Squirrel Control

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension

Whether it’s moles in the lawn, squirrels in the attic, or coyotes terrorizing a neighborhood, consumers now have instant access to research-based solutions for helping humans and wildlife coexist.  Managing problems caused by wildlife is available through an online resource dedicated to linking people who need information with the experts who have this information.  The eXtension Wildlife Damage Management Web site puts a wealth of information directly on consumers’ computer screens.  It’s an excellent resource for anyone needing information about managing wildlife problems.

We often get calls from homeowners concerned over the number of squirrels they are sharing their pecans with or squirrels that are trying to move in their home with them.  If this is your situation the following information may be very helpful to you.  Prevent squirrels from climbing isolated trees and power poles by encircling them with a 2 foot-wide (61-cm) collar of metal 6 feet (1.8 m) off the ground.  Attach metal using encircling wires held together with springs to allow for tree growth.

Prevent squirrels from traveling on wires by installing 2-foot (61-cm) sections of lightweight 2 to 3-inch diameter (5.1- to 7.6-cm) plastic pipe.  Slit the pipe lengthwise, spread it open, and place it over the wire. The pipe will rotate on the wire and cause traveling squirrels to tumble.

Close openings to attics and other parts of buildings but make sure not to lock squirrels inside.  They may cause a great deal of damage in their efforts to chew out.  Place traps inside as a precaution after openings are closed.  A squirrel excluder can be improvised by mounting an 18-inch (46-cm) section of 4-inch (10-cm) plastic pipe over an opening.  The pipe should point down at a 45-degree angle.  A one-way door can also be used over an opening to let squirrels out and prevent them from returning.  Close openings to buildings with heavy 1/2-inch (1.3-cm) wire mesh or make other suitable repairs.  Custom-designed wire mesh fences topped with electrified wires may effectively keep out squirrels out of gardens or small orchards.

Trim limbs and trees to 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 m) away from buildings to prevent squirrels from jumping onto roofs.  In backyards where squirrels are causing problems at bird feeders, consider providing an alternative food source.  Wire or nail an ear of corn to a tree or wooden fence post away from where the squirrels are causing problems.  In high-value crop situations, it may pay to remove woods or other trees near orchards to block the “squirrel highway.”

Naphthalene (moth balls) may temporarily discourage squirrels from entering attics and other enclosed spaces.  Use of naphthalene in attics of occupied buildings is not recommended, however, because it can cause severe distress to people.  Supplement this method with lights.

Ropel® is a taste repellent that can be applied to seeds, bulbs, and flowers; trees and shrubs; poles and fences; siding and outdoor furniture.  Capsaicin is also a taste repellent, registered for use on maple sap collecting equipment and birdseed.

Polybutenes are sticky materials that can be applied to buildings, railings, downspouts, and other areas to keep squirrels from climbing.  They can be messy.  A pre-application of masking tape is recommended. No toxicants or fumigants are registered for squirrels.

A variety of traps will catch squirrels, including No. 0 or No. 1 leg-hold traps, the “Better Squirrel and Rat Trap,” box traps, and cage traps.  Regular rat-sized snap traps will catch flying squirrels and small pine squirrels.  Glue traps for rats will catch small squirrels.

Since squirrels are classified as game species in most states, trapping permits may be required from your local state wildlife agency or municipal Animal Control office.  Wire cage traps and box traps can be used to capture squirrels alive.  Tie trap doors open for 2 to 3 days to get squirrels accustomed to feeding in the traps.  Then set the traps and check them twice daily.  Inform your neighbors of your trapping activities.  Translocation of tree squirrels is a questionable practice because of the stress placed on transported and resident squirrels and concerns regarding the transmission of diseases.

Good baits are slices of orange and apple, walnuts or pecans removed from the shell, and peanut butter.  Other foods familiar to the squirrel may also work well, such as corn or sunflower seeds.

Where firearms are permitted, shooting is effective.  A shotgun with No. 6 shot or a .22-caliber rifle is suitable.  Check with your state wildlife agency for regulations pertaining to the species in your area.

Often several control methods used simultaneously are more successful than a single method.  For example, to remove a squirrel from an attic, watch squirrels to determine where they enter.  Then use repellents and lights to drive them out.  After squirrels appear to have left the building, use appropriate exclusion methods to keep them out.  One or more baited traps will catch squirrels that are accidentally closed in.  This last step is very important because locked-in squirrels may cause damage when they try to chew their way out.

Squirrel damage in yards, gardens, forests, and orchards is often very difficult to control.  During population highs, new squirrels arrive quickly to replace those shot or trapped.

For more information on this or other wildlife damage management issues you can go to the eXtension Wildlife Damage Management Web site at: http://www.extension.org/wildlife_damage_management or call the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Hoke County Center at 910-875-3461 or email me at keith_walters@ncsu.edu for more information.

Posted on Jan 6, 2012
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