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Squirrels are rodents and just like the most of their species,, are considered to be pests (except for those rare types that are protected). In Grand rapids, the Grey Squirrel is of particular concern. Tree squirrels and Fox Squirrels may also cause problems but less rarely intrude on human territory than the Grey Squirrel.
In order to manage the threats that squirrels pose, it is important to understand a little more about squirrel behavior, habitat and food.
Basic Squirrel Information :
Grey Squirrels get their name because they are greyish in color.
Tree, Fox and Ground Squirrels have a more brown or reddish appearance. Squirrels, in general, don’t grow much larger than 16 to 18 inches in height (from tail to nose). They only weigh-in at about 1 pound and look cute and cuddly.
They are active all year round which means that they do not hibernate in winter. Squirrels also breed throughout the year although their breeding is far more active in the summer and winter. Gestation (duration of pregnancy) last 3-4 weeks after which the young (called kits or kittens) will stay in the nest for 3 months. Nests are typically made in cavities in trees but can also be created from leaves and twigs in the branches of trees.
They have a varied diet including nuts, seeds, fruit and fungi. Squirrels will store food for winter. Normally their stores are held in holes in the ground rather than trees.
There are several concerns when it comes to squirrels taking up residence in your home or business premises:
1. Health Risks
Unlike other rodents and pests, squirrels do not pose a huge health risk to humans. This said, a bite from a squirrel can become infected or carry parasites that can cause illness. Squirrels are shy creatures and won’t simply attack for no reason. However, they can become aggressive when cornered or protecting a nest or their food store. Tularemia and leptospirosis are both diseases that can be transmitted through a squirrel bite although this extremely rare due to the fact that squirrels are not inherently aggressive.
Rabies is another disease that can be transmitted to humans and most rodents, including squirrels, may carry the disease. It is once again transmitted through a bite. However, it is unlikely that a human will get rabies from a squirrel. The small animals rarely survive a rabies infection for long. It is however recommended to avoid dead squirrels or those that are displaying uncharacteristically aggressive behavior.
2. Feces And Urine
Squirrels aren’t going to leave their nest or home to do their business. This means that feces and urine can quickly build-up where they are nesting. Their feces and urine carry a bacteria called Salmonollesis. Coming into contact with their accumulated feces or urine can cause salmonella which is often confused with food poisoning because it has similar symptoms. However, salmonella is far more serious than food poisoning and can in some cases be fatal if not treated quickly.
3. Nesting Material
Squirrels may carry twigs, leaves and other materials from the outdoors to build a nest. These materials may cause allergies. Squirrel dander, used to line the nest, may contain parasites like ticks and fleas. These parasites carry a wide range of different diseases that are transmittable to humans and can be fatal.
4. Structural Damage
Damage to your home or business premises is the biggest threat that squirrels pose. They prefer spaces that are located higher up such as an attic or loft to nest in. A squirrel will look for a small gap that they will the gnaw and tear at to make it larger. This will then serve as their main entrance and exit to their new home.
They may also gnaw and destroy the structure in order to find material for a nest. Squirrels have also been known to get into the electrical wiring of structures and chew through them. They are most likely to get electrocuted which leaves a dead body that you may be unaware of. This also poses an electrical fire and shock hazard plus it can be an expensive process to repair or replace electrical wiring that has been damaged.
Due to the threats and hazards that squirrels pose, DIY squirrel removal is not recommended. It is best to call in expert wildlife control services to find the best route to dispose of the problem for good. Wildlife control experts may use one or more of the following methods to remove squirrels and prevent them from returning.
*Note: Pest control companies do not commonly provide squirrel removal services as squirrels are considered to be wildlife and certain regulations may apply to their removal, especially if they have young.
Most commonly, humane removal methods are used to relocate squirrels rather than toxic chemicals to eliminate or kill the animals. The following process has been found to be the most effective at removing the rodents and preventing them from returning:
Setting baited traps is the most common method that wildlife control specialists will use to capture squirrels in a home or on business premises. The trap is baited with foods that attract squirrels and closes automatically when the squirrel enters the cage. The cage is then covered and the squirrel/s released in a suitable environment far from where captured.
After the squirrels have been trapped, all gaps, cracks and holes in the structure need to be sealed up to prevent the squirrels from returning or a new family squatting in the same place. This is extremely important as the scent from squirrel feces and urine will attract other squirrels after the original family have left.
Exclusion is a method that is used to prevent squirrels from returning to the home or business premises thereby effectively excluding them from taking up residence. First, the primary access point that the squirrel/s are using to enter the home is identified. A device is then placed over this entrance to allow the squirrels to exit but not to re-enter. Any other holes and gaps are sealed up to prevent the animals from returning via an alternative route.
This technique is often far more effective than trapping as the squirrels leave of their own volition and relocation isn’t necessary. Also, sealing up the structure against future invasions is part and parcel of the process and does not need to be performed as an additional service.
As mentioned above, squirrels will leave behind urine and feces that attract other squirrels. It is important to have this professionally removed and the area decontaminated in order to remove all traces of the scent. Remember that sealing up holes and gaps is not always an effective solution as squirrels will gnaw their way through building materials if they really want to gain access.
Nesting material, squirrel dander and any other leavings such as food remains should also be removed. These may present health hazards if they are not attended to.
Some additional steps that you can take to prevent squirrels from making your home or business premises their home include:
– Don’t feed the birds. Bird feeders, even those that squirrels can’t access, attract the critters.
– Store all food in sealed containers and don’t leave food lying around.
– Take care to seal up trash cans and rubbish bins where squirrels may gain access to food.
Call the professionals if you hear or notice any signs of squirrel squatting in your home or on your business premises. Expert removal sooner rather than later can prevent a small issue becoming a big problem.
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