Squirrels are a natural part of the environment, but they become pests when they cause damage to homes and property.
Squirrels Become Pests
- To the home: In seeking to build nests, squirrels will chew openings through the siding and beneath eaves. They may also get into the home through unscreened chimneys and vents, and build nests there or in the attic. Once inside, the squirrels can continue to chew on insulation of the structure, around wires, etc., causing extensive damage—or even 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. Even if the opening of the feeder is intended to be too small for squirrels, they can gnaw on it to create a larger opening and squeeze in.
- 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, and chew holes in maple syrup dispensing tubes.
Regulations vary from state to state for control of wildlife, specific animals and specific species. In relation to squirrel control laws:
- 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, before initiating control efforts.
That said, there are ways to control squirrel invasion and damage through prevention:
1. Exclude Squirrels from Entering the Home
- Trim branches that touch or are within six feet of the home.
- Cover chimneys and vents with a mesh screen to prevent squirrels, or other wildlife from climbing in.
- Prevent travel along utility lines by asking the company to 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.
2. 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.
3. Protect Plants and Property 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.
- Plant Bulbs: Place one-inch mesh wire over newly planted bulbs and cover with mulch.
- Repellants: Repellants that target squirrels are available at most nurseries and garden centers. Always follow all label directions and keep out of reach of children and pets.
4. 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. Follow all laws and trap instructions.
- Take precautions to reduce hazards to non-target wildlife or pets.
- Pesticides: Pesticides are not recommended because of the risk to other wildlife and pests. These should only ever be used by a licensed professional.