”

I returned to the same spot during bow season and I’m here to tell you… If you’re a squirrel at Bear Spring WMA, you have a lot more than owls to worry about. After three hunts, I’ve seen one bobcat, one coyote, and one fisher. Zero squirrels. So far, I’ve seen more squirrels in town than I have in the mountains and who can blame them? It’s dangerous out there!

I am just blown away at the lack of squirrels/abundance of predators I’ve seen in a short period of time, granted this is a new place for me. Is there a link between the two? Perhaps the Catskills region has a high predator diversity? Several of my colleagues at the Watershed Agricultural Council have also spotted bobcats while bowhunting this year. Maybe it’s the habitat? I was hunting in a saddle at the edge of an old clearcut and I have heard that young woods can provide important wildlife habitat for both predators and prey alike. Whatever the reason, these animal sightings have really made my season so far. The My Woodlot team and I would love to hear from you on the subject. Find us on Facebook and share your thoughts, experiences, or photos.

Comments (4)

  • Wood


    20 November 2018 at 10:05 |
    Very interesting possible connection. I've seen Fisher and Fox on my property and no apparent decrease in squirrel activity.

    Actually, I think all the squirrels came to my property and ate all the nuts on my trees. ;)


    • Brown


      20 November 2018 at 11:14 |
      Haha, it's great to hear the squirrels are happy to show themselves on your property despite the fishers and foxes! I should note that after this blog was posted, I did manage to see a red squirrel at Bear Spring. It was hanging out down in the valley directly below the saddle I was hunting in earlier. Thanks for reading!


  • Brown


    18 November 2018 at 22:35 |
    Great question Tyler! I think it mostly comes down to showmanship. These brazen displays of agility are meant to show up any other wildlife that might happen to be nearby. Just joking, I think you are dead right it's about staying stealthy. Also, for small animals, downed logs might simply provide an easy route from A to B, as is noted in a Field Notes blog by Christine Hanrahan entitled "The Importance of Snags and Downed Logs to Wildlife": https://ofnc.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/the-importance-of-snags-and-downed-logs-to-wildlife/


  • Van Fleet

    Van Fleet

    14 November 2018 at 15:06 |
    Great video!!! I notice both the bobcat and fisher like to walk on the downed logs. I wonder why - is to avoid crunching through the noisy leaves and given themselves away?


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