If you have an attic in your house which you use for storage and frequently visit, the chances of one or more squirrels taking up residence there, particularly during the winter, are quite low. If the attic is empty or rarely visited however, the story can be quite different.
An attic can make a nice home for at least three types of animals: birds, bats, and squirrels. If left alone, birds are unlikely to cause a great deal of harm. Bats on the other hand can multiply over a period of several years, and have caused ceilings to collapse in more than one household from the sheer weight of accumulated guano, which besides leaving a mess can also be a health hazard.
Often squirrels are mostly a bird feeder nuisance, but if they spend most of their indoors time in your attic they can also work their way in between interior or exterior walls, where they have a potential for causing a great deal of damage. The presence of squirrels in a house is often first detected when they are heard scurrying in the walls of the home.
Squirrels don’t normally enter a house through an open door and somehow manage to work their way to the attic where they’ll feel safe. A squirrel might not even think of a house as being a place of shelter except for one thing: most houses leak heat. Squirrels seek warm places as cold weather approaches, so if they detect heat coming from a house they will look for the source. That source may well turn out to be a crack, hole, or vent through which the animal can gain entry.
A squirrel can work its way through any opening its head will fit through. If such an opening only leads to a small space, that will be good enough for the squirrel so long as it is a place it can keep warm. If the opening gives the squirrel the run of the house, or at least gives it access to the walls and the attic, so much the better. A squirrel that takes up residence in a small space will rarely present a problem. You leave it alone, because you’re not even aware it’s there, and it will leave you alone.
Where a problem arises however, is that one squirrel can become several squirrels, or at least two squirrels can, and if your home or attic is particularly attractive to a few squirrels the friends and close relations may soon join them. This does not usually occur in the numbers that bats can attain, but it is enough to cause problems.
When a squirrel can really become a danger is when it finds itself in a place where it cannot escape from. Of course, it won’t just sit there quietly waiting for death to come; it will try its very best to chew its way out. A squirrel can easily chew through most kinds of wood, especially softwoods, and drywall is no problem at all. Additionally, while chewing its way to safety it might chew through an electrical wire or cable. That might be the end of the squirrel, but it could also be the beginning of a fire. Copper pipes are no match for a squirrel’s teeth either. If it needs to chew through a pipe to find food, water, or freedom, it will do so. The end result could be an expensive plumbing bill and perhaps some water damage expenses as well.
Squirrels are cute, and they can even be tamed to some degree, but you really want to keep them away from your house unless you are absolutely certain there is no opening they can gain access to. That usually means a thorough inspection by you, by an animal control specialist, or by a building contractor who knows what to look for.
In the meantime, if you haven’t been up in your attic for a year or more, you might want to check it out for evidence of squirrels.
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Do You have Squirrels in Your Attic? in Louisiana
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