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Are squirrels considered a pest?
Squirrels are considered a pest by most people. More importantly, they are considered a pest by animal control companies and landlords. Squirrels are rodents, similar to a rat. They might look a whole lot cuter but they can be equally destructive. If squirrels get inside your home, inside your walls or your attic, they can and will wreak havoc. If given the chance to do so. Squirrels make nests inside your walls and tear out the insulation. They will also, ahem, relieve themselves inside your walls. Which can lead to diseases at the very worst, or simply an overbearing foul odor at best. Does squirrels excrement in your walls sound pleasant? No.
Squirrels ordinarily are quite happy to refine themselves to the yard. They will make nests in trees, underbrush, in little burrows, or inside outbuildings such as sheds. Which is not ideal, but better than your house. They will also make themselves a home inside a birdhouse if given the opportunity. Birdhouses are warm, cozy, safe, and free. They come ready-made. This is why birds love them so squirrels feel just the same. Squirrels can, and will, kill or at least frighten off the previous owners. You might have purchased a little bird box for the pretty neighborhood songbirds. The squirrels just had a different idea.
What problems do squirrels bring?
Squirrels are rampant with disease. They tend to have tetanus or rabies but can carry other lesser-known bacteria too. Rabid squirrels can pass the illness on to pets or even family members. They are dirty rodents, after all. Just because they look cuter than rats doesn't make them any less problematic. Squirrels can also be catastrophic to the ecosystem of your garden. They might eat nuts and fruits, but that doesn't stop them from killing other animals that threaten their food source. Squirrels will also eat your plants and do their best to steal all of your vegetables - if you happen to have a vegetable garden.
As someone who has had problems with squirrels in the past, I can attest to how annoying they can be. They eat everything they can and destroy everything they cant. Many bird feeders have been torn to pieces as they try to get their greedy little hands in there. Most of us are trying to feed the birds, none of us are trying to feed the squirrels. This can be one of the most frustrating things to see. Filling your yard with bird feeders and baths is meant to make your garden feel cozy and comfortable. Not like a war ground as squirrels harass any bird that comes near.
The biggest problem with squirrels is the damage they can do to everything they get their little claws on. If you happen to get squirrels in the wall they will tear out the insulation and pad it down to make their nests. This insulation keeps your house warm and the walls sturdy. It can also be a nightmare to cut through. If you do get squirrels, they will burrow through the insulation making little warrens in your walls. Which means you may find you have to break down all the drywall to find where they are. Squirrels are not the most hygienic animals, as you can tell from their many diseases. They are also unhygienic because they don't particularly mind where they go to the bathroom. They won't go outside, they'll do it inside your wall. The smell this can make is horrendous.
Since squirrels are stuck in your wall, you also need to be very careful about how you remove them. If you poison them, they are simply going to run off into the wall and find somewhere to try and "wait out" their uncomfortableness. They have no idea they are about to die, they just feel frightened. So they hide. Now you have a dead squirrel somewhere in your wall. You can't hear it, or see it, meaning the only way to track it down is by waiting for it to start smelling. Or you could take the whole wall down. It is far better to remove the squirrels before they make their way into your wall. Of course, this isn't always an option.
Am I allowed to remove squirrels?
You are allowed to remove squirrels from your property, yes. It is even encouraged to do so in most places. Squirrels are, as mentioned above, seen as pests. For the most part, we are better off without them. The only time you can't remove squirrels is if you live in a specially zoned area that forbids the removal of animals. This is rare, and can often be circumnavigated by hiring an exterminator.
There may also be rules about how you remove the squirrels from your property. You might not please your neighbors by shooting them. If you live in suburbia this is simply dangerous. Lastly, you need to ensure you do it humanely. This doesn't mean you can't kill them. Just that if you do, it needs to be done swiftly and as painlessly as possible. The best description for humane removal is "without any unnecessary suffering".
How to get rid of squirrels
The best way to get rid of squirrels is by ensuring they don't come in the first place. Make sure your house is well sealed up. There are no cracks or holes in the roof or basement that a squirrel would be able to poke his head through. Squirrels are very flexible if they can get their head through the hole their body will follow. You should also avoid making homes for them and putting food out for them. This, unfortunately, means that you won't be able to feed the birds anymore. That's the trade-off. If there is no food, or at least not ample food, the squirrels will go somewhere where there is.
If you already have squirrels, and they are yet to make it into the house, don't worry. This is the best-case scenario for an infestation. Good job for catching it before things get out of hand. There are a few methods for removing them. Humane traps, that allow you to pick them up and release them far away in the woods. This is nice in theory, but in reality, the squirrel will just come back. You would need to take him several miles away to ensure that he can't find his way home. The most effective method is shooting them. Squirrels are surprisingly easy to hit. They sit still on trees and don't blend in that well. At least, for animals that can see a wide spectrum of colors (humans). Squirrels have very, very, hard skulls. If you shoot them with an air rifle in the head it is just going to bounce off. So you might need to use a 9mm. If you are planning on using an air rifle, you'll need to aim for the heart. They will die instantly, this is probably the most humane way to remove them. And make sure that they don't come back.
If the squirrels have already started nesting inside your walls, then it's time to call in the big guns. It is best to rely on an exterminator in this situation. If anything, to save your walls. They will be much better equipped to get the squirrels out of the wall without destroying it entirely. Most exterminators will trap the squirrels. They will cover all entry/exit points and set up cages to catch them. They will also dispose of them humanely for you. This is probably the best bet for most people.
So, now you know a little more about squirrels. And, how best to avoid them. Any preemptive step you can take is advised. Even if that means you can no longer feed the birds. You could always buy bird-friendly feeders that are spring-loaded. Squirrels will be too heavy so it will just throw them off. You might still end up with squirrels trying to get the food. If you are unsure how to remove them or which cages to use, hire an exterminator. Picking one off with a gun here and there is a good way to keep the population down. You will likely scare the other squirrels off, too. Good luck with your squirrel problem and happy hunting!