Have you been hearing erratic scratching noises coming from your ceiling and attic? Chances are you are the victim of a squirrel infestation.
Like humans, squirrels prefer a warm, cozy sleeping environment, and your attic just happens to fulfill this requirement. Squirrels are not as easy to control as insects or other wildlife. It takes equal measures of patience and resolve to rid your house of these pesky critters.
To control attic squirrels, first determine which kind of squirrel you might have. The common gray squirrel will make noise at dawn and dusk as they are coming in and out of the attic. The smaller flying squirrel will cause commotion during the middle of the night since they are nocturnal.
Regardless of which squirrel species you may have residing in your house, your options are mostly limited to:
1. Preventing entrance to the attic.
2. Trapping the animals.
Repellants rarely work and poisons aren't recommended. Once squirrels are poisoned in the attic, they will often find a wall to hide in, making it nearly impossible to remove the dead animal.
Preventing squirrels from entering your attic may prove difficult, but it will be the best long-term option for stopping future infestations.
Squirrels, especially flying squirrels, can find holes smaller than the size of a quarter to squeeze through, so be thorough in inspecting your roof for holes.
Common entrances include loose screen or holes in attic vents, gaps above gutters, or holes in siding.
To determine where squirrels are entering, conduct a "stake out" in your yard for about an hour at sunset and monitor squirrel activity.
Once you find the holes, they can be sealed with wood, metal or .5 inch wire mesh.
To test to see if you've successfully blocked access, or trapped a squirrel inside the attic, place some bread crumbs with peanut butter in the attic. Check periodically for any disturbance to the bait.
You can also make it harder for squirrels to gain access to the roof by removing any overhanging tree limbs. Have an electrician put plastic pipe around any cables that come into the house. This serves to keep the squirrels from gaining traction on the cables and may also keep them from chewing on the cables.
Trapping is your other main option in eliminating your squirrel problem. You can purchase live-cage traps such as Havahart and Tomahawk brands.
If you have flying squirrels, you will need a trap with a fine wire mesh so they cannot escape. Flying squirrels are easier to trap inside the attic, while gray squirrels are easier to trap outdoors. You will need to gradually lure flying squirrels into your trap by first placing bait, such as peanut butter or sunflower seeds, next to the trap to get them used to it.
Then, move the bait inside the trap without setting it, and then finally place the bait inside the set trap.
For gray squirrels, place a trap outside on a piece of cardboard with birdseed scattered around it and inside the trap past the trigger plate. You may occasionally trap birds, but you should ultimately capture the squirrels.
If all of this sounds like too much trouble for some pesky squirrels, you can also hire a professional to come in and control the infestation for you. If you have squirrels around your house, they will likely be a persistent problem getting into your attic, so vigilance is important in keeping their options limited.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.