Our mountain community offers diverse wildlife to enjoy. As we encroach on their homes, we need to understand how to deal with problems we may cause the animal wildlife. See below for information on common wildlife problems and how to solve them. Note that all wildlife are protected by local, state, and federal regulations. It is unlawful to keep indigenous animals as pets.
Click here for information on Raccoons and Skunks.
Most weigh between 15 and 25 ounces, and are 7 to 12 inches in length. Their home range is 1 to 7 acres, and their life span is 1 to 3 years. Squirrels have 2 litters per year, one in the spring (February to April depending upon temperatures) and one in the fall (July to September). Squirrels eat tree nuts, plant seeds, fruit, flowers, bulbs, mushrooms, tree bark and some animal matter.
We have several varieties locally. When squirrels cause problems, the methods used to solve them must be specific to the problem. Several methods must be combined and used continuously over a period of at least two weeks.
Public Health Issues
It is important not to handle squirrels. Squirrels can be a host to a number of parasites and be carriers of bubonic plague. However, bubonic plague is more commonly carried by rock squirrels and prairie dogs. Take responsibility for your family's health by preventing contact with wildlife and keeping your family's tetanus vaccinations up to date. Rodent bites are not tested by the health department. The main concern is preventing infection from bites and scratches.
Problems and Solutions
Any habitat altering methods must be employed consistently for 2 weeks and monitored closely. If you are not consistent, they will become more aggressive and persistent. The best method to prevent problems with squirrels is to alter their habitat.
Females often enter buildings to build a nest. They only need an opening with a diameter of 1 1/2 inches. They invariably find an entrance high on a structure and exploit an existing hole or enlarge one by gnawing it. A homeowner's first sign of squirrel presence is usually the sound of scampering in the attic.
It is assumed that the squirrel is trapped in the chimney unless there is clear evidence that the squirrel can climb in & out on its own. Such evidence would be watching squirrels exit the chimney & nesting materials or babies inside the chimney. DO NOT try to smoke a squirrel out of the chimney. Dead animals create a stench in the house which will be far worse than a live squirrel in the chimney.
If the squirrel is not trapped inside the chimney proceed with the following steps:
1. Thoroughly inspect inside and outside of chimney to find the opening.
2. Try to locate presence of babies.
3. If no young are present, try to frighten the adult out by banging pots inside the fireplace and waiting until all have left, usually during the day.
4. Open the flue a little bit & place a bowl of ammonia near it, allowing the smell to rise up.
5. If young are present it is best to wait until they are able to leave by themselves (usually only 6-8 weeks).
6. Seal up the opening and any weak spots with 1/2 inch wire or sheet metal. Extend metal 6 inches beyond opening to prevent gnawing by squirrels.
7. You may want to apply the squirrel repellent mixture around the covered opening. The mixture may stain, but it is effective.
8. You also need to cap the chimney.
If the squirrel is trapped inside the chimney proceed with the following steps:
1. Tie a 1/2 inch thick rope to the top of the chimney & lower it down through the chimney. Make sure the rope reaches the flue damper.
2. Place a bowl of ammonia on top of an overturned bucket in the firebox.
3. Open flue slightly to allow smell to rise up.
4. The squirrel will climb up the rope and escape.
5. Remove rope & bowl of ammonia.
6. Screen chimney with 1/2 inch mesh hardware wire or a commercially made cap.
Squirrel Loose in the House
Most squirrels that have entered the house have done so by accident. They want to leave just as much as you want them to. If the exact location is known, close all the interior doors to limit its movement and open any windows or exterior doors to the room with the squirrel. If left alone, the squirrel will find the opening and will readily jump from a second story building without harming itself.
Squirrels Raiding the Bird Feeder
Squirrels often become nuisances at bird feeders because they are particularly adept at overcoming obstacles when the reward is food. If a feeder is placed more than 8 ft. from a tree or a building and not placed under anything from which a squirrel can jump, or if the feeder is on a pole, a protective squirrel baffle at least 18 - 24 inches wide will help. You can also try to "squirrel proof" your feeder by enclosing it in a wire cage & cutting holes big enough for birds - but not for squirrels. They will work at the wire so impede their progress by making repairs when needed. You can add cayenne pepper to the bird seed. This will deter squirrels and not affect birds.
Hang feeders from a horizontal wire that is protected by loose sleeves of small diameter smooth metal pipe. If the swiveling pipe sections are 28 inches or longer, most squirrels cannot jump across.
Squirrels Damaging Gardens and Trees
Tree bark, fruits, and nuts are important food sources for squirrels. Squirrels can cause damage to vegetation, but they can also be very beneficial as natural tree trimmers. They prune branches & twigs when feeding & making nests which promotes vegetation growth. If you want to keep squirrels away from your plants, try the following ideas:
We discourage the use of live traps to relocate squirrels. Relocating individual squirrels away from their home range without altering the habitat is merely a short term solution. Relocating animals will cause more long term problems for the homeowner by actually increasing the local population. By removing existing squirrels you invite others to come in and compete for the new resources created by the available territory, resulting in more squirrels than you had before in a relatively short period of time.
Due to increased resources, litter size tends to increase as well. Since squirrels can breed twice a year, the results of trapping can be noticed relatively quickly. If a squirrel is removed from a habitat, other types of animals requiring the same resources as squirrels (for example rats & mice) may increase to take advantage of the increased food/resource availability.