Squirrels and chipmunks may be cute and cuddly but when they come in our attics, they can wreak havoc. First of all, squirrels, like most rodents, tend to be pretty destructive. They can easily chew up phone wires or break lamps and tube lights. Their droppings are harmful to humans and pets. Many times, they are infested with ticks and fleas which are known to cause diseases in humans and pets.
Tree squirrels breed throughout the year which tends to increase their population quickly. Sometimes, squirrels die inside boxes left in the attic and, if left undetected, can raise a stink. To avoid these problems, you need to know who to call for getting rid of the squirrels in the attic. The local town animal control office or wildlife control officers can help, in most cases. Besides that, it is a good idea to educate yourself about the different ways to get rid of squirrels. Here are some tips:
1. Educate yourself about squirrels and their lifecycle
In the eastern parts of the United States, commonly seen varieties of squirrels include the red squirrel, gray squirrel, the fox squirrel, and the flying squirrel. In the Western parts, you are more likely to encounter the Apache fox squirrel and the Western Gray squirrel. Folks closer to the Grand Canyon might see squirrels having tassel-like ears; they are the Kaibab and Abert squirrels. Tree squirrels breed throughout the year and can have one or two litters per year. Squirrels usually enter the attic either for shelter, food, or both.
2. Use bright lights or loud radio
Some of the most effective repellents to get rid of squirrels in the attic naturally are bright lights and loud radio sounds. Placing bright lights inside the attic window can repel and frighten squirrels trapped indoors. Avoid using mothballs or pesticides for repelling squirrels as these contain chemicals like paradichlorobenzene which are hazardous to humans and house pets. Paradichlorobenzene vapors are especially strong in small areas and tend to leave noxious, heavy fumes in a small attic. You can also make loud noises or play some music to frighten the squirrels.
3. Seal and caulk holes and crevices
Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to keeping squirrels out of your attic. Once you have driven out a squirrel, inspect your attic carefully to find out where they are coming in from.
- Use sheet metal, steel wool, or a wire-mesh/screen to keep them out. You can also ‘build’ the squirrels out by using a 26-gauge metal or one-half-inch inch mesh.
- Look for eave openings, loose flashings around chimneys, and the vent pipes. Secure all openings around cables and wires.
- Don’t forget to check the fascia boards behind the rain gutters (particularly behind the downspouts). These tend to rot from ice buildup, creating openings.
4. Repel squirrels with Ro-Pel®
If squirrels are coming to eat from your trash cans, you can use certain repellents for preventing them. A product called Ro-Pel® containing denatonium saccharide can be applied on the wood and trash cans to repel squirrels. Alternatively, use a paste made from tar in the following manner:
Take 3 lb asphalt emulsion, 2 quarts water, and 2 lb copper carbonate. Mix the water with the asphalt first and then add in the copper carbonate. It will yield a black colored paste. Apply the paste all over the cans with a brush. This will prevent squirrels from eating out of your bins.
5. Protect wires and window with polybutene
Repellents containing polybutene (brand name J.T Eaton’s 4 The Squirrel™) can be used on wires and window sills. These sticky caulking agents repel squirrels and keep them from chewing these surfaces.
6. Protect plants and trees with natural squirrel repellents
Squirrels can also inflict damage on our trees and plants. Thankfully, there are some natural products that can be sprayed on flowering bushes and fruit trees to keep these rodents away. A product called Hinder® is quite effective and it smells like rotten eggs. You can also use a natural product called Squirrels Away™ made by Scrypton Systems. It contains capsaicin, a natural ingredient found in peppers or capsicums. Squirrels find this distasteful but birds are not affected by it.
7. Attach bands to trees
Tree squirrels tend to strip the bark from trees and they can easily enter the attic from overhead branches. Place a 2-ft high band completely around the tree so that the bottom of the band is about 6 feet from the ground. Also, try and clear off a distance of 6 feet between the roof of the structure and the overhanging branches. Make the band adjustable and loosen it as the tree grows.
8. Live-trap the squirrels
There are ways to live-trap squirrels but this needs expertise and squirrels can also escape easily from the traps. You also have to be patient and leave the trap baited for several days before the squirrels actually go inside.
To bait the squirrels, place peanuts, acorns, nutmeats, sunflower seeds, molasses, peanut butter, or other attractive baits in front of and inside the trap. If you plan on using a lightweight cage to trap squirrels, then be aware that these can be easily flipped over by the trapped animal. So you must stabilize the cage with a bar that goes in and through the cage. In some cases, you might have to place some weight on the door so that it drops quickly.
The strategic placement of traps is also important. Seek expert advice if you need it. For example, you must carefully decide where to place the trap: in the exterior or interior of the house. Exterior traps have the advantage that they can be monitored even if the homeowner isn’t at home. They can also be checked from the ground below.
Do speak to the local extension or wildlife officials if you plan on using sharp traps. In many states, it is illegal to kill squirrels as they are protected game animals. If your local extension or wildlife official states that it is legal to kill squirrels, then you might want to use steel traps or Conibear traps that are designed to injure animals.
9. Re-locate trapped squirrels
Once you have caught a squirrel in the trap, you must re-locate it far from home. Take it away at least 15-20 miles; any nearer than that and they could come back. Your local wildlife officials can guide you in the best method of relocation.
10. Use glue boards
In places where it is legal, homeowners can use glue boards to trap squirrels. You may want to ensure fastening the boards down securely or tying them with a wire. This way, the squirrel cannot crawl away.
Always consult your local regulation programs about squirrel trapping.