Squirrel Control Techniques
Squirrels are diurnal animals and are active year around. They usually build their nests in trees, using leaves and other materials. In the winter, they prefer nesting in holes or crevices of decaying tree branches. Squirrels give birth twice a year, in the spring (January-April) and in the fall (August-September). There are two to four babies per litter. The babies are self-sustaining at about 12-14 weeks of age and will leave the natal area in search of their own territory.
Ropel ® is a long lasting, extremely bad tasting commercial repellant that will stop squirrels and many other animals from chewing things, such as wood, wire, screens, lawn furniture, etc. It is available at many garden centers.
Hot Pepper Repellant Recipe
- One chopped yellow onion
- One chopped Jalapeno pepper
- One tablespoon of Cayenne Pepper
Boil ingredients for 20 minutes in two quarts of water. Then let it cool and strain the mixture through cheesecloth. You can apply this with a pesticide sprayer or a spray bottle. This will deter just about any animal from an area where it is applied. The only drawback is that it only lasts for three to five days.
Scarecrow ® by Contech is a motion-activated sprinkler. It works great for keeping most animals out of yards or large areas. For more information, visit Contech at http://www.scatmat.com or call them at 1-800-767-8658.
Squirrels in Attics
Squirrels in the attic are a very common problem. Damage to attics as a result of squirrel habitation is very rare. Squirrels will often leave attics in the summer because the attic becomes too hot. You can wait until the hottest part of summer and then block the holes. This is the most humane solution.
Note: These techniques are appropriate for adult squirrels. If babies are involved, humane eviction should be delayed until the babies are old enough to leave the nest and survive on their own.
Find Their Method of Entry
- Check outside for any visible entrances, be aware that the holes may be smaller than you expect.
- Check the attic for light shining through from the outside, this may be an entrance.
- Common entrances are attic vents, in the crease of two ajoining roofs, and in soffit vents.
Check for Babies
- Babies are born twice a year, in the spring (January-April) and in the fall (August-September).
- Search the attic for nests, which are commonly constructed from insulation and other materials. Nests are usually located closer to the outer edges of the attic, between studs and into the eaves.
- A pole may be used to check for babies in hard to reach places. Of course, use care as to not injure any baby squirrels.
- You will want to leave the nest undisturbed until the babies are older and on their own.
To Block the Entry Hole
- This is best done at mid-morning on a warm sunny day. Squirrels are usually out eating at this time.
- Check to make sure they are out before starting.
- Use 1/4" or 1/2"-hardware cloth, which is available at any hardware store.
- Cut the hardware cloth 2" bigger than the hole on all sides.
- Secure it with a staple gun, U nails, or regular nails, and re-enforce with sheet metal screws.
- Spray the area with Ropel ®, a proven repellant available at garden, hardware, pet or feed stores.
- Or use Tabasco sauce ® in a mixture of 1 tablespoon to 1 quart water.
- If a squirrel is accidentally trapped in the attic, please refer to the instructions titled, Block and Trap.
- You can purchase a one-way door, made by Tomahawk Trap Co., available from ACES, their phone number is 1-800-338-ACES or visit Tomahawk Live Trap's website.
- Or, construct your own using the following directions:
- Block any or all holes except for one, preferably the main one, if you can tell which one that is.
- Attach a piece of hardware cloth over this last hole but leave a 2 inch gap at the bottom of the hole, at its widest point.
- Be sure to use the factory edge of the hardware cloth, where the gap is, to avoid any sharp points that may cause injury to the squirrel.
- With your fingers, form a lip with the hardware cloth by bending it towards the outside.
- The squirrel will be able to squeeze out of the hole, but with the hardware cloth bent to the outside, he will not be able to re-enter.
- Spray all patched areas with a repellant such as Ropel ®. Be sure to spray around the one-way door so that the squirrel will not be able to enlarge the hole and get back in.
Block and Trap
If all of the holes are blocked and it appears that squirrels are blocked in, then live traps may be set in the attic. When the squirrels are caught, immediately cover the trap with a large towel to reduce stress. Then, take the trap outside and release it as close to the site where they were live-trapped. Improper relocation to other areas or other habitats usually results in death for the relocated squirrel. Be sure to use a repellant around the holes that have been blocked.
Squirrels with Babies in the Attic
It is best to wait to evict squirrels with babies until the infants are grown and gone. Usually, all squirrels leave the natal area 12-14 weeks after being born for territorial reasons. Sometimes, one may stay behind, and then eviction techniques may be used. If you really need them out immediately, then you will want to get the mother to move the babies on her own.
- Go into the attic and locate the nest during mid-morning.
- Very gently tamper with the nest. Try pulling off the top of the nest and if possible slide the nest over a foot or so. But, remember to be very gentle, babies are quite fragile.
