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Home Squirrel Pest Control

Old 03-18-2022, 05:56 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2022
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Default Home Squirrel Pest Control

Home Pest Squirrel Control

I am a retired wildlife biologist and these are some of my thoughts and experiences in dealing with pest squirrels in the house and around the yard.

Although most cases I have investigated involved agricultural crop and other property damage caused by deer and feral hogs, pesky squirrels certainly cause their share of damage.

Squirrels are notorious for getting into the attic/wall of a home. In addition they often cause many other issues at a residence.

Concerning squirrels in the attic or wall:

I've been to many houses in which various scent deterrents and ultrasonic sound deterrent devices have been used, and none of them help at all, because a squirrel's survival/nesting instinct is so strong that it won't leave the attic just because of scent and ultrasonic devices. Let’s face it, by the time you even think about scent or sound deterrents the squirrels are already homesteaded in your house. Scent and ultrasonic sound devices simply don't work effectively as a deterrent. I have seen literally a dozen or more scent deterrents used by home owners or suggested because they read about it on the internet. I have observed that squirrels usually always stay near the edge of the attic anyway, near a well-ventilated soffit, and the scent odors just don't help because of this. In addition the entire attic is too well ventilated using ridge vents, attic fans, gable vents, and other ventilation. I have even seen the very cotton balls soaked with the deterrent scent incorporated into the nest in the attic. Research has confirmed the ineffectiveness of scent deterrents and ultrasonic devices.

Some have tried light/strobe light deterrents. The problem is that these aren’t enough to make the squirrels leave the attic. The practice of leaving a light on, or using a high-intensity light often isn’t annoying enough and the squirrels get used to it. If there’s a strobe light, they may move to another spot in the attic or just end up somewhere else in your home such as the walls. Either way, squirrels are not going to leave an attic because of lights, most especially if they have already nested and young squirrels are present. Besides, the lights will have to be connected into existing wiring and/or batteries/bulbs changed etc. I can testify that crawling around in the attic is NOT fun and doing so repeatedly is even less so.

Let's reiterate this, squirrel repellents such as light/sound/scent deterrents don’t work effectively. They certainly don't work to evict an animal that has already moved in.

To solve the problem, the squirrels have to be removed from your attic and around the property.

Trust me, it is probably best to not spread the word around about pest squirrel control activity or let neighbors see any of the aforementioned squirrel control measures. High privacy fences make good neighbors. I have investigated squirrels in an attic at a residence and the adjacent property owner would be feeding squirrels and enjoying watching them. So…keep this in mind when conducting pest control of any kind.

There are actually a number of methods that you could turn to when it comes to removing squirrels from your attic, but not all of them are going to be effective, cost-effective, or worth your while. Your goal should be to remove the pest squirrels ASAP! The best thing to do once the squirrels are confirmed or suspected of being in the attic is first locate the entrance hole.

Once the entrance hole is discovered an exclusion device can be used temporarily to seal the hole. This exclusion door can be bought commercially or made. This device is simply a one way door that will allow the squirrels to come out of the attic but not go back in. Therefore don’t permanently seal the opening at this time. Because squirrels in the attic are known for gnawing electrical wiring and thus creating an imminent fire hazard, you or a qualified electrician should then gain entrance into your attic and survey for damage especially gnawed electrical wiring. Any damage to wiring should be repaired per international electrical code ASAP! Look closely for structural damage and repair as necessary. Squirrels are notorious gnawers. The attic survey should include nest removal (if present) and if baby squirrels are present they should be disposed of in a humane way…more on that below.

It is a very good possibility that a single squirrel found in the attic (especially during breeding season) will be a female looking for a nesting area. During non-breeding months there may be multiple squirrels in the attic. Breeding seasons are not a given thing and vary in different parts of the country. If a breeding female has been in the attic any length of time they may have already nested and given birth. Weaned squirrels will remain with the mother for some length of time thus stay in the attic. Note some people don't consider exclusion door devices suitable for female squirrels with a nest of young, unless the young are old enough to leave the nest. Otherwise, you’ll just have a nest full of baby squirrels in the attic which will die of starvation if the mother squirrel on the outside can’t get back in because of the exclusion door. I stated previously I advocate the removal of young un-weaned squirrels and their humane disposal to prevent starvation after the female is excluded from the house. In my opinion you can't do otherwise and allow the female squirrel to have attic access to nurse/wean the babies because you risk the gnawing of wiring and the real possibility of a subsequent house fire! I therefore advocate the immediate use of an exclusion door for any known squirrel activity in the house. Also any baby squirrels allowed to wean will ultimately have to be dealt with (eliminated) when they come out of the attic. Squirrels raised in the attic are very likely as adults to again regain access to your loft/attic in the future. So…

Once you have gotten the squirrel(s) out of your attic/building, you must do everything that you can to keep them out. You will need to make certain your home or building is properly sealed. Without appropriate/proper sealing, you are letting not only squirrels into the attic, but possibly other wild animals too. This will involve removing the temporary exclusion door and properly/permanently sealing up the entrance hole and protecting your home to ensure other squirrels or wild critters can’t get back in, alongside making modifications to your actual property. Removal of limbs giving access to the roof or house and adding flashing etc. where and if needed is essential. Stopping access to the house is imperative for current and future squirrel pest control! If access to the house is not controlled the problem may reoccur. Even with these measures I have observed instances where squirrels gain entrance to the house by climbing the walls, utilizing electrical service/cable/phone lines, etc.

Now begin your squirrel eradication in the yard. This is an imperative step in pest squirrel control. Shoot and/or trap all you can! If you desire to use a squirrel feeder to concentrate the squirrels in an area to safely shoot them, be sure to locate it as far as possible from the house and to remove the feeder ASAP when the squirrels are under control. Don't continue its use for the aforementioned reason. This part of the process to eradicate the squirrels usually takes months to accomplish. As stated previously the squirrel population will never be completely eradicated. This is a frustrating experience. Squirrel control will be ongoing.

