Pest Profile: Squirrels
When people think of wild animals, one of the unsurprising favorites is the common squirrel. Squirrels are cute and funny daredevils; what’s not to love? Sadly, when they decide they want to live in your home, the cuteness melts away in the face of torn insulation, gnawed wiring and soiled attic spaces.
The squirrels we’re familiar with in eastern North America are technically eastern gray or simply grey squirrels. They’re smaller rodents who spend their time between the trees and the ground. Trees are mainly their shelter from predators, while the ground is an all you can store-to-eat-later buffet. Squirrels hide their foraged food finds in small caches to eat during leaner times, and they have surprisingly excellent memories when it comes to finding these caches again. Squirrels tend to breed twice a year and give birth to small litters of pups, usually between 2 and 5. Amazingly, even with their constant risk of automobile encounters, squirrels can live an average of 12.5 years in the wild and over 20 in captivity.
Why They’re Pests
When they have the option, squirrels love nothing more than to just hang out in trees, being safe and warm. But human population of natural squirrel habitat has left the squirrels with few options. They can either stay on the ground and be eaten by a predator (your dog or cat would gladly take on the responsibility), fight fiercely amongst themselves for the few available trees, or adapt and use the “trees” humans make: our attics and hollow walls. Not many people are fans of squatters in their homes, so it’s only natural to want freeloading squirrels out of your home too.
Are They Dangerous?
As any suburban street can tell you, we are FAR more dangerous to squirrels than they are to us. However, like all animals, squirrels will do what they must to protect themselves if they feel threatened. A frightened squirrel can and will bite, so it is safest for you and for the squirrel to never come in close contact.
Squirrels can do serious damage to your property when they take up residence. They like to dig into insulation to create nests for their families, and they can really create a foul situation with their droppings and urine. In addition to this, squirrels, like all rodents, need to gnaw on things to keep their teeth filed down. They will gladly gnaw on any part of your house, even including steel piping and electrical wires. Over a quarter of fires of unknown origin are believed to have been caused by rodents gnawing on wires.
Do They Carry Disease?
Despite all of the things you’ve heard about squirrels and diseases, squirrels rarely act as disease vectors. It is difficult for squirrels to catch rabies because their size means they’re more likely to die from a rabid animal’s attack than live to pass the virus on.
Like all wild animals, squirrels are susceptible to and tend to carry parasites. Infected fecal matter and infestations of parasites like fleas, ticks and mites are concerns to take into account when trying to remove a squirrel population.
Because it can be very difficult to tell exactly where all of your squirrel squatters are roaming, live trapping is the best option to keep your house from suddenly acquiring an aroma of dead squirrel. A professional wildlife removal team can help greatly in the process of trapping and relocating your problem squirrels. Professional removal experts can also recommend steps to take to make sure any lingering squirrels can safely escape your home while excluding new ones from entering. After it is certain all of the squirrels have left your home, the same wildlife experts can help you to squirrel proof your home so that you don’t have any new surprise roommates.