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Protect homes from squirrel invasions
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The coldest days of winter do not seem to slow squirrel activity.
One significant reason is that mating season for eastern gray squirrels lasts through January, and babies arrive about six weeks later.
Most squirrels build nests for these babies in the forks of tree branches or in the hollows of tree trunks. Their nests are created mostly out of dry leaves and twigs.
However, squirrels occasionally become pests by nesting in attics or exterior walls of houses. Their activity in these spaces may cause structural or mechanical damage and cost homeowners significant time and money.
To enter houses, squirrels sometimes travel along power lines and may short out transformers. Once inside a house, they may gnaw on wires and chew holes in pipes while gathering nest-building materials.
Squirrels continue to be nuisances around the house at other times of the year. The eastern gray squirrel hoards food in several thousand caches per season. The process of burying or digging up their hidden treasures may damage lawn areas or disrupt landscaped beds.
Squirrels may also chew bark or twigs on a homeowner’s prized ornamental shrubs. They will eat planted seeds, pick fruit off trees and nibble bites out of garden vegetables. More often than not, they will raid bird feeders before the birds ever have a chance to eat.
Both the eastern gray squirrel and the eastern fox squirrel are game species in Mississippi. Therefore, Mississippi law does not allow landowners to trap these animals. However, squirrels can be hunted legally in two seasons: fall season ends Feb. 28, and the spring season is from May 15 until June 1.
For most Mississippi landowners, exclusion and habitat modification are the best ways to keep squirrels out of houses or stop them from destroying landscapes.
To deter squirrels from climbing power poles, place a 2-foot-wide metal collar around the pole 6 feet above the ground.
Place 2-foot sections of lightweight plastic pipe around wires.
Close up any openings to attics or buildings with heavy, 1/2-inch wire mesh. Make sure there are no squirrels inside before doing this.
As a last resort, wire mesh fences topped with electrified wires may keep squirrels out of your fruit and vegetable gardens.
Keep tree limbs trimmed to at least 6 feet away from buildings to prevent squirrels from jumping onto roofs.
Don’t plant trees within 8 to 10 feet of an exterior wall of a house or other structure.
Install baffles above bird feeders, and grease poles to make climbing more difficult.
Provide an alternative food source for squirrels, such as ears of corn. Hang or nail the ears on a tree or fence post as far away from bird feeders as possible.
If squirrels still cause problems after you take these precautions, consider hiring a commercial wildlife control operator to trap and remove the animals. Call the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks in Jackson for a list of approved operators around the state.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.