While squirrels are a natural part of the environment, they can become pests when they cause damage to residential structures, homes, or plant life.
Squirrels Become Pests:
- In Structures: In seeking to build nests, squirrels will chew openings through siding and underneath eaves. The may also through unscreened chimneys and vents, and build nests in these areas as well as in attics. Once in this "nest," squirrels will on continue to chew on insulation of the structure as well as that around wires. These bared wires can then cause a fire.
- To Utilities: Squirrels will run along utility power wires and cables, and can short out the transformers.
- To Other Wildlife: It is very common for squirrels to invade bird feeders, scaring off birds, taking the food and damaging the feeders. To get to the food, they may gnaw to create larger openings and they often also gnaw on the perches.
- To Plant life: Squirrels can damage lawns in digging for nuts; chew the bark and twigs of trees and shrubbery; eat fruits and grains or planted bulbs and seeds; carry off mature nuts; chew holes in maple syrup dispensing tubes.
Regulations vary from state to state for control of wildlife, specific animals and specific species. In some states, squirrels are considered game animals and, if they are causing property damage, the property owner does not need a license to control them. In other states, a squirrel species may be listed as unprotected, but a valid hunting license is still required to take them.
For these reasons, it is critical that homeowners know their state and local laws, or consult a pest management professional, prior to initiating control efforts.
However, there are ways to prevent squirrel invasion and control damage:
Exclude Squirrels from Entering the Home
- Trim branches that touch or are within six feet of the home
- Prevent travel along a utility lines by asking the company place slit strips of plastic PVC pipe over the line. The pipe will rotate if any animal trips to run across it. This should only be done by professionals.
- Cover chimneys and vents with mesh screen to prevent squirrels, or other wildlife from climbing in.
Keep Squirrels off Bird Feeders
- Use petroleum jelly or specially made baffles on the poles of bird feeders, so squirrels cannot climb up them.
- If suspended, place plastic pipe (similar to that noted above) on the rope or wire to keep squirrels from climbing down to the feeder.
- Ensure all feeders are at least six feet from the ground.
- Purchase squirrel-resistant feeders, such as those that rotate when a squirrel's weight offsets its balance.
- You may want to distract squirrels from the feeders by putting out food such as corn, specifically for them. This should be placed at least eight feet away from a feeder.
Protect Plants from Squirrels
- Trees: place two-foot wide/six-foot tall metal sheeting or baffles around trunks of trees. Keep sheeting loose to allow for tree growth.
- Vegetable gardens: fence in gardens with wire fencing of no more than one-inch mesh and at least 30 inches high. For additional protection, extend the fencing six inches below ground then six inches outward to prevent burrowing. Prevent climbing by including an electrified strand a few inches above the ground and about three inches above the fence line.
- Bulbs: place one-inch mesh wire over newly planted bulbs and cove with mulch. Bulbs can also be soaked in squirrel repellent prior to planting.
Professional Control of Squirrels
Trapping: Because of varying state and local laws on trap and release of wildlife, trapping is best conducted by a licensed pest management professional. If you do choose to attempt trapping yourself, always:
- consult your local animal control agency first, so as not to violate any laws.
- take precautions to reduce hazards to non-target wildlife or pets
- try using peanut butter as a bait, which can be attractive to squirrels.
- Repellants: Repellants that target squirrels are often available at most nurseries and garden centers.
- Pesticides: Pesticides are not recommended because of the risk to other wildlife and pests. These should only ever be used by a licensed professional.