North America is home to five different types of squirrel that you may encounter as a nuisance animal on your property: ground squirrels, flying squirrels, gray squirrels, red squirrels, and fox squirrels. Globally, there are more than 200 species.
Different areas of the United States will have problems with different species of squirrel, and there are even a few endangered species. If you were to travel to the west coast, you would likely have problems with western gray squirrels, northern flying squirrels, or the California ground squirrel. Move to a different area, such as the east coast, and you'll find that different squirrel species become a pest.
The eastern gray squirrel is one of the most problematic squirrels globally, a pest in Europe just as much as it is in the US. As the name suggests, the squirrel is often gray in color, though it can be orange-tinged-, brown, white, or any combination of them all.
The fur is lighter on the underside of the animal, often white. Adult squirrels usually weigh a maximum of 20-25 ounces, with a body length of around 12 inches, minus tail. The tail itself is what squirrels are most famous for and can be bigger than the squirrel's body.
In captivity, or with perfect living conditions, eastern gray squirrels can live for up to twenty years. In the wild, the lifespan of most squirrels is a maximum of 5 or 6 years old — and in recent years, more and more squirrels are dying before they even reach half of that age.
Squirrel babies, also known as kits or kittens, are born around 5 or 6 weeks after mating, and mating happens twice a year: once, in the summer (May/June), and again, in the winter (December-February). Between 2 and 6 kits will be born in each litter, and the litter will stay with their mother for at least 2 months after birth. They are mature and ready to mate at 6-8 months (females) and 9-11 months (males).
Again, different species/types of squirrel will live in different habitats, but the eastern gray squirrel lives in areas of heavy tree growth. This can include local parks and recreational spaces as well as residential homes and commercial properties with trees, and also forests or wooded areas.
Creating nests in tree hollows and similar spots, squirrels are also partial to living in roofs and attic spaces of residential areas, alongside getting into chimney stacks, the flue, and various other cracks and crevices.
As a general rule, a squirrel nest will be at least 15 or 20 feet from the ground.
Squirrels are most herbivorous, but it is very common to find the animal eating insects and other animal material when plant-based foods are scarce and the animal hasn't managed to create a big enough stash, or can't get access to a stash.
They love foods like grapes and other fresh fruits, walnuts, bird seed, pine and other plant seeds, berries, and acorns. They will also eat the flowers or early buds of certain trees and plants, such as maple tree buds.
One of the biggest problems that homeowners face when squirrels are hanging around, is the noise that they make. They are mostly daylight-active animals, unlike other rodents you'll find in the area, and you'll definitely hear mothers with young when the whole family starts calling to each other.
Chewing is also a very big problem when squirrels are invading the same space as humans. Squirrels can chew through wires and cables, drywall, plastics, and a whole bunch of other materials, and all of which are problematic alone. Put them all together and you have a very costly mess to repair and restore.
Diseases are rife among squirrel populations, also. There are various parasites and bugs found both inside the body and on the fur/skin, including mites, ticks, and fleas, and these are often transferred to household pets. There is also the squirrel pox virus to consider, adenovirus, leprosy (red squirrels, in some parts of the world), and countless bacteria that can cause upset stomachs. These are transferred by direct contact, through contaminated water or food, or via contact with contaminated materials, such as droppings.
Squirrels love teeny-tiny little spaces — and there are plenty of those to be found in and around a typical residential property. The best way to prevent squirrels and any related problems on your property is to ensure that all holes, cracks, crevices, and potential entrance points to the building are eliminated, sealing them with long-lasting and hardy materials that can withstand chewing.
Trimming back branches of trees that lead to roof tops is a smart idea, as is the removal of bird feeders and other squirrel food sources until the problem has been effectively resolved. It can be quite difficult to get rid of squirrels, especially with approached such as a repellents and deterrents, which are renowned for being quite useless. It is best to use a combination of approaches, literally forcing the squirrels out of your property by making them as uncomfortable as possible.
The approach that a professional will take to the removal of squirrels will depend on the situation itself. Squirrel females with young kits in a nest are to be dealt with differently to a solo male, for example. Exclusion approaches are a great technique for solo, male squirrels, but entire families will often need to be dealt with using a more hands-on approach.
Sadly, in some cases, this may mean physically cutting out a section of the wall so that you can remove wildlife from the cavities behind, and then seal and repair the big mess afterwards.
1 - The biggest squirrel species in the world can grow up to 3 feet in length, minus the tail, and it's called the Indian giant squirrel.
2 - Squirrels can jump and leap up to ten times their own body's length.
3 - The word ‘ squirrel', in Greek, means ‘shadow tail'.
To learn more about squirrels, see: