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Homeowners should be wary of squirrels that enter attic space, as the rodents can damage electrical wires, shingles, and soffits. Squirrels also carry diseases and parasites that can be dangerous to humans. Read about the causes of squirrel infestations below and learn how to get rid of squirrels, either by DIY means or with professional help.
What Causes Squirrels in the Attic?
Squirrels are usually drawn to your attic in search of nesting space that is warmer, safer, and more comfortable than nesting space outdoors. They enter through roof vents, attic louvers, and ventilation fan openings but can also squeeze through small cracks and gaps in soffits, eaves, fascia boards, windows, or siding.
These factors can increase the likelihood of a squirrel infestation in your attic:
- Access: Tree branches near your roofline make it easier for squirrels to reach your roof. From there, unrepaired damage and unscreened openings create opportunities for squirrels to enter your attic.
- Food: Nearby food sources, such as bird feeders and tree nuts, can lure squirrels to your property.
- Seclusion: The lack of bright lights and regular human activity in the attic is attractive to squirrels that want to ensure their nests remain undisturbed.
DIY Squirrel Removal Methods
Before you begin to rid your attic of squirrels and seal entry points, inspect the attic for signs of baby squirrels. If you remove a squirrel but later see it frantically trying to reenter, you may have separated a mother from her young. In this case, allow the mother back inside to tend to her babies. Squirrels often nest with their young from February through May or August through October.
Begin the process of ridding your attic of squirrels by identifying entry points and installing exclusion devices. Block all the entrances but one with metal flashing, wire mesh, steel wool, hardware cloth, caulk, or fiber cement, and cover the final entry point with a one-way door. This device allows squirrels to freely exit the attic but prevents reentry.
You should not install a one-way door if you encounter a squirrel nest with babies. If the mother squirrel is trapped outside, her baby squirrels will likely die, and the mother squirrel may damage your home’s exterior in a desperate attempt to reach her young.
Live traps are a humane option for removing adult gray squirrels and other critters without harming them. Bait traps with peanut butter, and check them daily. Once you have caught a squirrel, take the trap outside and carefully open the door with the trap facing away from you until the squirrel leaves.
Research wildlife laws and pest control regulations in your state before using squirrel traps, and make sure to release squirrels near your home instead of dropping them off in a new area. Squirrels are territorial, and the squirrels from your attic may be vulnerable to attack in a new location.
Natural squirrel repellents—such as apple cider vinegar, black pepper, garlic, and peppermint— can repel squirrels from your attic and discourage them from returning. Try soaking a rag in one of these ingredients and placing it near the nest or entry point.
You can also purchase a commercial squirrel repellent on Amazon or from your local hardware store or garden center to mimic the smell of predator urine and scare squirrels away from your attic. Spray the repellent near entry points or anywhere you’ve seen squirrel droppings.
Avoid mothballs, a repellant that will leave a persistent odor in your home and potentially kill squirrels.
You can convince squirrels to leave your attic by making the area less hospitable. Try placing a few bright lights and motion-activated devices in your attic, which will make the area seem less safe. Bang pots and pans or leave a radio playing in the attic at full volume overnight to serve as additional deterrents. High-frequency sound machines may help, though reviews from scientists and users are mixed.
Professional Squirrel Removal Methods
Professional exterminators and pest control companies offer a variety of solutions for dealing with your squirrel problem and other issues involving insects or wild animals. Many companies offer special pest control pricing for ongoing services.
Exclusion and Prevention
Wildlife removal experts can seal potential squirrel entry points and install exclusion devices, such as one-way doors and chimney caps, to keep squirrels from invading your home. Professionals can recommend preventive measures catered to your property, such as trimming overhanging tree branches.
Trapping and Removal
Professionals routinely use humane live trapping to safely capture squirrels. The process involves placing live traps in your attic to catch the intruders, then relocating them to a suitable outdoor habitat. Look for a company that uses environmentally friendly techniques, is properly licensed in your state, and follows all local regulations.
Pest control companies may use wildlife repellents, which emit odors that repel squirrels, to expel the rodents from your garden or attic. A professional exterminator will have access to more products than homeowners will.
Tips for Squirrel Prevention
Follow these tips to prevent squirrel damage and infestations:
- Change food in your bird feeder: Load your bird feeders with seeds that squirrels find less appealing, such as safflower seeds or white proso millet.
- Coat birdseed in hot pepper: The capsaicin in hot peppers will deter squirrels without affecting birds.
- Inspect your attic regularly: Conduct routine inspections of your attic, roof, and home exterior for signs of squirrels or entry points.
- Maintain a tidy yard: Remove fallen fruits, nuts, and seeds from the ground to reduce food sources that attract squirrels.
- Reinforce weak points: Seal gaps, cracks, and holes in your roof, soffits, fascia boards, and eaves.
- Seal attic openings: Install sturdy screens over roof vents, attic louvers, and other openings that squirrels could exploit.
- Trim trees near your roofline: Keep tree branches at least 6 to 8 feet away from your roofline to prevent squirrels from using them to access your attic.
- Use lights and noise: Install a bright light, noise machine, or motion-activated device in the attic to scare squirrels away.
- Use squirrel-proof bird feeders: Position bird feeders away from your home and use squirrel-proof models.
Squirrels pose dangers and health hazards if they nest in your household, but you can get rid of them safely with a combination of exclusion devices, squirrel deterrents, and live traps. You can also take steps to prevent future squirrel problems.
Squirrels in the Attic FAQ
Will squirrels eventually leave my attic?
Squirrels may eventually leave your attic on their own, but only if it seems inhospitable. You can encourage them to leave with bright lights, noise, and vinegar-soaked rags.
Do squirrels in the attic cause damage?
Yes, squirrels in the attic can cause damage to wood, insulation, electrical wires, and items stored in your attic. Their urine and feces can cause unpleasant odors.
Is it common to have squirrels in your attic?
Having squirrels in your attic is relatively common, especially in areas where squirrels are abundant and urban development encroaches on their natural habitats.
How do you know if you have a squirrel in your attic?
If you think you have a squirrel in your attic, look for the following signs:Foul odorsGnaw marksScurrying or scratching noisesSquirrel droppingsSquirrel nestsVisible squirrel activity
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