Squirrels

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Family Sciuridae

Appearance

By simply watching a squirrel, one sees a free-spirited daredevil. They playfully scamper across the ground, fearlessly leap from tree branch to tree branch, and masterfully run along power lines without a misstep. Squirrels seem to live a fairly carefree lifestyle, but they can create a number of problems for humans.The most commonly encountered species of tree squirrels are the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), the red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), the flying squirrel (Glaucomys spp) and the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger). Squirrels typically have a bushy tail. and common U.S. species are around 40 to 50 cm.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Tree squirrels generally nest within trees in wooded areas. As humans expand into natural areas, squirrels are forced to look for alternate means of lodging, including entering buildings. The most frequently invaded areas are garages and attics. Squirrels reach these areas by chewing holes in the exterior of the structure and typically nest, store food or both. Their activity is usually noisy and heard by anyone in close proximity.

Tree squirrels are most active in the early morning and late afternoon hours. They spend this time in search of or storing food. A squirrel’s usual diet consists of fruit, bark, nuts, seeds, buds, leaves, bulbs and insects. If immediate nourishment isn’t needed, it will store the food in a cache for winter keeping. Flying squirrels, by exception, are primarily active at night.

Ground squirrels typically do not climb into trees and can cause damage to crops, ornamentals and gardens. These can be trapped and relocated or controlled by rodenticides where permitted.

Reproduction

Most young are born during two periods of the year – early spring and late summer. Tree squirrels generally bear two litters per year, while flying squirrels tend to give birth only once annually. Litters vary in count between three and eight, depending on the species.

Signs of a Squirrel Infestation

Aside from seeing the squirrels, signs include their gnaw damage, such as for food and nesting sites, as well as daytime sounds of their activity, such as in attics.

Control & Prevention

Controlling tree squirrels is a challenging task. Since many of the species are protected, it’s advised to consult local conservation offices before starting. Finding entry points is a mandatory first step. After determining how squirrels are entering the structure, their schedule and habits inside should be noted. Be sure to identify the number of squirrels and if they have young nesting. Often, squirrels will burrow under insulation to nest, so discovery may not be easy. Exclusion can often be accomplished by using wire cloth to keep squirrels out.

Squirrels can be a challenge to control. It’s advised that a professional be contacted to handle the situation.

What can you do to prevent squirrel problems?

Proper prevention is important since whatever is done will prevent damage and possibly avoid health-related problems related to the presence of squirrels.

Prevention methods for squirrels include:

Inspect for the signs of squirrels. Signs include:

  • Damage to insulation and wood members of the attic space.
  • Noise in the attic.
  • Squirrels running along utility lines. Seek the expertise of the power company or your pest management professional before doing anything to prevent squirrels from traveling the wires.
  • Gaining entrance to the attic through holes that are about two inches in diameter that you’ve never seen before.
  • Squirrels entering a chimney.
  • Squirrels eating garden plants and damaging bird feeders.
  • Small holes in the yard dug by squirrels
  • Squirrel droppings. The homeowner needs to seek the opinion of their pest management professional since some other animals have droppings that look similar to squirrels. Also, do not attempt to remove droppings yourself, but get an expert to do this job.

Habitat Modification

  • Trim or remove limbs that are within 8-10 feet of the roof of the house. This prevents squirrels from jumping from the tree to the house roof.
  • Remove bird feeders which may serve as a food source attractant for squirrels.
  • If practical, do not plant oak and hickory trees in order to reduce the amount of nuts and seeds that will attract squirrels.
  • Install a wire fence that is no more than ½ inch square meshed to keep squirrels out of the garden. If possible, electric fences are very effective.
  • For young trees, use a tree collar to prevent squirrels chewing and stripping tree bark.

Prevention by trapping and using one-way doors. Using traps and one-way door cages is a job best left to your pest management professional.

Repellents. This also is another job that should be left to your pest management professional.

More Information

Species