Squirrels, also known as tree squirrels, are part of the mammal group and can be a huge nuisance by causing damage to electrical and telephone wiring or even harvesting on the plants that grow in gardens or yards. Tree squirrels receive their common name because they namely reflect the area where squirrels are often found, which are in areas where there are concentrations of trees. Trees are used by squirrels to keep harvested food, build nests on, and trees are used as a safe haven to avoid predators. There are about 10 species of squirrels that can be found in the United States.
Color will vary between species. The colors vary from whites to gray, from yellowish to reddish, and even within browns, there are different shades like chestnut brown to a dark brown. Typically, their length from their head to the end of their body (excluding the tail) is about 6 inches to 15 inches and the length of their tails range from 4 inches to 14 inches. Depending on the species, their weight will vary from 6 ounces all the way to 3 pounds. Squirrels are covered with a short but thick fur on their bodies but they are known for their bushy tails that have long hairs. When a squirrel’s tail is stretched out, it is usually longer than the length of their head and body combined.
There are similar groups of animals that people may identify incorrectly as squirrels. These animals are ground squirrels, commonly known as chipmunks as well as the large wood rats. Also, although there are around 10 different species of squirrels, there are 3 major representative species which are the fox squirrels, gray squirrels, and the red squirrels.
Generally, squirrels only reproduce about 2 litters every year. One litter is produced in the early spring and a second litter is produced in the late summer season. Depending on the species, the litter size will vary anywhere from just 2 pups to 7 pups. Initially, the gestation period lasts about 38 to 45 days. When the young squirrels are born, they are without fur and they are also blind. Adult squirrels have long life spans and will live for at least 10 years.
Squirrels do not pose a huge threat to humans. Basically, they are of minor concerns in regards to being vectors of diseases. There has been a transmission of human diseases to the red squirrel species; however, direct transmission from squirrels to humans is very rare. This does not mean that it is impossible to contract a disease from squirrels. Relapsing fever can be caught when blood is mixed with infected Douglas squirrels due to a plague that has occurred in that specific species. More commonly, red squirrels have been known to carry such diseases as the Colorado tick fever.
The three representative species, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, and the red squirrel, are the three species that will enter structures and cause a variety of problems the most. Usually, squirrels enter houses from the garage and the attic. Mainly, the reason why they enter structures is because they are looking for shelter, food, a place to store their food, breed or nest, and etc. Squirrels become the greatest nuisance once they enter a building because they can create damage to the structure itself and of course, all the materials that are inside that structure like the various furniture pieces.
Generally, squirrels remain active throughout the year. They are seen the most during the morning and again on the evenings when they are searching for food to forage on. Some species, like the red squirrels, will even come out occasionally after dark. The type of food they eat will vary depending on location, availability, and species. Some of the general foods they feed on are seeds, nuts, berries, and will even feed on bird eggs and fungi.
There are several key steps a homeowner must maintain in order to gain control of squirrels. These key steps include identification, exclusion, and also trapping.
Inspection will include identification as well as watching the habits of the squirrels that have invaded your home. Watching the behavior of the squirrels may involve watching their habits before the sun rises or right before the sun sets in the early evening time. Finding where they are entering from might be the key to finding where their nest is located. You always want to identify where other entry points are so that you can prepare to seal those locations as necessary.
Because squirrels do not typically nest inside, exclusion is going to be the biggest preventative measure a homeowner can make in order to keep squirrels from getting inside the house. Simply, think of it as squirrel proofing your house so that they do not have a chance to enter. All holes that are larger than 6 mm by using such materials like metal flashing or hardware cloth. Do not seal the main entry hole until after the young are seen leaving the structure. If the main entry hole is sealed, the pregnant female or the nursing female and her young will be trapped inside.
Finally, trapping is often times necessary to completely eradicate the squirrels inside the house. Traditional rodent snap traps may be effective. Wooden traps should be nailed down and plastic traps should be secured. Pre-baiting is necessary in order for the traps to be effective. Sometimes, it may take several attempts before a squirrel is caught in the trap. Place traps along the paths of travel between the initial entry hole and the actual nest. Traps should be checked daily and replaced or removed as necessary. There are also live traps available. Live traps catch squirrels without killing them and then they are simply released back into the environment.
Keep in mind that baits and rodenticides will take longer than expected with food is already cached in the nest. Also, although traditional rodenticides are effective in killing squirrels, the carcasses of the squirrels are known to leave behind an offensive odor and so it is crucial that you check target areas on a daily basis.
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