Attic Squirrels

By Amy Miller

Honey, come quick, I called.
What, what is it?
Just come listen.

We listened. We waited. They scratched. And scratched. We looked at each other. And we knew. These were no mice, these were squirrels. Or raccoons. Or some animal that would laugh at a mousetrap.

By the next day the scratching had stopped.

Our neighbor was not so lucky. For months she tried traps and barriers to get rid of her squirrels. She paid experts. And in the end she had to chainsaw nine-tenths of the branches off her giant pine trees to eliminate the bridges the squirrels were using to her rooftop.

My friend’s mother also wasn’t so lucky. All the boxes stored in her attic fell apart because squirrels apparently munched on the glue holding the boxes together.

According to one web site, about 15,000 home fires each year are caused by squirrels and other rodents chewing on wiring. (Yes, a squirrel is a rodent).

While it’s not so hard to find a squirrel or its nest on a roof, once they are inside the house they will win the game of hide-and-seek hands down.

The Eastern Gray Squirrel is one of the most common pests. At 16 to 18 inches and weighing about a pound, they get in through small holes that they gnaw wider. They bring nesting material with them and make noise scurrying around storing their nuts, seeds, fungi or fruit. They may fall down the chimney or down a wall from the attic and get stuck.

A survey of web sites makes it clear that solving this problem is no picnic. You can try trapping them, locking them out, or quickly sealing up holes if you know they are out to get lunch and water.
I heard one story of a mother squirrel and her babies that camped out in an attic, but when the babies grew up they all left on their own, taking up residence in a new nest in a nearby tree.

Be warned, if someone recommends using mothballs, forget it; it’s illegal. The EPA allows moth balls for moths and caterpillers only. This is because moth balls are toxic to humans and pets.

EPA tells landlords that if squirrels are in a house, the tenants should be told of integrated pest management techniques, and advised to fix screens, remove clutter and eliminate wood piles. In addition, holes should be patched with pest-resistant materials and mesh should be used to cover air intake and exhaust vents.

I wonder what tricks others have used to get rid of their squirrels.

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About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.