Squirrels

 

 

 

 

 

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Wildlife Proofing - Squirrels

 

Squirrel Facts

  • Eastern grey squirrels communicate among themselves with a variety of vocalizations and postures, such as tail flicking.

  • They also have a keen sense of smell and can determine much about their neighbours in this way

  • Breeding occurs in December-February and again in May-June and is slightly delayed the further north they are found.  Gestation lasts 44 days on average. 

  • Two litters are born each year in late winter and midsummer with generally 2-4 young per litter(up to 8 young are possible).

  • Weaning begins in the seventh week and is completed by the tenth.

  • Adult size and mass are reached at 9 months.

  • The maximum longevity is 12.5 years in the wild.

  • During the spring, summer and autumn, squirrels have their peak activity times about 2 hours after sunrise and 2-5 hours before sunset. This allows them to avoid the heat of the day.

  • They feed mostly on nuts, flowers and buds of more than 24 species of oaks, 10 species of hickory, pecan, walnut and beech trees. Maple, mulberry, hackberry, elm, bucky and horse chestnut fruits, seeds, bulbs or flowers are also eaten along with wild cherry, dogwood, hawthorn, black gum, hazelnut, hop hornbeam and gingko tree fruits, seeds, bulbs and/or flowers.

  • The seeds and catkins of cedar, hemlock, pine, and spruce are another food source along with a variety of herbaceous plants and fungi.

  • Crops, such as corn and wheat, are eaten, especially in the winter.

  • Insects are eaten in the summer and are probably especially important for juveniles. Cannibalism has been reported, and squirrels may also eat bones, bird eggs and nestlings, and frogs.

  • They bury food in winter caches using a method called “scatter hoarding” and later will locate these caches using both memory and smell.

  • Eastern grey squirrels are important predators of seeds and other animals in the ecosystems in which they live.

  • Their seed-caching activities help to disperse tree seeds. What they bury and don’t eat, can grow into a tree. 

  • They may help to distribute truffle fungal spores when they eat truffles.

  • Eastern grey squirrels are also prey animals themselves and are hosts for parasites such as ticks, fleas, lice, and roundworms. This is a factor which causes them to move between two dens between their first and second litter.

  • They are important members of the forest ecosystems in which they live.

  • Some interesting variations occur in coat colors. More black-coated squirrels occur in the northern climates.

  • Studies have shown that black animals have 18% lower heat loss in temperatures below -10 degrees Celsius, along with a 20% lower basal metabolic rate, and a non-shivering ability to produce body heat that is 11% higher than their counterparts, the grey morphs. 

  • There are also some well established populations of white squirrels across the province who aren’t ‘rare’ or endangered.  They just happen to have white fur. 

  • Regardless of the genetics that give them their coat colour, they are all members of the Eastern Grey Squirrel family.

  • During the winter, they are known to be diurnal (active during the day rather than at night) with a peak period of activity just 2-4 hours before sunset.

  • Generally, females are more active in the summer months and males are more active in the winter months.

  • Squirrels occupy two types of homes, including a permanent tree den as well as a nest of leaves and twigs called a drey, on a tree crotch 30-45 feet above the ground. They will alternate between these two dens during the year, as they tend to become infested with parasites. 

  • The arrival of fall will see them building a drey high in trees, where they will spend the winter. 

  • Alternating between the two allows the parasites to die off in the unoccupied nest before they move back in

Keeping Safe Around Squirrels

  • Females nest alone when pregnant, and lactating females are especially aggressive and avoided by others. 

  • They can become quite defensive and aggressive.

  • If an adult squirrel acts in this manner towards you, it’s likely she’s protecting her babies. Give her a wide berth, they will be on their way soon.    

  • It is uncommon for squirrels to be rabid or to act as a vector species in the spread of rabies, however, all mammals are capable of being infected by rabies.

  • Young and inexperienced baby squirrels very often act friendly towards people and pets.  Because they are on their own and very naturally curious at that stage of their life, this is why they sometimes approach. 

  • It may also be a learned behaviour from their mother if she is being fed by well meaning but uninformed members of the public.

  • The cardinal rule is ‘Don’t feed wildlife!’ 

  • Keep in mind that even if they do approach you and look rather ‘cute’ doing their ‘Charlie Chaplin walk’, they still can give you a severe bite if you attempt to handle them or grab them.

  • Adult squirrels will often appear with missing fur on the back and shoulder areas – normal appearance for a female who has pulled some of that fur to line her nest with.

  • It is not normal for squirrels to be covered in what appears to be tumours.  This is known as squirrel pox and it is highly contagious to other squirrels.  Depending on the severity of the pox, and the ability of their immune system to fight it off,  it can cause their death.

  • Some areas will see squirrels with large areas of missing fur.  These squirrels are itchy and can be observed scratching themselves due to the intense itching.  This condition is called mange and it too is contagious among squirrels.  It is caused by a mange mite and is virtually impossible to treat in the wild squirrel populations. 

  • Squirrels who appear dragging their back legs, and unable to use them may have been hit by a car, attacked by a predator and escaped, or fallen from a height and landed on a hard surface and have fractured their spine.  Another common cause is improper diet, and what you see is metabolic bone disease.  Another good reason not to feed wildlife! 

  • If the squirrel seems weak, and is having trouble moving, use the utmost caution in approaching it.  It is best to call the nearest authorized wildlife custodian or wildlife centre for advice and if you can’t locate someone, call animal control or your SPCA for assistance. 

  • An injured adult animal who cannot walk or run away can still bite out of fear. 

  • They also have very sharp claws which help them in their ability and agility as climbers and being able to leap the distances that they leap. 

