When Squirrels are Being Pests

There are four types of squirrels commonly found in Florida – the Southern Flying Squirrel, Mexican Gray Squirrel, Fox Squirrel, and the Eastern Gray Squirrel. They’re also called tree squirrels and because they typically spend most of their time in trees. It doesn’t matter which type you see around your house, all of them can become a pest that you may need to deal with.

eastern gray squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel

Some of the more common problems with squirrels are that they like to get into bird feeders, go down chimneys, and nest in attics or anywhere in a building they can get into. Once inside you’ll probably have to call for a wildlife removal specialist to get them out. The best thing is to plan ahead and cover any areas where they can potentially get in.

If a squirrel gets into your chimney and can’t get out, you may have to open the flue so it can drop down into the fireplace. Before you do, have a plan for getting it your of your home. Or, if you can get on the roof,

drop down a thick rope or cloth, such as strips of a sheet, so the squirrel can climb out. It is a good idea to tie knots in the rope or cloth 12 inches apart, to provide a secure climbing surface. You may have to tie a couple of lengths together to reach the bottom of the chimney. Tie something to provide weight to the bottom of the rope or cloth, such as a pair of pliers, or other small heavy object.

Lower the rope or cloth slowly, make sure this reaches the bottom, and then secure it at the top. Leave the area completely alone. The squirrel should climb out in 1 to 24 hours. Never leave the squirrel in the chimney or exhaust fan longer than 24 hours—it will die from dehydration. If needed, call a wildlife control company.

After you are sure no animals are down the chimney, cap it with a commercially engineered chimney cap. Most hardware stores carry these, and chimney cover manufacturers are able to custom fit covers for unusual chimneys.

Tips to prevent squirrels from becoming a problem:

Don’t feed squirrels. Tree squirrels that are hand-fed may lose their fear of humans and become aggressive when they don’t get food as expected. These semi-tame squirrels also might approach a neighbor who doesn’t share your appreciation of the animals, which would likely result in them dying.

Eliminate access into buildings. Repair or replace loose or rotting siding, boards, and shingles. When inspecting a building for potential access points, use a tall ladder to view areas in shadows. A pair of low-power (4x) binoculars can be a helpful inspection tool to use before making a dangerous climb. Inspecting the attic or crawl space during the day may reveal light shining through otherwise unnoticed cracks and holes. Native squirrels chew holes 2 inches in diameter; Eastern gray and fox squirrels chew open baseball size holes.

Cover the dryer vent with a commercial vent screen designed to exclude animals without lint clogging. Other vents can be covered with ¼-inch hardware cloth. Some roof-vent caps contain a flimsy, lightweight inner screen that a squirrel can easily penetrate. If the screen has been penetrated, it may be better to replace the whole vent cap with something stronger.

Because squirrels are excellent leapers, keep tree and shrub branches 10 feet away from the sides and tops of buildings. To prevent squirrels from climbing a tree to access a building, install one of the barriers shown in Figure 6. Remove vines that provide squirrels a way to climb structures and hide their access points.

squirrel in tree

Prevent squirrels from accessing buildings via utility wires by installing 3-foot sections of 2- to 3-inch diameter plastic pipe barriers. Carefully split the pipe lengthwise with a saw, tin snips, or a sharp utility knife, spread the opening apart, and place it over the wire. The pipe will rotate on the wire and the squirrel will tumble off. Do not attempt to install pipe over high-voltage wires. Contact your local electricity/utility company for assistance.

Squirrels in the Attic

If a squirrel gets into your attic, you’ll want to have it removed.

squirrel in attic

Squirrels gather insulation for nests, create noise (especially on stormy days or nights when squirrels are less likely to be out for food), and may chew electrical wiring, causing electrical problems or fires. Because attics can be difficult to access and maneuvering around in them can be dangerous, it is recommended that a professional be hired when attics are involved.
If a squirrel has spent a prolonged amount of time in an area with exposed wiring, check your smoke detectors to make sure they are functioning in case of a fire. Also, inspect the area for wire damage or have an electrician inspect it.

Squirrel Removal and Control

Killing tree squirrels is also, at best, a short-term solution to any problem you may have. As long as you provide food or shelter and additional squirrels are in the area, other squirrels will move in to replace the ones that you have removed. Don’t trap a problem squirrel in a live trap, thinking that you can release it in another location. Doing so may be illegal.

The best choice is to call Phoenix Pest Management & Wildlife Control, who is trained in trapping and removal, and abides by the state and local laws and restrictions regarding squirrel relocation or elimination.

Information sourced from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

 

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