Squirrles----To Be or not To Be.
By: Julie Barnes
A squirrel possesses unique virtues in order to persist: Ability to effortlessly walk along power lines; Athletic and acrobatic expertise to run up and down, as well as, jump from tree to tree; Relentless talent breaking into backyard bird feeders; Remarkable problem solving skills to behold as a squirrel triumphs over the spoils of a free meal. PA is home to 5 tree squirrel species, but the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is the most common to both towns and rural areas. Eastern gray squirrels are very social learning a mother’s cleverness to share successively with each other. For some homeowners they can become quite destructive.
Squirrels are considered rodents. The word rodent comes from a Latin word that means “to gnaw” where big strong front biting teeth continuously grow throughout their lifetime to gnaw roots, nutshells, wood, etc. The gray squirrel is small and its coloring is a brownish tinged silver gray even though there are some that are entirely black, with a white belly and short ears. The characteristic broad, bushy tail encompasses half the length of its body and is essential for balance as this fast, agile creature scales trees jumping from treetop to treetop with great speed. To further add to its dexterity, a squirrel can rotate its hind feet 180 degrees in order to turn and run back down trees or poles head-first, an uncommon feat for most animals.
Food availability determines the tree areas squirrels will inhabit in either constructed nests, or else, dens built in tree cavities filled with twigs, leaves, grass, bark and other plant materials. From late winter to early spring, females bear litters of 4-5 usually raised in the tree dens. A gray squirrel will live for about 2-3 years although they can actually survive as long as ten. Where food is plentiful, non-territorial gray squirrels will feed alongside other squirrels. During the day they forage the ground for food, hoarding or burying it for later winter months too. Their stashes can later be retrieved even when buried under lots of snow. Stockpiles hidden by other squirrels may be discovered as well, thanks to an acute sense of smell. Their menu includes acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts and beechnuts, also, berries, mushrooms, pine seeds, corn kernels, in addition to dogwood, wild cherry, black gum fruits and springtime’s load of Red and Sugar Maple buds, flowers and winged fruits. Predators such as hawks, owls, foxes or tree climbing snakes can easily capture young squirrels but a keen sense of hearing, besides a sharp vision that enables them to detect movement, makes taking an adult squirrel more challenging.
Squirrels sometimes become a problem to homeowners. Methods using deterrents, baited traps, habitat modification, and exclusion techniques may be needed to hinder them. Depending on severity, combining these may be a necessity:
Deterrents- Tree baffles attached to trees or poles may block climbing squirrels. Various taste repellents could prevent squirrels from gnawing on fences, siding or outdoor furniture.
Exclusion- Squirrels will chew through siding and under eaves searching for places to build nests in a home. Access may also come through attic vents, loose flashing around chimneys, and enlarged openings around cables and utility wire. Once inside they will gnaw through insulation and wiring. Openings must be either sealed or caulked.
Baited Traps- Wire traps can be used to bait squirrels to catch them alive. But, moving the squirrels to another location is not recommended due to disease transmission concerns.
Habitat Modification- Trees should be trimmed at least 6-8 feet from houses to stop squirrels from jumping on roofs. Locate bird feeders in open spaces. Offer an alternate food source, such as an ear of corn, attached to a tree or fence post away from a problem area to keep squirrels away from bird feeders, ornamental trees or shrubs.
The hunting of gray squirrels is regulated by The PA Game Commission, but a hunting license is not required for homeowners to control squirrels causing property damage. For the most part, squirrels are smart. So, pay heed they are equipped with a physique to succeed.