"Squirrels in the attic"
Column #825 12/11/2010
On The Level
Q. Squirrels have found a home in my attic this year. The other morning I thought they were having a dance contest up there with all the noise they were making. That's where the noise is coming from. I've seen squirrels on the roof. It looks like they get up there easily by jumping from nearby trees onto the roof. The question is how do I get rid of these guys and keep them out? I think they got in at the gable vents. Chicken wire might work but itís an awfully small space up there and itís not obvious how to nail it in place from the outside without it being unsightly. Any or all suggestions would be welcomed!
A. It turns out that we have been building houses on the squirrels' property. It may not show up during a title search prior to settlement but if you have a wooded lot then that lot really belongs to the band of squirrels who lived there before the house was built.
Since squirrels don't have a significant natural enemy in the wild, their numbers are controlled by their food supply. A given woodlot will support a certain number of squirrels. Some refer to these furry creatures as tree-rats. Along come humans who knock down a few living trees, cut them up, and reassemble them as a house. That's all the squirrel sees. And more often than not, the trespassers (you) put out food trays (bird feeders) and the squirrels now have an increased food supply so they can have more baby squirrels.
Squirrels look for a suitable spot to build a nest. Frequently that suitable spot is in the warm, insulated attic or framing of one of these reassembled trees we call a house if they can get in. A determined squirrel can and will chew through most any wood or gypsum product (drywall) to get in and can do so in a hurry.
If a squirrel finds its way in the house and then can’t find the way back out it will become frantic, chew things randomly, become exhausted, dehydrated and die. If that happens you will smell it. An adult squirrel weighs about a pound and half and that will smell for some time. So you need to be sure they are all out of the house before you seal it up with any sort of wire cloth barrier. Climb into the attic and look to see if you can see clear light coming from the gable vent or anywhere else where they might be getting in. Don’t abandon the rat-wire concept even on the outside if you can’t get to the holes from inside the attic. It will probably be your best bet. You can paint it to match the house color so it will camouflage itself. People usually don’t stand around looking at gable peaks so closely as to see something like that.
One squirrel myth that needs to be dispelled is the "Moth Ball Myth". "Sprinkle some mothballs in the attic and it will keep the squirrels away", I've heard. The amount of mothballs you'd need to discourage squirrels from nesting would probably cause you to move.
You can go to Anne Arundel County Animal Control located at 411 Maxwell Frye Rd. in Millersville (410-222-8900) and request the use of a trap to catch them. They will tell you how to bait and set it and if you catch one, you call them and they come and remove it. They’ll let you keep the trap for a week but if you have multiple invaders you can ask for an extension of the trap use until the job is done. If you don’t want to deal with them yourself there are several professional animal trappers, such as Adcock’s, who’ve been doing this sort of thing for a long time and can take care of these criters for you. Then seal the attic with wire cloth.
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