When squirrels enter a loft space, they can cause structural damage by tearing up loft insulation for bedding, chewing timbers, pipework and stored items, and posing a fire hazard by stripping insulation from electrical wiring. They may also be noisy, and if they drown in uncovered water storage tanks, may contaminate the water supply. For these reasons, it is important to keep squirrels out of lofts.
The best cure is prevention. A hole need only be as big as a squirrel's head to allow access. If they have been seen entering the property, their access points will be known, but otherwise a piece of newspaper stuffed securely into a suspected access hole can be easily removed by a squirrel and will show that a hole is in use.
The RSPCA advise the use of strong wire netting with a mesh size no larger than 25mm to block any access holes, plus repair to any slipped slates, rotten soffits or missing bricks etc. to prevent access.
If the squirrels have already gained entry, it is essential to ensure there are no squirrels remaining in the loft before access is blocked. Not only is it cruel to trap them (and illegal to cause suffering to a captive animal), they may do additional damage in their attempt to escape or in a mother's attempt to rescue her young. The decomposition of any squirrels that die may also cause smell and insect infestation. Squirrels can attack when frightened or to defend their young, so take care and make noise to frighten any squirrel out of the loft before you enter.
If young are present, they should be left until they are old enough to leave the nest, and repair work carried out when the family is out foraging.
The use of crushed mothballs spread throughout the loft is reported to be an effective smell deterrent, prompting squirrels to choose a less aromatic residence.
Problems in the garden are more annoying than dangerous. Many squirrel proof feeders are sold to prevent them from raiding the bird feeder, and some bird seed supplements contain pepper additives that are distasteful to squirrels, and harmless to both. Other products based upon the smell deterrence principle are also available.
Bulbs can be protected with wire mesh or an inverted wire basket firmly staked to the ground. The plants can grow up through the mesh but can't be unearthed. (This method works well if you have cats digging up your garden too.)
Lethal control of squirrels is permitted but should only be carried out by qualified professional pest control officers. The use of poisons is strictly regulated for use by professionals only and should never be undertaken by members of the public.
Please note that we don't treat squirrel problems. This page is for information and advice only. See the Pests home page for details of which pests we do treat for.
South Derbyshire District Council
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