Squirrels are a typically part of the outdoor landscape in many neighborhoods—suburban, rural, and urban neighborhoods alike—that rarely strike people as a nuisance. However, as many homeowners know, once an infestation begins, “nuisance” becomes an understatement. Squirrels can become a dangerous and damaging force. Once they enter a home, they will nest, gnaw, and chew; everything in site is a possible target for squirrels, especially insulation, wiring, plumbing, and home structures.
A squirrel infestation is usually preceded by signs of overpopulation. One sign is the presence of squirrels fighting; this is often an indication that there are not enough resources to sustain the population. Home owners may also note many small divots in the ground where squirrels may attempt to dig holes, squirrel droppings, chewed tree bark, and destroyed plant life, especially notable in gardens. These factors can foreshadow a potential invasion of local homes.
An infestation is first detected by the presence of squirrels coming and going; most often they enter through unsecured parts of walls and roofs; entering attics through vents, chimney’s, and other small openings. Most frequently, homeowners will see increased activity with squirrels running along power and utility lines, or coming back and forth from a home using tree branches that come close to the home.
Once an infestation occurs, homeowners are likely to hear scratching, gnawing, and squirrels fighting with each other. They will typically nest in a home’s attic, vents, walls, or chimney. As they nest, they are likely to collect insulation and other materials within reach, as well as bringing outside materials in.
Another hazard is the chewing of wires; this can pose risks to the integrity of a home’s wiring, as well as potential fire hazards.
The first and most important step that homeowners can take to prevent an infestation; home owners should secure mesh to any openings, and prevent squirrels from accessing their roof. Siding must be intact; any broken siding should be repaired. Branches should be trimmed back or removed to make access more difficult. Home owners should also consider discontinuing the use of bird feeders. Gardens should be contained with mesh to deter the animals from feeding on them.
Controlling and eliminating a squirrel infestation can be challenging; many species are protected, which makes harming them illegal and punishable by law. Once an infestation is identified, it is important that homeowners reach out to a qualified exterminator who can trap and remove the squirrels. Repellants can be used to prevent further infestations.