Types of squirrels you may find in the attic
Homeowners often encounter various types of squirrels in their attic, each with unique characteristics. The Gray Squirrel, a common sight, is known for its predominantly gray coat and bushy tail. It’s one of the most frequent attic invaders due to its adaptability and preference for nesting in high places. Equally common in attics are Flying Squirrels. Despite their name, these squirrels glide rather than fly, using a membrane between their legs and body. They are smaller and more nocturnal compared to their gray counterparts. Less commonly, but still possible, are Fox Squirrels and Red Squirrels. Fox Squirrels are larger, with a mixture of gray and reddish fur, and are known for their playful nature. Red Squirrels, the smallest among them, have a distinct reddish coat and are known for being particularly vocal and territorial. While Gray and Flying Squirrels are the usual attic dwellers in Raleigh, NC, each of these squirrel types can cause unique challenges if they decide to make your attic their home.
What damage can squirrels cause in the attic?
Squirrels in the attic can cause a variety of damages, some of which can be quite serious. The common types of damage caused by squirrels include:
- Chewing on Wood and Structures: Squirrels have strong teeth that continuously grow, leading them to gnaw on wooden beams and other structural components of an attic. This can weaken the structural integrity of your home.
- Electrical Damage: One of the more dangerous consequences is when squirrels chew on electrical wires. This not only causes power issues but can also pose a significant fire hazard.
- Insulation Damage: Squirrels often burrow into insulation to create nests, which can compress or destroy the insulation, reducing its effectiveness and leading to higher energy costs.
- Noise and Odor Issues: The presence of squirrels is often accompanied by noise from their movement and scratching. Additionally, their urine and feces can produce unpleasant odors and can even pose health risks.
- Ventilation and Duct Damage: Squirrels may chew through ventilation ducts, which can impair heating and cooling systems and reduce air quality.
- Water Damage: By creating openings in the roof or siding, squirrels can allow water to enter, leading to leaks and potential water damage.
- Health Risks: Squirrels can carry parasites like fleas and ticks, which can infest your home. They can also carry diseases, although the risk of disease transmission to humans is relatively low.
Addressing a squirrel infestation promptly is important to minimize these risks and damages. Professional wildlife removal services are often necessary to safely and effectively remove squirrels from the attic and to prevent future squirrel infestations.
What are the health risks with squirrels in the attic?
Squirrels, like many wild animals, can carry various diseases and parasites that pose health risks to humans and pets. While direct transmission of diseases from squirrels to humans is relatively rare, the risks should not be ignored, especially in situations where there is close contact or an infestation. Some of the health risks and diseases associated with squirrels include:
- Leptospirosis: This bacterial infection is spread through the urine of infected animals, including squirrels. It can contaminate water or soil and can cause a range of symptoms in humans, from mild flu-like symptoms to severe illness.
- Salmonellosis: Squirrels can carry Salmonella bacteria, which can be transmitted to humans through direct or indirect contact with squirrel feces. This can lead to gastrointestinal illness.
- Tularemia: Also known as rabbit fever, tularemia can be transmitted by handling sick or dead animals, including squirrels. It can cause fever, skin ulcers, and swollen lymph nodes.
- Lyme Disease and Other Tick-Borne Illnesses: While squirrels themselves do not cause Lyme disease, they can carry ticks that are vectors for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
- Parasites: Squirrels can be hosts to a variety of parasites, including fleas, mites, and ticks, which can infest homes and potentially transmit diseases to humans and pets.
- Hantavirus: Although more commonly associated with rodents like mice and rats, there’s a potential risk of hantavirus from squirrels. It’s transmitted through contact with rodent droppings, urine, or saliva.
It’s important to note that the likelihood of contracting these diseases from squirrels is generally low, but the risk increases in areas with large squirrel populations or in situations where squirrels have invaded living spaces like attics. Good hygiene practices, proper pest control, and avoiding direct contact with squirrels and their droppings are effective ways to minimize these health risks.
Best ways to get rid of squirrels in the attic
Removing squirrels from your attic requires a combination of humane eviction, exclusion techniques, and sometimes professional assistance. Here are some of the best methods:
- Inspection and Identification: First, identify how the squirrels are getting into your attic. Look for entry points such as holes or gaps in the roof, eaves, vents, or where utility pipes and wires enter the house.
- Exclusion and Sealing Entry Points: Once you’ve identified entry points, seal them off. However, ensure that no squirrels are trapped inside. One-way exclusion doors can be effective; these allow squirrels to leave but not re-enter.
- Trapping: Live trapping can be a humane way to remove squirrels. Place traps near the entry points or in the attic, and check them frequently. Be aware that trapping and relocating wildlife is subject to local laws and regulations, so check with your local wildlife agency.
- Noise and Light: Squirrels prefer quiet, dark environments. Introducing bright lights and loud noises can encourage them to leave. However, this method should be used cautiously and as a temporary measure.
- Professional Wildlife Removal: If the problem persists or if you’re uncomfortable handling it yourself, consider hiring a professional wildlife removal service. They have the expertise and equipment to safely and properly remove squirrels.
- Repair and Clean-Up: After removal, repair any damage caused by the squirrels, such as chewed wires or insulation. Clean the area thoroughly to remove any droppings or nesting materials, as these can pose health risks.
Remember, it’s important to approach squirrel removal humanely and legally. In many places, squirrels are protected by wildlife conservation laws, so it’s crucial to adhere to these regulations.
Squirrels chewed their way into the attic!
Preventative measures you can take to prevent squirrels from getting in the attic
Preventing squirrels from entering your attic is crucial for avoiding the damage and potential health risks they can cause. Here are several effective preventative measures:
- Seal Entry Points: Inspect your home for any holes, cracks, or gaps in the roof, eaves, soffits, vents, and around utility lines. Seal these entry points with sturdy materials like metal flashing, wire mesh, or solid wood. Remember, squirrels can chew through softer materials like plastic, rubber, or wood.
- Trim Tree Branches: Squirrels often enter attics by jumping from nearby trees. Trim tree branches that hang over or are close to your roof to make access more difficult.
- Install Chimney Caps and Vent Covers: Ensure that your chimney is capped and vents are covered with sturdy wire mesh to prevent squirrels from entering.
- Repair Damaged Roofing: Damaged shingles or weak spots in the roof can be easy entry points for squirrels. Regularly inspect and repair any roofing damage.
- Secure Food Sources: Squirrels are attracted to easy food sources. Secure garbage bins, avoid leaving pet food outside, and consider squirrel-proof bird feeders if you have them in your yard.
- Install Gutter Guards: Gutter guards can prevent squirrels from using your home’s gutter system to access the roof.
- Motion-Activated Sprinklers: These can deter squirrels from spending time in your yard and eventually finding a way into your attic.
- Regular Inspections: Periodically inspect your attic and the exterior of your home for signs of squirrel activity, such as gnaw marks, droppings, or nesting materials.
- Consult Professionals: If you’re unsure about how to squirrel-proof your home, consider consulting with a wildlife control professional. They can offer tailored advice and solutions.
By implementing these measures, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of squirrels entering your attic. Remember, the key is to make your home and its surroundings less attractive and accessible to these agile creatures.