Squirrels are very good at climbing, and they do this headfirst, whether they are climbing down trees or scaling your walls and chimneys. They love to reside in homes, in places like ceilings, attics, walls, and eaves. Generally, squirrels are known for not creating too much chaos around the house. However, the problems arise when they do find their way inside your house. They can not only damage your home physically, but also can they introduce you to a host of diseases like Lyme and Salmonella. The key to dealing with this problem is awareness: be on the lookout for squirrel activity around your home.
What are the ways of knowing that a squirrel resides in your walls? Strange noises coming from the walls, footprints in and immediately outside the house, decaying smells, squirrel droppings, squirrel fights, interior damage, and signs of water damage.
Here is a closer look at each of these signs. This article will also briefly look at what it takes for these creatures to survive inside your walls and how you can use this information to get rid of them in the safest way possible.
Signs of squirrel infestation
- Strange noises – If you are keen enough, you are very likely to hear a squirrel before actually seeing it or any of its signs, especially during winter or rainy months. You need to listen very carefully for any strange sounds around your home. The two most common sounds to expect are:
- Scampering and scurrying
- Chewing or scratching
Since squirrels tend to make homes in walls and attics, keep your ears open towards these areas.
- Squirrel footprints – Footprints and tracks made by squirrels are quite easy to identify, so be on the lookout for these. They are small, each front paw having four toes while the back paws have five. You can notice these in the snow or mud in the winter.
If you suspect a particular part of your house, you can put a piece of flour-covered cardboard in that area. If indeed you have some squirrels around, you will notice their footprints made in the flour.
- Foul, rotting smell – Since the squirrels are making a home out of the walls of your house, there is a likelihood that not all of them survive. Some of them may have gotten stuck, lacked food, or are just too young to take care of themselves. As a result, bodies of dead squirrels will begin to decay with time.
If this is the case, you will notice a very strong unpleasant smell in the house, indicating that your unwanted friends are dying. Trace the squirrels and remove them from inside your walls to get rid of the terrible odor.
It is not recommended to use poison to get rid of the squirrels, as this with only lead you to more dead squirrels and, consequently, the horrible smell in your house. Therefore, always contact an expert to give you a helping hand in solving this problem.
- Squirrel droppings – If you happen to observe these, then there is no doubt that your home is infested. The only problem is that you can never be sure from which animal these droppings come, because they are similar to those of rats, bats, and raccoons.
It is important to note that any kind of animal droppings can be hazardous to your health, since they carry dangerous bacteria and diseases. Do not come into contact with these, but rather contact wildlife control and let them handle the issue by inspecting the droppings and identifying the pest.
- Squirrel fights – If you happen to see some squirrels fighting in your compound, it does not necessarily mean that your home is infested. However, it may indicate that your home is at risk, meaning you need to check out this issue and sort it out as soon as you can.
- Internal damage – Note that it might not be very easy to see any signs of squirrels, since a big part of the damage caused is in attics or walls. In these areas, look out for:
- Teeth marks
- Chewed wires and cables
- Scattered wood chips
- Damage of air vents
- Damage of exterior areas of your house may also indicate that the squirrels are just around you, so do not ignore any of these signs:
- Damage of rooflines
- Ripped garbage bags and scattered rubbish
- Chewed outer panels
- Damaged bird feeders
- Holes in silts
- Half-eaten plants in the garden
- Chewed up furniture
- Signs of water damage – Water damage in ceilings, unfortunately, may not always mean that rain is seeping through your roofs. It may be an indication that squirrels are climbing up your walls and into your attics too. The longer squirrels reside in your house, the more urine and feces they produce. If you are not quick enough to take care of this situation. This waste will pile up and eat into your insulation and wood, causing staining, bubbling and peeling off of walls, the same way water damage does.
Conditions that favor the survival of squirrels
According to the BBC, squirrels are found on every continent, except for Australia and Antarctica. If your continent is either of these two, you should rule out the possibility of squirrel infestation in your home.
Squirrels are arboreal,meaning they often make homes either in leaf nests or inside tree cavities. Tree squirrels depend on the availability of mast, especially acorns, for survival. This means that their habitat has to have these nut-bearing trees.
Squirrels are into three main categories, meaning each of these have their adaptations and means of survival. You need to be aware of what each of them looks like and be prepared beforehand, if you are to win the battle against these pests. The three categories of squirrels are:
- Flying squirrel
- Gray squirrel
- Red squirrel
Its typical habitat is inside tree cavities in hardwoods. It is smaller than the gray squirrel, and enters the smallest of holes and cracks. It can also chew these areas for a wider space for entry. It is about 9 inches long and weighs almost 3 ounces as an adult. It has thick, brown fur and a white belly.