Squirrel Proofing

  • Bird feeders are a major source of attraction to any squirrel.  If you eliminate this source of food, you’ve taken a big step to reducing conflict between them and you. 

  • Look around your yard for ways that they can access your home. 

  • Trim tree branches that overhang roofs. 

  • Put climbing guards on downspouts and television towers to make it difficult for them to gain access to rooftops.

  • Their small size allows them easy access to uncapped chimneys and vents.  Cover these areas with ½ inch mesh hardware cloth.

  • Go over the main wildlife proofing section and assess your home for areas that they can gain access to and repair these areas.

Squirrel Trapped In Chimney or Home

  • If you find a squirrel trapped in your chimney, a simple solution that will let it escape on its own is to hang a half inch thick rope down into the chimney opening.  Leave the area alone and the animal will use that to climb back out.  When it is gone, cap the chimney to prevent another one from doing it again.

  • If the squirrel is below the damper or has gained access to the interior of your home, create an easy escape access for it and remember that it wants to get outside even more than you want it to, so patience and time will give it a chance to get out. 

  • Close off the room from the rest of the house and remove any valuable items that can be knocked over or damaged in the squirrels panic to get out. 

  • Cover all the windows or doors other than the ones that will allow it to have access directly back outside, and turn off all the lights in that room.  If all goes well, the next morning the squirrel will head for the ‘light’ and outside. 

  • If the animal is trapped inside in the darkness during the night, turn off all lights and close all doors to keep it calm.  The next morning, open only one main window or door that you want to use to allow it to escape.  Try as much as possible to have everything in darkness except for the escape opening. 

  • Should the squirrel get confused and panic, try to capture it by throwing a heavy blanket over it.  Quickly transport it outside in the blanket and take care of the problem that allowed it to access the interior of your home. 

  • Avoid using nets as they can become entangled in them and injured.  Leave net trapping to the professionals. 

  • Never grab a panicked squirrel even with gloves on, they can bite through any gloves because they have razor sharp teeth.

  • Lighting a fire in the chimney to remove a squirrel is inhumane and may injure or kill the squirrel. 

Humane Eviction

  • Squirrels will nest in attics if they have easy access to them.  You can also find them in soffits. 

  • If you choose to enter an attic, use caution to be sure the area can support your weight and that you do no damage to the structure or fall through causing injury to yourself. 

  • You should be able to see an access point from outside.  Use a pair of binoculars for high roofs to help you check for damaged areas that indicate an entrance. 

  • Sprinkle the area below the entrance with flour and check for tracks to identify if it is a squirrel.  If you can find the access point, cover it up by stuffing newspaper or rags into it.  If it has been pushed away, then you know someone is living in there. 

  • Squirrel urine has a very strong odour to it, and sometimes is key to identifying if that’s who is inhabiting your attic and where they may be located.

  • If you can see the nest area, sprinkle the area around the entrance with used kitty litter.  This can be used in conjunction with the three key things that can be done to discourage them from remaining in the area.

Three key things must be put in place simultaneously to evict them humanely.  This effort must be kept up for 3-4 days to achieve success.

 

Sound

  • A radio set to a talk radio station, loud.

Light

  • Use a work light or flashlight to illuminate the area.  

  • If you use electrical lighting please ensure that your placement of the bulb will not start a fire. 

  • Replace the flashlight batteries if they dim down.

Odour

  • Place rags in empty margarine containers, dampen them with ammonia and place the covers back on them and punch holes in them for the odour to escape. 

  • Place those at the entrance to the nest and around the nest. 

  • Before tossing ammonia containers into the general area of the nest space, make sure that the babies, if there are any, can move away from the container.  These are strong odours and if a young baby cannot escape from it, they may die, so be judicious in where you place them. 

  • Also keep in mind that very strong odours may also affect you, in your living space, so use your judgement in how much to apply. Use just enough to annoy the animals, not you.

  • It is possible to install a one way door to allow the squirrel to get out.  One way doors mean it can’t re-enter, however, if her babies are not mobile and able to follow her, they will die in that space without her.  Never use one way doors if the babies are not mobile.

  • Once you are sure they have left, check again using flour to trace footprints and by continuing to block the entrance with newspaper and rags.  If you see no signs after a span of three to five days, it’s a safe bet they have left. 

  • That’s the time to ensure you do a repair that prevents access by another wild animal.

Trapping and Relocation

  • It cannot be stressed enough times that trapping a wild animal to remove it does nothing to solve the real problem. If one animal has found a way to get in, so will the others.

  • Trapping may also leave starving young behind to die, causing a bigger problem that you will have to deal with.  There are no public agencies that will come out at no charge to remove a decaying dead body from a private residence. 

  • Current Ministry of Natural Resources guidelines state that using body gripping traps or placing poison could result in criminal charges and/or provincial charges with fines up $5,000. 

REMEMBER!!

In accordance with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, if you live-capture a nuisance animal, and do not humanely kill it, you must, within 24 hours, either release it in close proximity to where you caught it (within 1 km of point of capture for all adult wildlife) as directed by the Ministry of Natural resources, or, if it is sick, injured or immature, turn it over to an authorized wildlife custodian.

 

  • It is good general practice to leave all baby animals alone and not to touch or relocate them. In most instances the animal's mother is close by and the baby is not in any real danger.

  • Read the checklist on the 'I Found a Wild Animal' page to determine if that baby wild animal truly needs your assistance.  If you determine that it does,  call your local authorized wildlife custodian, or nearest wildlife centre.  If you are unable to locate someone, call animal control or your local SPCA for assistance.

 

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Last modified: 11/19/13 03:43 PM