- Place a radio, tuned to an all talk station, about 6' from the nest.
- Roll rags into a tight ball and tie with twine. Soak rag balls in ammonia until saturated and toss them into the vicinity of the squirrels' nest.
- Check the nest the following morning. If the babies are gone, you can usually block the entries. First, make sure the mother didn't move the babies to another part of the attic. The radio usually prevents this.
- If the mother has or knows of an alternate nest site, she will usually move her young within an hour or so. If she has to find or build a new nest, it may take 5 or 6 hours.
Note: In the winter, it is harder for the squirrel to find new nesting material. Tree leaves that the squirrel uses to construct a new nest have fallen from the trees. The squirrel may have to improvise to find a new home. This may be sheds or barns, non-running cars or trucks, covered porches, patios or a neighbor's attic.
Squirrels in Chimneys or Exhaust Fans
Note: Under no circumstance should a fire be used to evict any animal. Starting a fire will only burn and/or kill the animal.
- From the roof, remove caps from the top of the chimney or exhaust fan.
- Drop down a thick rope or cloth, such as old blankets or sheets, so the squirrel can climb out. It is a good idea to tie knots in the rope or cloth about 1 ft. apart, this will provide a more secure climbing surface. You may have to tie 2 or more together to reach the bottom of the chimney. Tie something to provide weight to the bottom of the rope or cloth, such as a hammer, pair of pliers, etc. Be sure to lower slowly. This will help you to feel the bottom, especially if the pipe is curved. Also, it will provide stability when the squirrel climbs up and out.
- Make sure it reaches the bottom. Then secure the rope or cloth at the top.
- Leave the area completely alone. The squirrel should climb out in 1-24 hours. NEVER LEAVE SQUIRRELS IN THE CHIMNEY OR EXHAUST FAN LONGER THAN 24 HOURS — THEY WILL DIE FROM DEHYDRATION!
- Once the squirrel is gone, use a commercially built chimney cap to prevent reocurrence. Exhaust fans usually have caps on them. Use hardware cloth to block the area between the cap and the top of the pipe or any space that can be used as an entry point.
- Or, open the fireplace door so that the squirrel can enter the house, then follow instructions for Removal through the House.
If the chimney is made of metal, then use the above methods. If the chimney is firebrick, then the squirrel can climb out on its own. But if it falls through the flu into the fireplace it usually cannot get back up into the chimney. Open the fireplace door and place a board or branch from the fireplace up to the flu. This way the squirrel can climb out on its own.
Note: It is a good idea to prepare for removal from the house before you open the fireplace door. Usually, the squirrel will stay in a back corner out of fear, but also out of fear, it may bolt into the house. The squirrel will not move out after dark, he will be sleeping. If the squirrel is discovered after dusk, the board or branch can be placed in the fireplace and chances are it won't bolt into the house but remember it won't leave until daylight comes.
Removal Through the House
- Close all doors to any rooms in the house that the squirrel is not in. Close all of the curtains on the windows or the doors in the room where the fireplace or exhaust fan is located. If necessary, use newspaper to cover incoming light sources. Leave the curtain open on the window or the door where you want the squirrel to exit. Open that window or door as wide as possible. Remove the screen, if necessary. Open the door to the fireplace or the cover from the exhaust fan so the squirrel can exit. They will escape towards the light.
Note: If the squirrel is in the chimney, then you must open the flu, so that the squirrel will drop into the fireplace.
Squirrels in Bird Feeders
- Suspend the feeder from a wire.
- Buy a squirrel-proof bird feeder.
- Spread Vaseline ® on poles that squirrels may climb on.
Squirrels Chewing on Lawn Equipment
- Spray with a repellant, such as ®.Ropel
- Spray a mixture of 1 tablespoon of Tabasco sauce ® in 1 quart of water.
Squirrels Chewing Trees
- Spray with a repellant, such as ®.Ropel
- Pour the Ropel ®, full strength, into a tree sprayer that fits on the end of a hose.
- Spray the entire tree. This will make the leaves and bark taste bitter for weeks.
Caution: Do not spray on fruits or vegetables that you plan to eat. Be careful not to inhale the mist of the spray because it will leave a bitter taste in your mouth for a couple of hours. You might want to alert any neighbors that live close that you are spraying.
Note: Trapping and relocation of squirrels is not recommended as a solution. Since squirrels are territorial, your squirrels will also keep other squirrels out of the area, keeping the population to a minimum. If you remove the squirrels, others will simply move in and your problem will continue.
Squirrels are cute critters. Now that they're under control, you can enjoy them from afar!
Reprinted with permission by Urban Wildlife Rescue