However, a flying squirrel does not fly, rather, it glides into attics and roofs from trees, with the help of a thin skin extending from the sides of the body, and connecting the front and hind legs.
Flying squirrels are active at night, making a lot of noise at this time. You may hear them landing on the roof too.
These are almost 18 inches long, and are larger than flying squirrels. They weigh about 1-1.5 pounds as an adult. Their colors are mainly gray, salt and pepper, but they can also have a bit of tan hairs and a white belly. Their diet is composed of bird eggs, insects, fruit, berries, vegetables, nestling birds, and nuts. They have a habit of hoarding food.
Expect to hear gray squirrels during the day, as they are not nocturnal. They can also be found in crawl spaces like walls. They enter your walls and attic areas via gutters, bushes, and nearby trees.
This type of squirrel is smaller than both the gray and flying squirrel, with a size of 6 inches. Its color is deep red, with a distinguishing white ring around the eyes and a white underbelly. Its tail is not as bushy as the other two squirrels, and its color varies from yellow-gray to red-brown. Unlike the gray squirrels, they have ear tufts.
Red squirrels are known to be very vocal, with a prominent growl, screech, or chirp. They feed on seeds, nuts, and conifer cones. They can also eat birds’ eggs, fruits, and nestling birds. This type of squirrels defends their territory more than the others, so be careful. They also do not hibernate, but look for shelter during harsh weather conditions.
How to get rid of squirrels
Now that you have identified the signs of squirrels living inside your home, you need to know ways of getting rid of these pesky animals. The methods of removing squirrels from your walls are pretty much the same as those of removing them from the attic. This information can also be useful for preventing potential infestation or harm from squirrels. Follow the steps below and you are good to go:
Closely scrutinize the exterior of your house in search of any entry points. Keep your eyes peeled for openings on roofs or exterior walls. You should know that squirrels can flatten themselves to fit through any small openings they make, and it is, therefore, important that you do not ignore any of these.
Put some traps just outside the openings, if any. Squirrels are attracted to nuts, so place a spoonful of peanut butter inside the trap. These traps can be found in most home or hardware stores, and do not kill or injure the squirrels.
You need to then contact animal support. If you managed to trap a squirrel, the experts will avail themselves to remove it themselves.
Next, cover openings and entry points using plywood, which you need to nail firmly in place. Then, seal its edges to keep it firm, because the squirrels might try to pull on these edges.
If you have some steel wool around, stuff it into small openings, so that squirrels cannot make it past. They also cannot attempt to chew the steel wool, because its rough and spiky texture will cut them. Steel wool is available in stores near you.
You can throw in some mothballs into small openings, because squirrels hate the smell. They will keep off the areas with this smell. Note that mothballs can be toxic and hazardous to health, so ensure that they are out of reach of children and pets.
Finally, ensure that you trim and prune branches of trees around your home, since squirrels tend to use these branches as bridges to easily get to your house. Keep a distance of at least 15 feet between the nearest branch and your house to thwart all the squirrels’ plans.
Moreover, here are some tips that may come in handy when trapping squirrels.
- Ensure you are always wearing gloves whenever you are handling a trap with a squirrel inside.
- Ever heard of “pre-baiting”? It involves leaving the trap outside and wide open with the bait for a while. The aim of this is to make the squirrel get used to the object, to gain its confidence.
- Place traps where you can see or hear squirrel activity.
Squirrels can be nasty little creatures. They can chew and bite through almost anything they come across, be it your woodwork, your walls, or your ceiling. However, with the tips outlined above, you should have an easier time keeping them at bay.
Besides squirrels, there are a number of other seasonal pests that you should be aware of. Every season has its own set of pest problems. In Spring and Early Summer, be on the lookout for ants, wasps, rodents, and spiders. Late Summer to Fall might give you a problem with hornets, bees, fleas, rodents, ants and yellow jackets, so you need to be prepared to handle this. Winter pests are commonly mice, rats, and ants.
If you happened to end up needing an exterminator, perhaps a small consolation is that you may not need to leave your home when the exterminators are working. Most treatments from exterminators today are 100% safe, and, therefore, there is no need to worry about your safety or that of your family or pets. The pest control treatments are only toxic in minimal proportions, but safe for people of all ages.