A variety of squirrel problems can occur when they decide to nest within a residential or commercial structure. Some of these are easily remedied while others can have very negative impacts on the both the buildings and the people that inhabit them. The following are some common squirrel problems and some warning signs for you to look out for:
Squirrels cause the most amount of damage in the area immediately around their nest. Squirrels will nest in any area above ground that is safe and secure from predators and the elements. Sometimes squirrels will nest in trees. However, in urban areas, most nesting occurs in attics and chimneys.
Attics: In attics squirrels typically use building materials (insulation, vapor barrier, drywall and wood shavings) to build their nest. This means permanent damage to structural and functional components of a building. Because they are rodents, squirrels need materials to gnaw on in order to wear down their constantly growing front teeth. As such, they will continue to cause damage to the building each day they are present. Squirrels produce two litters per year with an average of 5-6 offspring per litter. Daily gnawing and fast reproductive capacity can result in significant structural damage if left unaddressed.
Chimneys: In chimneys squirrels will bring various materials (branches, leaves, moss, and newspapers) in to build their nest. For such a small animal, the volume of material they use can be surprising. Larger nests contain enough debris to fill 1-2 garbage bags. Obviously, this is a major hazard which can have serious health and safety ramifications if the nest causes smoke to back-up or if it catches on fire.
Electrical: Squirrels will chew through anything - structural wood, aluminium, electrical wires, insulation, shingles and vents are favourite targets. Most concerning is when they chew through electrical wires. Exposed electrical wires can easily cause building materials to catch on fire. Obviously, property damage is of concern but even more so is the risk to the lives of the people occupying the building.
Plumbing: The frequent use of plastic water pipes in homes has meant an increase in flooding due to squirrels chewing through pipes.
Health and Safety Risks
Fire: Although already mentioned above, the risk of fire is so tantamount that we feel it vital to mention it twice. Building materials are dry and in close contact with wiring, which means chewed wires can easily start a fire.
Ticks and fleas: Squirrels attract ticks and fleas, especially in warmer weather. If the squirrels leave the nest for an extended period, these ticks and fleas will look for new hosts (i.e. people and pets).
Feces: Urine and feces can cause contamination and odors to build up within the structure of the building.
Rabies: Although uncommon carriers, any mammal can carry the Rabies virus. So never try to corner or pick up an adult squirrel. Although usually frightened of people, a squirrel can be quite aggressive if it perceives danger. Squirrels are very swift and can move or attack quickly if threatened.