Fire, Flooding, and Poop.
Those are just a few things you can expect if you have squirrels or rodents in your attic. Since I’m in the process of evicting several squirrel families from my home (they never pay their rent on time), I wanted to learn everything I could about these little rodents. Hopefully this post will help you keep these freeloaders out of your space! First, let’s find out who we’re dealing with.
Have you dealt with squirrels? Let us know how you dealt with them in the comments below
If you're searching for information on how to get rid of squirrels, the best way to get rid of rodents, or what to do about squirrel nests in your attic, you've found the right article.
Squirrels are incredibly common throughout the continental US. A friend from Spain once commented that squirrels are to the U.S. as pigeons are to Europe. That said, there are five main varieties, two of which tend to be a problem:
These large squirrels come in two flavors: the Eastern Grey and Western Grey. The Eastern Grey Squirrel lives, as you can guess, on the east coast of the US and also from Manitoba south through the Midwest to Texas and Florida. It has even been introduced into Europe where it’s an invasive species.
Western Grey Squirrels live along the west coast from Washington state all the way down to northern Baja California. These squirrels are shy compared to the Western Greys, and their ears grow reddish tufts in winter.
Speaking of color, these squirrels are always grey… WAIT, NO THEY’RE NOT! Eastern and Western Grey Squirrels can be black, grey, brown, cream, red, and even albino!
Fox Squirrels live all over the US except the north eastern coast. If you’re in New York, New England, eastern Pennsylvania, or the Virginias, you’re probably not dealing with Fox Squirrels. They are the largest species of squirrel native to North America.
Fox Squirrels have two color variations: dark-furred (any shade from black to grey with tan or gold undersides, with black heads, white ears, noses, and feet) and reddish-furred (red, tan, or orange with no white markings).
Other squirrels that are less problematic include:
Red Squirrels (below) that prefer pine forests. Found less often in human homes.
Ground Squirrels that burrow and usually cause damage to gardens.
Flying Squirrels that prefer high-altitude forested areas.
But Why My House!?
Our uninvited guests are arboreal, meaning they live in, on, and around trees. Both Fox Squirrels and Grey Squirrels live in hollow parts of trees and also makes nests called “dreys” high up in canopy. You’ve probably noticed them: big bunches of twigs and leaves high up in the branches. But squirrels are pretty much just glorified rats right? Like all rodents, they are opportunistic and adaptable and will live anywhere warm, dry, and comfortable. Like your attic.
On that note, attics are great places for mothers and their young. Since squirrels reproduce twice a year (winter and late summer), having a safe space to keep their babies is important.
Aww, Babies! Maybe I Should Let Them Stay?
NO. As heart wrenching as it is to evict a mother and her young, squirrels are a huge hazard! Lets run through a few reasons why:
They chew holes in your roof allowing the elements and other animals in.
Their teeth, like beavers, are constantly growing, so they gnaw on anything and everything keep them filed down. They will chew through PVC piping (causing flooding), the rafters in your roof, and worst of all: electrical wiring. Exposed wires can start a fire and burn down your house. Squirrels are uninvited guests, vandals, and the icing on the cake, arsonists.
Did I mention the poop? POOP EVERYWHERE. Don’t forget the urine. If the fumes and fecal matter get into your HVAC system, you get to breath it in. Let that sink in.
Ok, So How Do I Get Rid Of Them?
Well you can do it yourself, which is what we are all about here at Curbly, or you can hire a pro.
Here are some DIY options:
Ultrasonic Pest Repellent: These are so cheap they might be worth a shot!
Recommended: PestZilla™ Indoor/Outdoor Pest Repeller
This one is highly rated and cheap enough to be worth a try. Get it on Amazon.
Predator Urine: Your local hunting or outdoors store probably sells predator urine. Soak a rag in it and throw it in the attic to make the pests think a baddie has moved into the neighborhood. It's a great squirrel repellent, and might also help you get rid of mice.
Pest Repellant Spray: Spray it on the wires and wood they like to chew on. Wear a mask to avoid getting any in your mouth. You don’t want to taste it. EVER.
Recommended: Rodent Defense Small Animal Deterrent
Rodent Defense is a good choice. It's got great reviews and it won't break the bank. Get it here.