Removal of these pest squirrels should ideally include multiple methods. Shooting squirrels is probably the most recognized and effective method. Pellet guns are often used and sometimes they are the only appropriate or legal gun that can safely be used, especially in a populated area. Pellet guns are thus my weapon of choice for shooting pest squirrels. Although not an issue in the U.S. some countries have restrictions on airgun power. Where appropriate and if legal…firearms can be used to shoot squirrels. Always strive for a humane kill with a chest or brain shot. Any wounded squirrel should be quickly dispatched with a follow-up shot. Check and adhere to local and state laws concerning squirrel pest control, bag limits, seasons, and permissible weapons/methods. Many states in the U.S. have provisions allowing year round shooting/trapping of pest/nuisance squirrels causing damage to your property. In some countries gray squirrels are an invasive species and there are no bag limits or seasons. However, shooting pest squirrels is not the only means of their elimination.

Trapping, if permissible, is a very effective tool for squirrel pest control. Live cage traps can be used to capture squirrels alive. They should be placed strategically around the yard where squirrels are known to frequent. The best bait is whole or shelled peanuts. A word of caution, if you don't shoot the squirrels in the live traps but instead desire to relocate them, take them at least two miles and preferably several miles away for release or they may come back! Research has proven this.

I have used #110 conibear/body grip weasel box traps for trapping squirrels with very good results. The 110 body grip trap (commonly called a 110 conibear) is a small, single spring body gripping trap that typically measures about 4.5″ square. 110’s are used for trapping (killing) small animals like the muskrat, mink, weasel and squirrel. Check the internet for purchase and use. They are very affordable. I would again use whole or shelled peanuts for bait in the back of the trap box and just behind the trap. Strategically place these box sets around the yard where squirrels are known to frequent and far enough above the ground to keep out of reach of children and pets. If limbs are not accessible in which to place the box traps, the traps can strategically be placed on small platforms temporally constructed on the tree or placed on fences by the tree etc. By all means locate the trap boxes where the squirrels are frequenting. Instead of conibear traps, rat traps may be used inside the box. I prefer the double trap with one on each end. The rat traps are certainly less expensive and more available at local hardware/home improvement stores than conibear traps. The rat trap box may be the more viable or the only trap option appropriate if pets and children are present. I have used both conibear and rat trap boxes but prefer conibear trap boxes and believe them to be slightly more effective. Follow directions, using caution when setting the traps and determining the trap location(s)!

There are many examples of squirrel trap box construction on the internet. The box design is similar for rat trap and conibear trap sets. A basic box design is very similar to a classic mail box. If fact some people use mail boxes for the conibear traps. The biggest difference in the conibear box trap is that the end is left open to accommodate the trap. The rat trap design closes the opening leaving only a 1-1/2 inch diameter hole for the squirrel to gain access. There are many variations of the rat trap box design that will work. These traps can even be placed on the ground. Do not place squirrel conibear traps on the ground if pets or children may be present. Other squirrel trapping devices (of which there are many) can be just as effective and should also be considered. Thus trapping of squirrels can be a valuable tool in controlling pest squirrels.

Also snares can be used for pest squirrel control if set properly. A series of snares can be attached about 18 inches apart to a 2x4 or bare limb and be leaned against a tree that squirrels frequent. Also the 2x4/bare limb containing the snares can be placed between two adjacent trees either horizontally or at an angle. The snare opening of each snare should be set to ~2 inches diameter. Any larger opening may allow the squirrel to pass through without getting captured. Place the bottom of each snare loop opening ~1 inch above the board/limb in which it is attached. This is the height that the squirrel will traverse and hopefully step through the loop.

Although shooting by itself is effective, ideally snares and trapping should at least be considered initially in conjunction with shooting to severely and more quickly reduce the pest squirrel population. After the initial successful population reduction, shooting may be the only method needed to keep the squirrel pest population under control. For various reasons snares and trapping are sometimes the only squirrel pest control methods available to a property owner or pest controller.

Because of the dangers of toxic poisons I prefer to shoot the pest squirrels and/or use snares/traps instead of utilizing poisons. In my opinion the use of poison is just too dangerous because of inherent issues which I won’t address here. However, where legal, some may choose to use poisons and some but not all of the inherent issues can be mitigated. The possibility of poisoning or collateral poisoning of non-target species (including pets) is just too great.

The ultimate goal should be ZERO squirrels on the property. That will never happen because squirrels will continue to move in from adjacent property.

Ensure that you aren't attracting the animals by mistake. Food is usually the biggest attractant; therefore bird feeders should not be used near the house or preferably not at all. They only serve to attract the squirrels thus exacerbating the problem. You might be surprised to learn that feeders are not the only attractant. Many natural foods and planted fruits and vegetables are attractive to a squirrel but it is infeasible or undesirable to go about their removal.

If squirrel nests/dreys around the yard are accessible they should the destroyed. This however is usually not practical because they are too high in the trees. Squirrels also nest/den in hollow trees. Pay close attention to and target these trees when shooting/trapping squirrels.

If you don't already have a squirrel issue in your house or yard, consider the appropriate preventative measures previously discussed to lessen the chances of pest squirrels homesteading your attic and causing other problems on your property. It is best to prevent this headache from happening.

Also squirrels often gain access to outlining buildings, automobile engine compartments and other equipment. They build nest and also chew the wiring. I have seen instances where greater than $1000 worth of damage was done to automobile wiring. These pest squirrels likewise can be shot &/or trapped.

I hope this helps those who are dealing with pesky squirrels. Good luck!
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