Squirrels In Your House or Attic?
In children’s movies, squirrels in the house whistle, while they work, cleaning dishes and polishing floors; however, in real life they can cause very real damage to your home. Squirrels (or any forest critter) should be dealt with immediately to minimize damage to your home and risk to the animal. Squirrels tend to find their way inside of homes in the fall as the weather begins to turn cooler and just before a mother squirrel gives birth to young. Squirrels are clever, fast runners, proficient climbers, and gnaw constantly, but you can evict the squirrels with a few tools and patience. If chasing wild animals in your attic is not your idea of a fun Saturday afternoon, your Nextgen Pest Solutions Professional can handle this job for you.
What kind of Squirrels are in Georgia and Florida?
Squirrels belong to the family Sciuridae, which includes tree and ground squirrels, flying squirrels, woodchucks, chipmunks, marmots, and prairie dogs. Tree squirrels have the unique ability to go down a tree head-first by rotating their hind legs 180 degrees to grip the bark. With abilities like this it is no wonder they can easily gain access to our attics and homes. Squirrels are herbivores, preferring to eat nuts, tree buds and bark, pinecones, seeds, and roots.
As we are a pest control company with branches in Georgia and Florida, we will focus on the species of squirrels most problematic in these states.
- Eastern Gray Squirrel – The Eastern Gray Squirrel is the most common species of squirrel in North America. Gray Squirrels generally nest in tree cavities, but they often find warmth and shelter in attics. The Gray Squirrel is a scatter hoarder. They hide seeds in tree cavities and also burry them in the ground. The Gray Squirrel has been known to hide seeds in over 1,000 locations and still remember where they are hidden!
- Fox Squirrel – Fox Squirrels are found in Georgia’s Piedmont region and into Florida. The Fox Squirrel is larger than the Gray Squirrel and it is far less common than the Eastern Gray Squirrel. The Fox Squirrel can give birth twice a year, in the late winter/early fall and in the summer and they usually have 2-3 babies at a time.
- Southern Flying Squirrel – Flying squirrels are active at night. They don’t actually fly, rather they glide with the aide of a furry parachute-like membrane that stretches from their wrist to their ankle. Their tail acts as a stabilizer for their glide. Flying Squirrels can glide over 100 feet. Flying squirrels often live in groups of between 5-20 squirrels and they often find their way inside of homes.
Signs of Squirrels in Your House
With squirrels’ ability to climb walls, jump 5-6 feet in the air, and run 20mph, they can easily find ways into the warmth of your attic. Squirrels can chew through shingles, wood, aluminum fascia and gable vents. Most squirrels can fit through a 1” hole. Squirrels usually build a nest in the attic in the late fall and summer in preparation for giving birth. If the attic is large enough, they will use one end as a latrine and the other end as a nesting site. Your attic very easily converts to a comfortable spot to raise a young squirrel family, hide food, and use the bathroom in safety and warmth.
Signs of a squirrel invasion is not always as clear as it was for this Atlanta family. They left for Christmas and a single squirrel came into the house via the chimney. This squirrel caused extensive damage to the home which was not covered by insurance, and eventually built a nest in the couch.
Scratching, clawing, and scraping noises coming from the ceiling or walls is usually the first sign of a squirrel problem. Upon a peek into the attic you may notice droppings, odor of squirrel urine and feces, and you find the actual squirrel. In spring and fall, the sounds of scampering around in the early dawn hours is likely the young squirrels. You may also hear chirping and clucking sounds. Before attempting to trap or exclude anything from your attic, it is important to positively identify the species you are dealing with.
Why Get Rid of Squirrels in your Attic?
It is easy to appreciate squirrels for their physical abilities as well as their intelligence and clever problem-solving ability. If you’ve ever battled to keep a squirrel out of a bird feeder, you know how determined and crafty they are. However, these same traits that we admire outdoors become an enormous problem inside your home.
Damage to Your Home – Squirrels, like all rodents, have teeth that never stop growing. To keep their teeth in check, squirrels gnaw constantly. When they are living in your attic, that means they will gnaw on the electrical wiring, wood beams, HVAC ducts, and any personal belongings you may have stored in the nesting space. Squirrels have also been known to chew through PVC pipe creating water damage. The chewed/exposed wiring creates a fire hazard and risk of electrical shock. Squirrels nests are usually built with flammable materials, pieces of clothing or blankets, pages from books, and attic insulation. The flammable squirrel nest compounds the danger presented by the exposed wiring. A squirrel invasion should be dealt with quickly to prevent or minimize substantial and expensive damage to your home.
Disease – When a nesting mother squirrel with young nearby is confronted, she may attack if she feels threatened. Always remember, squirrels are wild animals and will protect themselves and their young. In dealing with nuisance wildlife there is always the chance of being bitten or scratched. In addition to disease, squirrels also carry lice, fleas, ticks, mites, and other parasites.
Some diseases that can be transmitted from squirrels to humans include:
- Leptospirosis – Transmitted when animal urine comes into contact with an open wound. The symptoms of leptospirosis (fever, headache, chills, vomiting, jaundice) are common to many diseases, so it is difficult to diagnose.
