Squirrels and Squirrel Damage

By  | November 22, 2014 | Filed under: News

MONTGOMERY-Squirrels are one of the most recognizable wildlife species in Alabama as they are found in almost every backyard and property across the state. Squirrels are mostly enjoyed, except when they cause property damage. Nearly everyone is familiar with the gray squirrel, but there are two additional species of squirrels found in Alabama, the fox squirrel and the flying squirrel.


450px-Gray_squirrel_(Sciurus_carolinensis)_in_Boston_Public_Garden_September_2010The Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is the most common squirrel in Alabama. Known as a tree squirrel, it is found in deciduous forests everywhere. The fur is usually gray with a white underbelly and a tail that is bushy and gray. Gray squirrels are most active in the early mornings and late afternoons, and most often viewed in the treetops or on the ground searching for food. Its diet consists of acorns, nuts, pine seeds, fruits, berries, buds, flower bulbs, insects and even garden vegetables. Breeding takes place in February and again in late summer.
The Southern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) is Alabama’s largest fox squrrilsquirrel, weighing up to 2 pounds. Fox squirrels are less agile than gray squirrels, mostly due to their larger size, and are seen more frequently on the ground. This

squirrel prefers a more open and park-like habitat. The most distinctive feature of the fox squirrel is its black coloring in the facial area, which resembles a mask. Breeding generally takes place during the same time as gray squirrels and leaf nests or tree cavities are used to raise young. Their diet is quite diverse and consists of the same items as the gray squirrel; however, fungi and insects are also important components.
flying-squirrel-fly-140224The southern flying squirrel (Glaucomya volan) is Alabama’s smallest squirrel, weighing only a few ounces as an adult. It has a flap of loose skin from the wrist to ankle called a gliding membrane, which allows them to “fly” from place to place. It has extremely large eyes due to its nocturnal behaviors. The fur is soft, thick and brown on the back while the underbelly is white. The tail is brown and flat and used like a rudder for steering when gliding. The diet is similar to that of the other two species of squirrel. Heavily wooded areas are preferred and abandoned tree cavities are used as nests. It is also common to find them nesting in bluebird boxes. Breeding occurs roughly during the same time as the other squirrels.
Most damage to property is usually the result of the gray squirrel. A common complaint is squirrel-240x300squirrels in an attic. One solution is to place liberal amounts of naphthalene flakes (mothballs) in the attic as a temporary deterrent when squirrels are out of the attic.

Reapply treatment often. Exclusion from the attic is the best method of control. Check for holes and openings under eaves and where wires enter the house. Plug holes with wire mesh when squirrels are out of the attic; otherwise, you will trap them inside. Inspect the chimney, and if it is open, cover and secure with wire mesh. Remove branches from trees that allow squirrels access to the roof.

Damage to Tree Buds

Damage to Tree Buds

Damage caused to the buds and bark of a tree can be more difficult to control. The tree must be completely isolated. Place a two-foot-wide band of metal flashing at least 6 feet from the ground around the trunk of the tree. Remove low hanging branches at least 6 feet from the ground so that squirrels cannot jump up into the branches.
To protect shrubs and garden bulbs, you can try various repellants on the market though this option can be costly. Repellants need to be re-applied often, especially here in Alabama due to the climate. Another option to protect bulbs is to place wire mesh over the area. This option will work great to control damage to a small area but it is not economically feasible in a large area. Tolerance may be your best option.trap
Another option to eliminate squirrels is hunting where local regulations and game laws allow. Hunting can be quite effective and most successful during early morning or late afternoon when gray squirrels are most active. Trapping can also be successful by using a simple box trap baited with peanut butter or nuts. Place traps along the paths of heavy use. Traps can be purchased from a feed or hardware store.
Bird feeders hanging from tree limbs are easy targets for squirrels. You can try to squirrel-proof feeders using various styles of metal poles, but a better solution may be changing the feeder location. You may also try hanging the feeder from a slender wire high enough off the ground so the squirrel cannot reach it by jumping.
Flying squirrels will readily take over bird nesting boxes, especially those in the style of a bluebird box. Many people enjoy watching flying squirrels as much as birds, so this may not be a problem. However, squirrels frequently damage the nesting box by gnawing at the entrance hole and enlarging it. This can be prevented by using a metal cover.
For the most part, squirrels are enjoyable to observe. When damage occurs, it does create problems. With a little patience and detective work, you can take care of most squirrel issues yourself.

MEDIA RELEASE/ Ericha Nix, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

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