We marvel at squirrels' climbing ability, industriousness when gathering and burying acorns, and their hilarious acrobatics when they scamper through trees. Unfortunately, squirrels can also be troublesome, wear out their welcome, and test the patience of homeowners.
Squirrels eat buds from trees, strip off bark, eat fruit and nuts from trees, and dig in gardens and lawns. They also monopolize backyard bird feeders, chew on deck railing, lawn furniture, and wood trim on exterior doors. All species of squirrels occasionally raid birds' nests or nesting boxes, eating eggs or young birds.
Given the opportunity, squirrels establish nests in attics of homes, garages, or storage buildings. An adventuresome squirrel may crawl down a fireplace chimney and get trapped on the smoke shelf where it dies or, if the damper is open, end up in the house where much damage can result.
Control of squirrels is difficult. The best results can be achieved through a combination of restricting access to feeding stations and nesting boxes, total exclusion from buildings, and in severe cases, trapping and removal.
Restrict access to birdfeeders by installing a metal squirrel guard on the feeder pole. Locate the feeder out in the open so squirrels can't jump to it from a nearby tree or the roof of the house. Place an alternate food source, such as whole kernel corn, on the ground away from the birdfeeder.
Make certain that there are no holes along the eaves of roofs. Cover all attic vents with 1/2-inch mesh or finer hardware cloth. Install a heavy wire-mesh flue cap on fireplace chimneys. Standard wire-mesh flue caps are available from local hardware stores.
Inside attached garages, install wire-mesh screening on the opening where roof rafters meet the top wall place. This is a potential entry point to the attic. If squirrels are especially troublesome, trapping and removal may be necessary.
Squirrels are a protected species. Check with your local Department of Natural Resources conservation officer regarding the procedures to be followed for the trapping and removal of fur bearing animals.