Squirrel (friend or foe)

squirrel

All you need to know about squirrels in your garden

Some of the most popular questions I get are about squirrels. Are they good for my garden? How to get rid of squirrels? How can I stop squirrels from eating the nuts I put out for the birds? And many more.

This is why I’ve chosen the first article to be about squirrels and what you need to know about them.
Almost everyone has seen a squirrel video where they are doing something really cute, or performing acrobats, or just doing something out of the ordinary which is very funny.

It makes great entertainment, but some people do not want them in their garden, while others try to encourage them into their garden. Here, we will give you all the facts about squirrels, so you can make an informed decision whether you want them in your garden or not.

First Some Facts About Our Furry Neighbor

Squirrels are found on every continent apart from Australia and Antarctica.
A squirrel’s hind legs are double-jointed, meaning they can turn their ankles a full 180 degrees, enabling them to see every direction when climbing.
Their eyes are situated in such a way that they can actually see behind them.
Squirrels have four toes on their front feet and five toes on their back feet, with very sharp claws, enabling them to run up and down trees very fast.
Squirrels can eat their own body weight in food every week, this amounts to about one and a half pounds.
You don’t often see a squirrel fall out of a tree, but in the event one does, they can actually fall from more than 30 feet without hurting themselves.
Squirrels are so adapted to finding their way to food sources, and the quickest route, which is why they can be easily trained to do certain tasks, with the right food incentive.
They also have very strong hind legs, which in turn, enables them to leap up to 20 feet, that’s more than 10 times their length.
There are over 250 species of squirrel in the world, some have put the number as high as 289 species of squirrel, with the grey squirrel numbering as many as 2 billion just in the US alone.

What are squirrels good for?

Squirrels are quite an important part of the ecosystem because they can spread seeds over a wide area, encouraging new tree and plant growth. They will often eat acorns and also bury many for storage. More often than not, they will forget where they buried many acorns, and these forgotten acorns will eventually sprout and grow into new acorn trees.

Do squirrels carry any diseases?

Unfortunately, squirrels can carry some pretty bad diseases, here are the five more popular ones:
1. Salmonellosis is Salmonella bacteria that can be in the squirrel’s droppings. This can cause diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, and more and should be treated quickly
2. Lyme disease is spread by ticks that often accompany squirrels, and this can lead to nerve pain, stiffness, and inflammation of the spinal cord and/or brain. Should also be treated quickly
3. Tularemia is an infectious disease that can attack the lungs, skin, and eyes
4. Rabies can be carried by squirrels, though it is rare it is possible and is becoming more frequently found in more squirrels. Squirrels can pass this virus on to humans if the human is bitten or scratched by an infected squirrel.
5. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection causing rash, fever, vomiting, headache, and jaundice to name but a few symptoms.

What should I do if I get a squirrel bite?

If you get bit or scratched by a squirrel you should get checked out immediately, and should also seek medical attention if you’ve come into contact with feces or urine from a squirrel, as some of these diseases can be fatal if left untreated. A squirrel bite can become infected and is very painful as squirrels have quite long teeth and can penetrate the skin deeply.

How to get rid of squirrels that have made a home in my attic?

This is quite a common problem for many households, and there is much advice on this, though not all the advice or methods are reliable. If you have a squirrel nesting in your home, the best thing to do is to call a professional, because they really know what they are doing and will remove the squirrel safely and quickly.

If you are intent on trying to do it yourself, the best way is to purchase an animal-trapping cage. These work on a spring-loaded plate which you can place bait on, then when the squirrel enters the cage to eat he will be automatically trapped, alive. Then you can take him far away to a wooded area and let him go, or call your local animal control who can give you the best advice, depending on where you live.

We’ve seen videos where people have caught squirrels using a rat trap, but these are definitely not recommended by us. These are very hit-and-miss, and you could partially catch the squirrel where he could be in a lot of pain for a long time before he dies. The humane way to capture a squirrel is to use a squirrel cage, specifically designed to catch squirrels and other small animals.

How to stop squirrels from eating the nuts and seeds I put out for the birds?

This one has proved to be the most difficult method over the years because almost all the tricks that humans have used to keep squirrels from eating nuts that have been put out for other wildlife have failed. Until fairly recently, you just had to hope you didn’t get squirrels in your garden. Fortunately, there are now a few options available that actually work, and some of these require the bird feeder to be suspended from a branch, usually with a very wide rimmed top on to prevent the squirrels from climbing down and getting to the bird food.

There are lots of self-help videos on suggested homemade methods, some of which are quite ingenious but require a lot of work, time, and money and though they may work for some, they may not work for all. Your best bet is to purchase a proven method that works, and one where you can read reviews by customers that have actually bought them and seen that they really do work. There are quite a few good squirrel-proof bird feeders out on the market now, and they’re not too expensive.

How to prevent squirrels from entering my home or garden?

There are a few things you can do to prevent squirrels from entering your home or garden. The first thing you should do is squirrel protect the home because once a squirrel gets into your attic and decides to stay, he can do a lot of damage. They will chew on wood and even electrical wires, so this is the first place to protect.

Make sure that all trees in the vicinity of your home are trimmed way back from the house. More often than not, squirrels get up onto the roof via a tree branch and find a way in from there, or they will use the chimney as an entryway. Once squirrels don’t have access to the roof of a house, it’s probably too difficult for them to enter at all, though some houses can be accessed via a basement, hole in the wall, or broken window.

Be sure to fix any broken basement windows, and cement or block any holes up, even small ones. Any vents or open windows should have some type of metal screen to prevent entry. There are also certain types of smells that squirrels and rodents don’t like, so they tend to stay away. Peppermint oil seems to be the main course of action for those seeking a good squirrel repellent, not only for squirrels but rats and mice too.

There are other methods available that apparently work, but we don’t recommend them. For instance, there are a growing number of ultrasonic sound products that claim to keep pests away. The reason we don’t recommend these are first that we haven’t found one that actually works, and secondly if these ultrasonic frequencies did work, would they affect pets or other wildlife that we actually want in our garden?

Final thoughts, friend or foe?

After reading this article, we’re sure you know more about squirrels than you probably did before. Having said that, it does appear that squirrels are more of a pest than a pet. It is definitely okay to have squirrels in your garden, as long as they stay where you want them to and don’t invade the space where you don’t want them. We will say foe for the garden, especially if you have young children, just because of the potential diseases they carry.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop us an email, and we’ll be glad to add to this article, answer your question, and/or write a whole other article on your question. We hope you enjoyed this article, and remember to sign up for our newsletter that we will be sending out once per month.

Our newsletter will let you know about new articles we have published, ones that are going to be published over the next month, and will contain some of the reader’s questions and answers. Have a great day, and we look forward to your questions and feedback.

 

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