Squirrels – though arguably the cutest of rodents – generally don’t create much of a bother around the house. Its when they find their way inside that they can create a host of problems. Issues anywhere from physically damaging your home to introducing salmonella and Lyme disease are just a few of the problems you may have to deal with if the squirrels are not handled properly. Let’s talk about the top 5 ways to spot if you have squirrels inside of your home, and what steps you should take to handle the situation.
It’s important to note that you should not try to handle a squirrel infestation on your own. You can end up doing more damage trying to remove squirrels on your own. Read below for why you should always seek the help of your local pest control professional.
When are squirrels a problem?
Squirrels – like all animals – are opportunists. To survive they’re constantly on the hunt for food and shelter. This is why you’ll often notice squirrels ganging up on your bird feeders; it’s easy food. In nature, a squirrel’s home is a hollow tree, but an attic that’s warm and cozy makes a fantastic substitute. With that being said, keep in mind that squirrels are rodents, and rodents are required to constantly chew in order to keep their front teeth from overgrowing. Squirrels are generally not destructive out in your yard, but when they get inside, it’s a whole different story.
How do I know that squirrels have gotten inside?
Chances are you’ve seen squirrels outside in trees or on utility lines, but there are some tell-tale signs that squirrels have gotten inside the house. Once inside, squirrels (like many rodents) can reproduce at astounding rates. Before you know it, you’ll have a family of squirrels ready to have Thanksgiving dinner in your attic. Keep an eye out for these signs that you have a squirrel infestation:
(1) Signs of chewing
Remember that squirrels are rodents. Animals like dogs or cats begin life with a set of baby teeth which they eventually lose in favor of adult teeth. Rodents are different in that they begin life with a set of teeth that never stop growing. To keep them from overgrowing, rodents will have to constantly chew on anything they find. Outside of your attic, this can mean damaged entry points that squirrels have used to get access into your home. Squirrels have been known to chew on shingles and siding as well. In your attic, this can mean chewed up storage boxes, wooden posts or planks and wires.
(2) Shredded insulation, dust, leaves or twigs
A surefire sign of a squirrel infestation is if you notice a squirrel nest. Squirrels can use anything from insulation that they’ll rip out of your home, leaves or twigs and small branches to create a cozy resting place for themselves and their family. If you notice a nest, its time to get help.
Its no secret that squirrels love acorns. This is food for them. Squirrels are hardy creatures, often gathering acorns during the summer and fall months and storing them for consumption in the colder seasons. If you notice acorns in your attic, chances are that they didn’t get there by themselves.
(4) Strange odors
Another sign to be attentive of is a strange odor in your home. If you’re sure that you’ve done your cleaning and you’re still smelling something weird, you may be smelling your new rodent roommate’s urine or droppings. This is especially dangerous because salmonella and Lyme disease are transmitted to humans by breathing in dust that’s touched squirrel excrement.
Often, you’ll smell it before you see it, but there are times when you might get visual cues before you smell the animals. A tell of any infestation is animal feces inside of the home. Be careful not to mistake squirrel droppings for bat droppings, because they do look similar.
(6) Signs of “water damage”
Anytime a homeowner sees water spots on the ceilings, a few curse words are sure to follow. But water stains on the ceiling doesn’t always mean a leaky roof or a busted pipe. In fact, sometimes it can mean a buildup of urine from animals that have taken shelter in your attic or walls. Once the source of the problem is removed, you can usually fix the issue with a little plaster. If you let the problem go on however, it can mean tearing out drywall; a much more costly fix.
(7) Strange noises
Houses creek and make noises, that’s not unusual. What is unusual is small skittering or scampering noises, or persistent scratching coming from a wall or ceiling. The first of these two – skittering or scampering – comes from when squirrels are just running around in the attic or initially building their nests. The noises may die down once the squirrels get comfy, but don’t be fooled into thinking that they’re gone. Scratching noises often come from when a squirrel has gotten stuck. This could happen if a squirrel falls down a chimney or sweep, or if a squirrel is stuck in your wall. Be sure not to ignore these signs, as they could lead to much bigger issues.
They’re inside, now what?
The most important thing for you to know is to not try to handle this yourself! A lot of posts and “DIY” articles out there will tell you to cover the entry hole that the squirrels are using to get inside. This can cause one of two things to happen.
The first thing that can happen if you block the hole is that you can trap the squirrels inside. The squirrels will go hysterical trying to get back outside to get more food. Squirrels have been known to go into overdrive mode with their chewing as they try desperately to escape the attic. Sometimes this results in the squirrels chewing their way into living spaces, and sometimes this results in the squirrels dying in the attic. After a few weeks, an odor begins to develop and its often impossible to trace this odor to its origin, especially if you have a whole family of dead squirrels up there. The worst-case scenario: your ceilings have to be cut to remove any possible dead rodents.
The second thing that can happen if you block the hole is that you can trap the squirrels outside. In this scenario, you’re either trapping a squirrel out of his or her home, or you’re trapping a mother squirrel away from her young. Squirrels will often find another source back into the house and create more holes for you to deal with. Keep in mind that the amount of damage that a mother squirrel can cause to your house as she tries to reach her babies is shocking.
How do I remove squirrels the correct way?
As homeowners ourselves, we certainly understand the DIY mentality. Some things are DIY friendly, removing squirrels is not one of them. Safe and humane squirrel trapping, eviction and prevention is a job best left to your local pest control professional. Summit Environmental Solutions has 25+ years of pest removal experience. Give us a call and let’s talk about how we can help take care of unwanted house guests before it becomes a much bigger issue.