If you look up the definition of the word "resourceful" in the dictionary, you will find the description of a squirrel. Jumping precariously from tree limb to tree limb, scaling fences like furry super heroes, squirrels seem to be in constant motion. If you're a bird-watcher and have a feeder in your yard, these precocious rodents have probably continuously raided it. Whether you love them or hate them, they are entertaining to watch!
Virginia has four types of squirrels, but the most common is the Eastern Gray Squirrel. In the wild, these squirrels are found in large, dense deciduous forests full of nuts. While they prefer to nest and shelter in trees, these adaptable critters are happy to cohabitate with you on farms and in suburban and urban neighborhoods and parks. Years of home insurance experience tell us they can also pose a problem to your home.
Can Squirrels Get in Your Attic?
Squirrels can and will get into a home. Home attics provide great shelter for birds, squirrels, and other animals, primarily for building nests. Squirrels typically begin searching for nesting sites in late winter and have babies anytime from February to October- no wonder there are so many of them! If they find a way in, these diurnal rodents will make sounds of scampering or scratching inside your walls, attic, or chimney in the daytime as they come and go.
How do squirrels get into homes?
Nesting squirrels and other animals can find gaps as small as two by two inches near the roofline, such as exterior eaves, unscreened vents, and loose or rotten trim boards. They will enlarge smaller holes by chewing to enter if needed. If they get stuck or trapped in your home, squirrels, raccoons, and other wildlife are also known to cause surprising damage to a home, such as tearing insulation and gnawing wood and electrical wiring.
How to Get Squirrels Out of Your Attic
If babies are present in your home's attic, a mother squirrel is most likely coming and going to care for the babies. It is illegal to trap and relocate Virginia wildlife off your property. In addition, mother squirrels won't realize their babies have been removed and will do tremendous damage reentering your home to find them. Relocated baby squirrels will not survive and require care if separated from their mother.
If you are able, wait until the babies are 8-10 weeks old before you attempt to close off the mother's entrance and exit to your home. Once they are old enough to leave and you no longer hear noise and can determine all squirrels in the nest have gone, seal the entrance to prevent subsequent nesting. If you can not wait, hire a humane animal removal professional that will properly relocate the family.
Squirrels may also enter your home's chimney and get trapped. If you hear sounds from your fireplace, keep the damper closed and call a humane pest removal professional.
How to Prevent Squirrels from Getting into Your House
Fall is a great time to have your roof and attic inspected by a professional for signs of critters and have things sealed up if needed. Have the inside of your attic thoroughly inspected for openings. If there is no obvious way into the attic, ask to have the exterior eaves, vents, and your roof inspected.
Make sure your chimney opening has a vent guard or animal control screen to keep birds, bats, and squirrels from entering. If you hear activity in your chimney, making noise from the fireplace side may scare the uninvited guest away. Then have your chimney serviced by a local certified chimney sweep.
More tips to protecting your home from squirrels:
- Remove food sources such as birdseed, pet food, and even trash, or keep it well-contained.
- Dogs are a great deterrent-just give the squirrel enough lead time!
- Use squirrel guards on your birdfeeders.
- Use an owl decoy and move it from time to time.
- Keep trees pruned closest to home.
- Plant mint and use natural repellents such as cayenne pepper.
- Clean out your attic- clothing items and cardboard are attractive nesting materials
Avoid the use of poisons or inhumane glue traps. Poisons cause secondary poisoning to raptors and other natural predators. Never intentionally build a fire in a chimney to "smoke out" an animal that may be trapped.
Is squirrel damage covered by home insurance?
Squirrels may be resourceful, but regular inspection and maintenance of your home can keep their foraging and nesting outside. Since damage from wildlife is preventable, it is not covered by standard homeowners insurance. If you do notice or hear squirrel activity in your home, addressing it properly can mitigate future problems and costly repairs.