- Lyme Disease – Transmitted by ticks that are found on squirrels. Typical symptoms include a bulls-eye rash (not every patient gets this rash), fever, extreme fatigue, and a headache. If left untreated, Lyme Disease can progress with very serious symptoms including facial palsy, arthritis, and heart and nervous system disorders.
- Salmonellosis – Transmitted by exposure to animal fecal matter. The Salmonella Bacteria causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain.
- Tularemia – Also called deer fly fever or rabbit fever, tularemia is transmitted by handling dead or sick animals. Symptoms include skin ulcers, swollen lymph glands, and fever.
- Rabies – Transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. While rabies can affect any warm-blooded animal, rabies is quite uncommon in squirrels. Rabies in animals is characterized by unusual behavior such as loss of motor skills, loss of sense of direction and balance, and running in circles. Although transmission of rabies from squirrel to human is rare, it is worth mentioning.
Odor – In addition to the damage to your home and the unsanitary disease causing conditions, the odor that squirrels bring to your attic is reason enough to get them out! As squirrels build a nest and raise their young, a particular musty odor begins to waft through the air. The odor from squirrel urine and feces accumulates and adds another layer of stink to the air in your home. Should a squirrel die and begin to decompose in your home or attic, the stench is combines to become overwhelming. After the squirrels are removed, the squirrel nesting area will have to be sanitized and deodorized to remove these offensive odors.
How to Trap Squirrels in Your Attic
Trapping squirrels can be humanely and effectively accomplished. Experienced nuisance wildlife handlers know the behaviors and habits of squirrels and are trained in trap and bait placement. There are different styles and sizes of squirrel traps. Know your squirrel species before choosing a trap. Before you set any squirrel traps, we recommend you call your local humane society or game warden to check your local and state regulations. Once you trap the squirrels, you need to know how you can legally and humanely dispose of or relocate the animal.
- Always use gloves when handling nuisance wildlife.
- Read the trap instructions carefully and test it a few times.
- Place your trap of choice along the path and entryway of known foraging activity or anywhere you hear or see squirrel activity.
- Consider Pre-Baiting the trap, although it is not usually necessary. Pre-baiting the trap involves leaving it open, not set, with food inside. By feeding the squirrels for a few days, they get comfortable entering the trap and taking the food.
- Camouflage the trap with twigs, leaves, and mud.
- When you are ready to set the traps, bait them with any of the following: peanut butter, crackers soaked in walnut or another nut oil, sunflower seeds, nuts, cereals, shelled corn, or bread soaked in almond extract. You can even place a few free seeds outside the trap.
- You must check the trap at least every 24 hours. A trapped stressed animal can easily hurt itself trying to get out of the trap. It is inhumane to allow the animal to starve to death in the trap.
- If you catch a nursing squirrel, her young will be left in your attic and die without her. You must also remove the dependent baby squirrels.
- Once you trap the squirrels, follow all local and state law regarding relocation of the squirrel. If you capture a non-target species, get advice from the proper authorities on what to do with it.
- Clean and sterilize your trap as the squirrel likely urinated and defecated in the trap.
Cleanup and Seal Holes After Squirrels
After all the squirrels are removed from the attic, you must seal up all openings. Please, do not seal up your home prior to removing and relocating the squirrels. If the mama squirrel is blocked from getting into your attic to her young, she will stop at nothing to get to her young. An angry mama squirrel can cause significant damage to your home in an attempt to get to her babies.
Once you are ready to seal up your home, your Pest Management Professional can advise you on the sealing process. A thorough sealing job will prevent future invasions of squirrels, bats, rats, racoons, and various other critters from entering your home. Because rodents, including squirrels, are proficient chewers, the material you use to seal the holes matters. Hardware cloth, stainless steel mesh, and metal flashing are good choices as they can’t be chewed through. The investment of permanently sealing all the holes and entry points in your home will pay dividends in the future because you will not be continually chasing around critters.
Attic restoration involves physically removing the fecal matter and urine soaked building materials and decontaminating the area. If you choose to have your Pest Management Professional provide this service, they will likely utilize an enzyme based odor eliminator that “feeds” on organic matter to eliminate the odor. You will also need to address any damaged electrical wiring with a licensed electrician. You may also need to address any squirrel damaged AC ducts with a HVAC professional.
Squirrel Removal Company Near Me
If this process sounds overwhelming and burdensome, there is no shame in calling in a professional. Professional wildlife trappers have the experience and the traps necessary to handle the job for you. You will have peace of mind knowing that this process is handled, professionally and humanely. Surprisingly, the humble yet agile squirrel can wreak mayhem on the interior of your home.
Our goal at Nextgen Pest Solutions is to remove the squirrels as quickly and humanely as possible. Our sincere hope is this article has given you information you need to make informed decisions for your home and family. If you are in Georgia or Florida, we would be happy to partner with you to solve your squirrel problem. Call Nextgen Pest Solutions today to discuss the squirrel eviction process.