Squirrels are America’s favorite wild animal to watch, feed, and be entertained by. Simultaneously, they are also hated by gardeners, bird feeders, dogs, cats, and grumpy old men everywhere. There are devices to deter squirrels from eating your bird seed, and other devices designed to entertainingly feed the squirrels as well. Currently, here in Missouri, our squirrels are trying to help us win the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers. People love to hate the squirrels. Squirrels tend to always be in a hurry, always have an invisible list of many errands to run, and really don’t have time to mess with us humans. Frequently though, because of their sheer population size, we encounter our squirrels in the worst ways, and find ourselves in situations where we have to solve squirrel issues. Here are our most frequent squirrel related wildlife calls.
Squirrels in the Attic
The simplest way to solve a squirrel in the attic/garage, or anywhere else in your home, is to wait until early morning when the squirrel goes out to start running their errands and while the squirrel is gone close off whatever entry point the animal had to get into your home. In attics, just look for the light streaming in from somewhere and close the gap with wire mesh or solid wood thick enough to not be chewed through. Make sure that you also check VERY well in that area to see if there are any baby squirrels inside that you are taking the Mom away from. The most tenacious of squirrels are mothers separated from their young. In those cases, nothing will deter her from trying to get back into your home.
Reuniting baby squirrels with Mom is a fairly simple task. If these squirrels were in your attic or rain gutter, remove the babies (YES! It is okay to touch them, Mom doesn’t mind!) and place them in a soft pillowcase somewhere warm while you install the home repair necessary to keep Mom from nesting where you don’t want here. After the repair is complete, place the squirrel kids in a small butter bowl, or shoe box with a soft pillowcase or piece of fleece. *Be careful to not use a towel or knit product. The squirrel’s claws will get tangled in it and they will get stuck* Put the babies as close to the original den site as possible for Mom to retrieve them. If they were in the attic, place them on the roof or as high as possible outside your home. If in direct sunlight, make sure you use the pillowcase or even a piece of newspaper to protect them from being in direct sunlight. After placing the squirrels outside for Mom to be able to retrieve them, GO INSIDE.
Take your children, pets, everyone indoors and give Mom time enough to feel safe so she can come over and get her babies. It will take her a while to come back and get them, one by one, over the course of the day, and relocate them all to a more suitable den site. You’ll notice her come get a baby, then disappear from sight for ten-thirty minutes, then come back for the next one, repeat times however many kids. If Mom doesn’t retrieve all of the babies, or if she doesn’t return before dark to get them, please contact the wildlife hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP to get further instructions.
Squirrels do not want to be in the main part of your home any more than you want them there. In fact, many times, when squirrels are stuck in your home, you will notice that they knock down curtain rods, knock things off of window sills, etc. because they are bumping their heads against the windows trying to find a way out. To a squirrel, height equals safety, because in the wild, that is how they survive. In your home, it means that when scared a squirrel with often sit on top of curtain rods, cabinets, anything high up. Quickly open every window and door that you can, and clear out your family and pets so that the squirrel can begin to calm down and start to find his way out. The squirrel wants out of there just as badly as you want him out! It is just a matter of time before the squirrel will run out an open door or window, never to be heard from again. If you cannot get the squirrel to see the open windows and doors, or if he is just too scared to come down and leave, please call the wildlife hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP for further instruction.
… A Word about Poison …
We at the Wildlife Hotline are strong opponents to poisoning wildlife. First off, it is not a legal way to handle wildlife conflicts. Secondly, poison never ends up only affecting the animal that you intended to poison. These animals are part of the circle of life, and if poisoned a predator comes along and eats the dead animal which then kills the predator, which gets picked apart by birds, which then kills the birds, then the birds are found by a domestic cat and kills the cat. It just isn’t simple issue. Poison has proven to be a far too dangerous way to handle wildlife conflicts. Before you decide to use poison to handle your wildlife conflict please read our ‘Poison Risks & Consequences’ page to learn more about this issue.
Cut Down a Tree and Found Mom & Babies
Squirrel mothers are extremely dedicated to their children. There is nothing worse than a litter of babies going to a rehabber, then getting home to see the mother squirrel looking everywhere for her kids. It’s heartbreaking. Whenever at all possible, please reunite babies with their natural mothers. They are much better off with their natural moms. If the babies are covered in ants, cold to the touch, or bleeding/injured in any way, please call the hotline to find a local rehab center. If they seem clean and healthy, place inside a small box (shoe box is fine too), or a disposable bowl like a butter bowl or disposable Tupperware type container, and put the squirrels inside somewhat covered with a piece of cloth or newspaper. If you are using a box, tack the one side of the box to a tree trunk as high as you can reach, If you are using a plastic container you may have to use a screw or nail to tack the container to the tree. Then, WALK AWAY. Give Mom time to see/hear her babies and have the opportunity to retrieve them. She will not come around when you are still standing there feet away watching. Go inside and watch from a window. If you do not see Mom return within an hour or two, please call the wildlife hotline for advice. To avoid this issue, try to cut trees down only in the months of October – February in the Missouri/Illinois area.
There is a product called “Ropel” that can be found at lawn and garden stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, and even some Wal-Mart stores. It can also be ordered from Amazon.com. Cayenne pepper also works well as a deterrent against nuisance squirrel chewing.
Squirrels have been known to chew on a car’s electrical wires and cause major damage to a car as well. To deter the squirrels from doing this, purchase a few bottles of hot sauce, or tobasco sauce and put it in a spray bottle. You may have to add a little water to thin out the liquid so it will spray better. Then spray everything that you do not want squirrels or mice to chew on. You will have to reapply the spray every 3-5 days, or after it rains, but many times this teaches the squirrel their lesson in about 2 weeks. Home Improvement stores also sell a product called Tree Guard and it comes in a spray and supposedly tastes terrible for rodents as well. You can use that instead of the hot sauce, but it is much more expensive.
Dog Or Cat Caught Squirrel
Dogs and cats versus squirrels is an age old issue. If you can help it, please keep your pets away from squirrels and do not allow them to chase them. In a lot of cases, dogs and cats will get injured as well in the fight, no matter who ultimately ‘wins’. There are no true winners in domestic animals versus squirrel. Rabies is extremely uncommon in squirrels. In fact, we have not had a squirrel test positive for rabies in Missouri since the 1980’s. That doesn’t mean that you can stop worrying all together about the possibility though, Your pets should ALWAYS be properly vaccinated against the rabies virus, just in case. It is much more likely that your pet will contract internal parasites after eating part of a squirrel. Contact your pet’s veterinarian and let them know that your pet consumed part of all of a squirrel and ask them if you can drop off a stool sample to test for internal parasites. If you live in an area where squirrels are a part of your every day world, or if your pet is the type to constantly catch squirrels and rabbits, please ask your veterinarian about vaccinating your pet against the disease “Leptospirosis”. This disease is transmitted via squirrel’s urine, and can be deadly to pets.
For any other squirrel questions or conflicts, please call the Wildlife Hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP to speak with a wildlife specialist.