Gray squirrels are responsible for more problems than are red squirrels, especially in urban or suburban areas. However, red squirrels will sometimes chew maple syrup lines. Squirrel damage to home vegetable or flower gardens, or to orchards, is often difficult to control. When populations are high, and food sources are abundant, new squirrels will quickly replace any that are removed. To avoid or reduce damage and make your property less attractive to squirrels, consider these options:
- Plantings: Electrified netting or other small electric fences may be useful in keeping squirrels out of gardens and small orchards. Contact your local farm supply business or a MassWildlife District office for information on electric fences. A small dome or cage of chicken wire placed over individual plants or small rows can protect individual plants until they are large enough to be ignored by the squirrels.
- Buildings: Gray squirrels will enter attics, crawl spaces, or sheds for nesting or shelter. In doing so, they may damage the structure, pull apart insulation, or chew electrical wires. Inspect your property regularly to be sure that squirrels have not entered, or attempted entry. Close openings with heavy-gauge ½-inch wire mesh or other appropriate carpentry repairs. Do not block squirrels inside as they may do considerable damage when trying to get out. Trim branches and trees within 6-8 feet of the building, to prevent squirrels from jumping on your roof. Prevent squirrels from walking on wires by installing 2-foot sections of 2-3 inch plastic pipe over the wire. The piping will rotate on the wire, causing the squirrels to fall off. Do not place pipes on utility wires without permission from the utility company.
- Bird Feeders: Bird feeders which hang from wires may be protected with rotating piping (see above). Feeders on poles may be protected with commercial conical squirrel guards which prevent a climbing squirrel from getting past the cone. Remember that spilled seed attracts mice and squirrels to the ground below the feeder. Predators may then be attracted to the rodents. Carefully consider the pros and cons of feeding birds, especially at seasons when they do not need supplemental food.
- Repellents: Mothballs may sometimes discourage squirrels from using crawl spaces or other enclosed spaces. Do not use mothballs in human-occupied dwellings. Ro-pel® taste repellent can be applied to seeds, bulbs, flowers, shrubs, fences, and siding to discourage squirrels. Consult with your local agriculture extension specialist and follow all instructions. Effectiveness may vary. Do not use anticoagulants containing warfarin (e.g., D-Con®). These are formulated for and are legal only for use on rats and mice. Squirrels may only be sickened, and dead squirrels may cause secondary poisoning of raptors and other scavengers.
- Trapping: Gray squirrels can often be captured in wooden or wire box traps, about 24 inches in length, and 10 inches in height. Apple slices, peanut butter, or sunflower seeds are good baits. Wire traps are more effective when covered with canvas or other dark material. Remember that wildlife may not be relocated in Massachusetts. Traps may be effective in removing squirrels trapped within an attic or other confined space. The squirrel may then be released outside the structure, providing that you have closed the animal’s initial entryway.
- Shooting: Shooting is quick, simple, and effective in rural areas where firearms discharge is safe and lawful. A .22 caliber rifle or a shotgun with #6 shot is suitable. This may be most effective when targeting a few persistent animals. During population peaks, or when foods are particularly attractive, new squirrels will replace those which are removed.