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For the first time, I wrapped my balcony plant pots in wool/hessian blankets this winter (2020/2021). We have squirrels living in nearby trees, who often visit the balcony. Once spring began and the snows had gone, the squirrels started trying to pull the blankets away from the pots. They can still access the soil in the pots - which they are happily digging in - so I can't understand why they are trying to remove the blankets. They focus mostly on the hessian blankets (wrapped around the olive tree and lavender), so much so that one blanket now has holes in it.

Can anyone explain why they are doing this?

Hessian blanket wrap, pulled down from pot by the squirrels Close-up of squirrel damage to the hessian blanket - they really love/hate this one

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They are probably gathering nesting material. A squirrel nest—called a drey—is made of twigs woven together, and would normally be lined with soft materials like dried grass, moss, leaves, feathers. Hessian fibers would make a perfect nesting substitute for dried grass.

If they're not nesting within a cavity in the tree, look for their nests in any trees near you. They'll typically be close to the trunks, and ball shaped about 12" (30cm) across.

Some more information from the UK Woodland Trust: Squirrel nests: where and how do they build them?

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