One way door: Buy a one way excluder door to let the squirrels out of your attic but not back in. CAUTION: If there are babies in the attic and the mother can’t get back in then the babies will die. Make sure there are no baby squirrels in your attic! (If there are, let them stay a few weeks with their mother until they are able to leave on their own.)
Recommended: Tomahawk Excluder
You want a sturdy metal door that the squirrels can't break. Some, like this one, double as a trap if needed.
I Don’t Want To Deal With This. I’m Calling A Pro.
That's probably a good idea. There are tons of reasons to call a professional to deal with squirrels:
Many states have laws regarding wildlife removal. A pro will do it right and within the laws of your state.
A pro will consistently visit your home every day for 5 days, checking and resetting traps. They will need access to the attic or spaces involved.
In some states it is illegal to kill squirrels. Pros will catch them using a trap and release them many miles away in a non-inhabited area. In other states, like Minnesota, you are required to kill the squirrels. This is because research has shown that: a) they die anyway if released into a forest environment and b) it helps prevent the spread of disease amongst squirrel populations.
What’s That Going To Cost Me?
Squirrel removal usually involves a free inspection to determine how many squirrels are around. Then the company will send you a quote for the service. NOTE: Squirrel removal is different than squirrel exclusion. Keeping them out is a whole different bag of worms and is usually determined on a case by case basis.
The graph below shows how much the average homeowner can expect to pay for wildlife (like squirrels) removal services.
Expect to pay around $250 dollars to remove the squirrels, but probably more. In Minnesota for instance, removal costs are a bit higher than the US national average.
Alright, I Got Them Out. Now What?
Squirrel removal is step one. Step two is keeping them out. Squirrels are notoriously persistent and will move back in if you don’t take appropriate measures.
Remove any tree branches near enough to your home that a squirrel could use them to jump onto your roof.
Squirrel-proof your home:
Seal holes with steel mesh (or better yet use copper mesh, the spacing of the mesh means that it hurts the squirrels gums and since it’s copper it won’t rust).
Cover wood paneling with metal panels that squirrels can’t chew through. Use heavy steel screens on roof-vents. Make sure all plumbing stacks are screened off and roof soffits aren't damaged.
The pest control company or exterminator will probably offer to do the work themselves, for a fee. A really, really excessive fee. Really though, if you are good with hand tools and know how to cut some wood and bend some sheet metal, you should be fine doing it yourself. Here’s what you should do:
Check for builder’s gaps along the roof line. These gaps are between the plywood under the shingles and the fascia board. Lift the shingles up and insert a 90 degree bent metal strip and nail it to the fascia and the plywood. Repeat along the sides of the roof line where there are other builder’s gaps.
Look for holes around the chimney and stuff them with copper mesh, making sure to caulk the mesh in place. Cover the copper mesh with a foam sealant like Pur Black Foam.
Repeat the copper mesh and foam process on any holes the squirrels are using to get in your home.
If the holes let water into your attic then you’ll need to patch them up and seal the hole to prevent water damage. Depending on the damage, it may be smart to call a contractor to repair the roof.
Ok, I’m So Over This. Let’s Finish Up Already.
Simply getting rid of the squirrels and patching up your house just isn't enough. A bit of cleanup is required too! Be sure to wear a high quality face mask and goggles while you clean up in the attic for two reasons: a) you don’t want to breathe in poop and other bad stuff and b) you definitely don’t want to breathe in your home’s insulation. Protect yourselves, people!
Squirrels leave behind strong pheromones which can attract other squirrels to the area. You should attempt to remove these pheromones as much as possible by replacing insulation directly near the squirrel nests.
Recommended: Enerzen Commercial Ozone Generator
A commercial ozone generator is a good way to eliminate odors. By producing concentrated ozone, it scrubs the air of bacteria and mold leaving behind a "fresh rain" aroma. Just be sure not to use it in an occupied room. High levels of ozone aren't very good for you!
Squirrel poo is also a perfect breeding ground for airborne pathogens like mold, so cleaning it up should prevent any bad stuff from getting into your ventilation system.
Remember to D&D: deodorize and decontaminate!
That’s it. If you hire a pro for removal and do the exclusion yourself, it should cost you somewhere between $250-$600 to get rid of these adorable/not-so-adorable rats with furry tails.