Squirrels can be cute and fuzzy when they’re chewing acorns in your backyard. But those teeth aren’t as cute when they’re gnawing wires in your home or tearing up insulation. Squirrels don’t have the “icky” reputation of other household pests… but they’re still wild animals, and they can do serious damage. When squirrels makes themselves at home in your attic, they often create a real mess by gnawing on things or leaving behind feces and urine. That much damage in small areas can lead to costly repairs. And while they’re usually harmless, squirrels – like other rodents – have been known to spread disease. How to Spot a Squirrel How can you tell if your furry friends have decided to move in? Here are a few things to look (and listen) for:
- Scurrying feet: Squirrels are most active during the day. If around dawn or dusk you hear the sounds of little feet above you, odds are there is a den nearby.
- Strange smells: You may not notice it at first, but over time the smell of animal urine and feces can become quite strong. If there’s a putrid smell, it’s safe to assume you have a pest problem.
- Entry points: Squirrels can enter your home through pretty much any opening in your house. So keep tabs on your doors and windows. Look for teeth marks around your home and watch obvious entry points, such as attic vents. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on nearby branches leading to your roof.
- Block all routes. Limiting entry points can discourage squirrels from returning. Consider using wire mesh, caulk or similar materials to seal up your home. After you’ve secured your home, leave one entry point open. Then place some newspaper over it and wait. If the newspaper stays intact after a few days, you can seal off the final entry point. It’s also a good idea to trim branches leading to your house and keep food stored away so they won’t come back. An important side note: be especially careful in early spring and mid-summer, as squirrels raise their babies during this time. Sealing off an entrance too soon can separate the mother squirrel from her babies and ultimately make matters worse.
- Humane harassment. Squirrels won’t always leave right away. The Toronto Wildlife Centre recommends a few go-to tricks to scare squirrels out without physically harming them. Try placing bright, fire-safe lights; a radio; or strong smells like apple cider vinegar near where the squirrels are hiding. These signals tell squirrels that predators are nearby and the area isn’t safe. Once the squirrels leave, it’s safe to seal all entryways. This is the go-to option when it comes to squirrel moms and babies.
- Live traps. Traps can be helpful, but this method should be a last resort. In many states, it’s illegal to trap and release squirrels. What’s more, squirrels that have been trapped and relocated often abandon their babies in the process – even if they’re moved together. So be aware of your local laws, and consider calling a pest control professional for help.
Does insurance cover damage from squirrels?When it comes to your coverage, the specifics can get a little hairy. Different types of insurance will – and won’t – kick in from squirrel damage, depending on where and how it happens. Generally speaking, here’s how it works:
- Your car: If squirrels or other rodents chew through wires or nest in your car, that damage can covered under the optional comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy (subject to certain conditions, limitations and exclusions). See what can happen in our video, “Rats in the Hood.”
- Your home: Generally speaking, damage caused directly from squirrels – such as gnawing, scratching, or droppings – isn’t covered by your homeowners insurance, since the damage is gradual and often preventable with home maintenance. The cost of pest control services isn’t covered, either. However, if a squirrel causes a sudden loss – for example, it chews through a wire that sparks and starts a house fire – your homeowners insurance would generally pay for damage from the fire, since that’s a covered peril under most policies (subject to certain conditions, limitations and exclusions).
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