Squirrel Update: The Drey Report

Special Note: This post is now part of Scientia Pro Publica 21: Darwin’s 201st Birthday Edition. Scientia Pro Publica is a bi-monthly blog carnival dedicated to science writing that communicates to the public. Check it out! And now…The Drey Report:

Bare branches reveal dreys in Riverside Park. We counted five dreys in the Forever Wild stretch that runs between 119th Street and 116th, and six between 116th and 108th.

“That’s great,” you say. “But what’s a drey?”

See those brown blobs way up in the trees? Those are dreys. Squirrel nests.

“Huh. They don’t look like much.”

Maybe not, from the ground. But inside, inside, it’s a whole other story. At least, that’s what I hear. Lined with moss, lichen, fur and feathers, dreys are soft, inviting baskets for squirrels to spend cold winter days and nights. Some dreys even have separate compartments. At least, that’s what the Urban Park Rangers, Sunny and Sheridan, told me. I’m not sure exactly what it means, but I’m guessing it’s something like a Manhattan studio apartment.

500 Square Feet of NYC Bliss

Anyway, summer dreys are loose collections of leaves and twigs, not built to last. But winter dreys, tucked securely into a fork in a tree, will withstand wind and weather.They’re high enough to be safe from ground predators, but not all the way at the top where a marauding hawk could swoop down.

Savvy squirrels maintain more than one home. That way, they can move when a nest gets wet or infested with parasites like ticks, fleas or mites. All the research says squirrels prefer tree hollows, especially in winter, but I have yet to see any tree hollow action.

The retaining wall, on the other hand, is like an animal apartment building.

No vacancy

Squirrel with entries to right and left.

Raccoon peeks out of hole at night.

Raccoons take the big apartments and squirrels squeeze into the studios.

The squirrels come and go all day, zipping in and out of holes, up and down the wall.

And at night, when the squirrels have finally gone to sleep, the raccoons emerge slowly, like jazz musicians, to start their day in the dark.

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4 Comments on “Squirrel Update: The Drey Report”


  1. […] saw squirrel dreys, or nests, including this one high in a tree. Apartment with 360-degree […]

  2. Gary Wright Says:

    You do know that the reason European visitors seem to be so fascinated with our squirrels is because they don’t have them in their old-world cities. We so take them for granted but now that you know that – realize how fortunate we are to live in a totally primitive woodlands region that can support this kind of diverse species. Here’s hoping that they can continue to survive the temptations of buildings & their rat poisons.


  3. I’d love to see L.A. squirrel housing. I wonder what kind of squirrel you have out there. In Dallas, they were mostly fox squirrels, which are some seriously LARGE rodents.

  4. Charlotte Says:

    Wish i could send you a pic of the squirrel (the guy who hangs around here) up in our palm tree, one whole gigantic drey, but it’s about a mile high. but at least now i know what to call it!


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