How To Get Rid Of Squirrels In the Attic

Squirrels in the attic make a mess–and could be expensive if one turns into an infestation. Getting rid of them early protects insulation, wiring, framing, and attic contents. Squirrels can be responsible for mold, electrical problems, and disease.

How To Get Rid Of Squirrels In the Attic

Signs Of Squirrels In Attics

Years can pass without some attics being inspected. (Inspecting attics at least twice yearly is good preventative maintenance practice.) Signs of a potential squirrel problem include:

  • Attic Noise. Rustling sounds–especially morning and evening. Scratching. Chewing.
  • Odors. Accumulations of feces, urine, and decomposing carcasses.
  • Holes. Often in fascia above the gutter. Squirrels will chew their way into attics.
  • Increased Activity. A sudden increase in squirrel activity on your property may indicate squirrels in the attic.
  • Squirrel Fights. Squirrels fighting for territory in the attic is a good indication of an infestation.

Damage Squirrels Cause in Attics

All rodents’–squirrels, mice, rats, etc.–front teeth grow constantly. They gnaw on hard things to wear the teeth down. Attics offer many chewing options. Squirrels cause other types of damage beyond chewing.

Squirrels chew electrical wiring and plumbing. They have been blamed for electrical fires and plumbing leaks. They chew wood framing including trusses and rafters. Framing damage may be bad enough to require repairs.

Squirrels can get through any hole 1 ½” in diameter or larger. Once in the attic squirrels could get into the rest of the house to cause more damage–including chewing, nests, feces, and urine. They may also die and decompose in the house–adding to the other odors they create. Quick and efficient elimination of squirrels in the attic pays many dividends.

Squirrel Damage To Insulation

Attic insulation provides soft warm nesting accommodations for squirrels. They tear out chunks of batt insulation and burrow into loose-fill insulation–adding leaves and twigs to line the nest. Hollowed-out and missing insulation reduces the insulation’s efficiency–letting more warm moist air into the attic and increasing energy costs.

Squirrel feces and urine combined with the organic matter they bring in provide the perfect combination for mold growth. Mold does not grow on the insulation but on the moist organic matter squirrels create.

How To Get Squirrels Out Of Attics

Squirrels prefer quiet dark residences. The easiest way to get rid of squirrels is to make them uncomfortable. Any of the following options may work but using them together multiplies the chance of success.

  • Light. Leave the attic light on continuously or take one up there. A motion sensor or strobe light works best.
  • Noise. Place a radio in the attic and turn it loud enough to fill the space. The sound of human voices from a talk station makes them uncomfortable.
  • Smell. Squirrels hate certain scents. Place a rag soaked with ammonia, vinegar, or mint oil as close to the nest as possible. Mothballs are another option but some jurisdictions have outlawed their use on squirrels. Check local regulations.

If a mother squirrel has babies in the attic she will be very reluctant to abandon them regardless of light, noises, and smells.

Other options include:

  • Commercial Squirrel Repellent. Use one made with capsicum. Spray it near nests, entry holes, and around signs of feces and urine. Many repellents use predator urine as an ingredient–which may add to the odors in the attic.
  • Traps. Either kill traps or catch and release traps. It is best to release trapped squirrels at least 10 miles away to prevent them from returning. (Check local bylaws. Some localities prohibit releasing trapped squirrels anywhere but on your property–which defeats the purpose.)
  • Hire a Professional. Professional squirrel removal is quicker but more expensive. But for anyone who can’t do the job–or doesn’t want to–hiring a professional is the best option.

Costs Of Removing Squirrels From the Attic

Professional squirrel removal can cost as little as $250.00 if there is only one or two. Costs go up for serious infestations. The added costs to replace compromised insulation, electrical wiring, plumbing, or chewed-up framing make early squirrel detection and elimination essential.

As with getting rid of mice in the attic, early detection and removal of squirrels is a fairly simple and inexpensive DIY project. A light, radio, and home cleaning products used together usually do the job. Early detection and elimination saves money.

Keeping Squirrels Out Of the Attic

Once the squirrels are out of the attic, make sure they don’t return.

  • Holes. Seal all holes into the attic from the outside. Metal patches are squirrel-proof.
  • Vents. Install fine wire mesh over all vents and exhaust hoods. Fiber mesh screens barely slow squirrels.
  • Penetrations. Stuff the gaps around pipe and vent wall penetrations and small holes with steel wool; then foam or caulk them. (Swallowing steel wool shards kills squirrels.)
  • Chimney. Install heavy steel mesh over chimneys.
  • Trees. If at all possible, cut tree branches back at least 10’ from the house. Squirrels can jump 9’ horizontally. (There are suggestions they can jump up to 20’.)