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Pests/Douglas Squirrels are driving me nuts!

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Question
Hi,  I am looking for help with the most determined of all creatures who want to live in my roof.  I live in rural Washington state on 5 acres of wooded property.  I have been battling these creatures who have chewed their way through the bird blocking under the eves and have also made their way into the roof ridge on the gable ends.  I have nailed up hardware cloth, yet they continue to try to get in EVERY morning.  I hear things at night as well, but can't find any openings, just places where they are trying to pull insulation out of the bird blocking.  I am wondering if I could possibly put up some electric wire around the perimeter at a height where no one would get hurt?  Any suggestions on a solution?

Answer
I do NOT recommend securing holes without first ensuring the infestation is gone. Since it isn't gone, I would suggest you read my suggestions on squirrel control below. Of course, make sure you follow all state and local laws.

What not to do!!  Donít bother with those silly ultrasonic devices. There is no scientific evidence that they work in the real world. http://icwdm.org/ControlMethods/ultrasound.asp Repellents also have limited use in infestation situations. Consider, would you leave your home just because there was a bad smell? Neither would the squirrels. http://icwdm.org/ControlMethods/repellents.asp

For most homeowners, the easiest way to control gray squirrels is to trap them. Cage traps 5x5x24 inch single door traps are the absolute minimum sizes. Larger cage traps can of course be used. 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 (canít 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 stateís agency click  http://icwdm.org/agencies/StateAgencies.asp  Donít 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 doesnít 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 http://icwdm.org/wildlife/euthanasia/relocation.asp For euthanasia information click http://icwdm.org/wildlife/euthanasia/default.asp

To learn more about controlling gray squirrels (all these publications are research based and free of charge) visit http://icwdm.org/handbook/rodents/TreeSquirrels.asp
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 http://icwdm.org/Inspection/Default.asp 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 http://icwdm.org/Inspection/techniquepaperhole.asp

Never, Never, NEVER close a hole unless you are certain that the hole isnít 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 donít hesitate to contact me.

If you think you need a professional. Visit http://www.icwdm.org/VendorsService/default.asp  learn tips on how to identify a true professional. Lots of people think they know what they are doing, but that doesnít mean they actually do.

We are always looking for images (if you can safely take them) of wildlife damage to help us in our educational mission. We prefer high resolution, (3 mg or higher). Send to svantassel2@unl.edu  or if your e-mail canít handle large files upload to http://members.icwdm.org   
Username use all caps.     ICWDM
Password (all lower case)  guest

Please include permission to use the images and where and when the photos were taken. Month/year is fine as is county or city  and state.

Disclaimer: As with any activity, remember that animal damage control comes with its own risks and problems which can include but are not limited to legalities, health threats, and personal liabilities. Be sure to follow all state laws governing wildlife and make sure you have a thorough understanding on how to resolve the animal damage complaint. My advice is only as good as your understanding of me and my understanding of your situation. If you have any questions be sure to write back.  

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Stephen Vantassel

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I was a professional animal damage controller. If you are having problems with squirrels, raccoons, beavers, moles, voles, etc. damaging your property, I can help give you information to resolve that damage. I was an assistant editor for Wildlife Control Technology magazine and have published numerous articles as well as two books in this field.

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former Assistant Editor of Wildlife Control Technology magazine, the nation's only exclusive professional magazine for animal damage controllers. I have published two books, the Wildlife Removal Handbook and the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook.

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