How do I control red squirrels?

Wildlife Damage Management April 24, 2012|Print

Controlling Red Squirrels. What not to do!!

Don’t bother with those silly ultrasonic devices. There is no scientific evidence that they work in the real world. Repellents also have limited use in infestation situations, including mothballs. Consider, would you leave your home just because there was a bad smell? Neither would the squirrels. For most homeowners, the easiest way to control squirrels is to trap them. Rat-sized snap traps or cage traps 5x5x24 inch single door traps can be used. Make sure the mesh of cage traps is less than ½ inch. If using rat snap traps, place them inside a PVC pipe large enough to allow the trap to spring. Close off the end of the tube opposite the bait side. This way, the squirrel is forced to access the bait directly and misfires will be reduced. Always, secure traps to prevent them from moving and/or falling off of buildings. The danger in trapping during the early spring is that any young that may have been born, will die if you remove the mother. There may be an odor as they start to decay (can’t say for sure as there are too many variables). To avoid this potential risk read below. The reason why many people fail at trapping is they neglect to use enough traps and thereby educate the others. Before starting any trapping program you should make sure you know the laws in your area. Some states permit the translocation of wildlife, others like Massachusetts do not.

To find your state’s agency click State Agencies Don’t think that translocation of wildlife is necessarily more humane than simply euthanizing the animal. An animal that is moved from its native area has to 1. find a new home 2. find new food and water sources 3. while avoiding predators and 4 do so before nightfall or daybreak (depending on species) so that it doesn’t freeze to death etc. Translocation also stresses the resident population because you now introduced a newcomer who has to fight for territory. Not to mention any potential diseases that the newcomer may bring to the locale or contract from the new area.

For information on the problems with translocation, visit Relocation For euthanasia information click Euthanasia

To learn more about controlling squirrels (all these publications are research based and free of charge) visit Tree Squirrels

Set traps as close to the entrance they are using to the structure as can be done safely. To learn how to inspect your building visit Inspection Before trapping, eliminate as much available food as possible, particularly bird feeders.

Bird Feeders Use plenty of traps, like at least six. Pre-bait for a few days. When the food gets removed from all of them on the same day, set the traps for real. Reds can get trap wise. So you need to hit them hard the first time. Don't educate them. Sunflower seeds and peanutbutter. Don't set traps where birds can see them. Cover the traps if necessary. Whether there is more than one squirrel in your building is difficult to determine until the job is finished. However, statistically speaking, the likelihood that you are dealing with a female with young is very high during the spring time of year. Females raise young alone, the male doesn't assist. However, depending on size of house, you could have more than one nest of squirrels in the same building. It isn't common but it is not unheard of. Animals have adapted to urbanization. It may sound reasonable to think that you can watch the animal leave and then close the hole behind it. But consider the following. Are there any young left behind? Is another adult inside? Will the squirrel chew back in? (squirrels are beaver that climb). Will the squirrel chew in somewhere else? If you are concerned about possible young being abandoned to die if you trap the mother, then you have a couple of options. Risks of this occurring are highest in the early spring and mid summer (squirrels mate twice a year). 1. Wait until you start seeing the young move out of the nest. When they get a little more mature, they begin to leave the nest and hang around the outside of the hole. When they are mobile, they can be trapped. 2. Wait until the summer heat gets so great that they squirrels move out. Please note that we have heard that newer homes have attics that are so drafty that squirrels may remain all year. This has happened in New Jersey.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN THE JOB IS DONE? Simply monitor the hole by corking it with newspaper to see if activity has stopped. I use an extension painter's pole. Take a sheet or two of newsprint, squeeze it around the tip and extend it up to the hole and cork the squirrel hole. (BE CAREFUL OF POWERLINES). Some poles extend out around 20 ft. Add your own height and you should be able to cork most holes of a two floor house from the safety of the ground. If the newspaper doesn't move for 5 days (assuming good weather) then you have a good chance that they are gone and you can then secure the hole. See photos and more info at Hole Check

Never, Never, NEVER close a hole unless you are certain that the hole isn’t being used!!! Failure to follow this advice can result in additional damage to the home and/or trapping an animal inside with resultant risk of smell. Check your smoke detectors. Squirrels can chew electrical wires. Although not common, it can happen. If a fire erupts, you want the smoke detector to be working so you can get to safety. If I can be of further service, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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