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Squirrels: Facts, Identification & Control
By simply watching a squirrel, one sees a free-spirited daredevil. They playfully
scamper across the ground, fearlessly leap from tree branch to tree branch, and masterfully run along power
lines without a misstep. Squirrels seem to live a fairly carefree lifestyle, but they can create a number of
problems for humans.
The most commonly encountered species of tree squirrels are
the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), the red squirrel (Tamiasciurus
hudsonicus), the flying squirrel (Glaucomys spp), and the fox squirrel
(Sciurus niger). Tree squirrels
generally nest within trees in wooded areas. As humans expand into natural areas, squirrels are forced to look for
alternate means of lodging including entering buildings. The most frequently invaded areas are garages and attics.
Squirrels reach these areas by chewing holes in the exterior of the structure and typically either nest, store
food, or both. Their activity is usually noisy and heard by anyone in close proximity.
Tree squirrels are most active in the early morning and
late afternoon hours. They spend this time in search of or storing food. A squirrel’s usual diet consists of fruit,
bark, nuts, seeds, buds, leaves, bulbs, and insects. If immediate nourishment isn’t needed, it will store the food
in a cache for winter keeping. Flying squirrels, by exception, are primarily active at night. Most young are born
during two periods of the year – early spring and late summer. Tree squirrels generally bear two litters per year
while flying squirrels tend to give birth only once annually. Litters vary in count between three and eight
depending on species.
Controlling tree squirrels is a challenging task. Since
many of the species are protected, it’s advised to consult local conservation offices before starting. Finding
entry points is a mandatory first step. After determining how squirrels are entering the structure, their schedule
and habits inside should be noted. Be sure to identify the number of squirrels and if they have young nesting.
Often, squirrels will burrow under insulation to nest, so discovery may not be easy. Exclusion can be by using wire
cloth to keep squirrels out.
Ground squirrels typically do not climb into trees and can
cause damage to crops, ornamentals, and gardens. These can be trapped and relocated or controlled by rodenticides
As previously mentioned, squirrels can be a challenge to
control. It’s advised that a professional be contacted to handle the situation.