People enjoy feeding squirrels and watching them scamper around their landscape. For some, they can be quite entertaining. They are interesting animals, but in some instances they may become pests.
There are three types of squirrels found in Texas which are the gray squirrel, the fox squirrel, and the flying squirrel. Fox squirrels are the most common and are found in East and Central Texas. Gray squirrels, or what many East Texans refer to as "cat squirrels," are commonly found in the eastern part of Texas. Flying squirrels are the smallest of the squirrels. The flying squirrels are the least common and the only nocturnal squirrels, again found commonly in East Texas.
The fox squirrel is a large tree squirrel, about 21 inches long and weighs 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. It has gray and black fur on its back and orange-colored fur on its belly. The tail color and feet color are cinnamon mixed with black. Fox squirrels get their name from their gray and red fur coat that resembles that of a gray fox.
The gray or cat squirrel is about 9 to 11 inches long and weighs 14 to 20 ounces. It has predominantly gray fur with typically white fur on its belly, tail and feet. It has a bushy tail. These squirrels are quick and agile, scurrying about tree tops and landscapes. These squirrels are common around the home.
Squirrels can have up to two litters of young per year. Typically, squirrels have their young from August through October in the fall, and March through May in the spring. Litter sizes can range from three to four. The gestation period for squirrels ranges from 40 to 45 days.
Squirrels feed on a variety of materials such as nuts, fruit, seeds, berries, insects and bark. Squirrel nesting sites include tree cavities, old woodpecker holes, attics, etc. They can also construct nests in trees made up of leaves in the branches of trees. Squirrels will also chew on the bark of trees and other ornamental plants, causing damage to the limbs.
Squirrels may become pests in urban areas and may cause economic damage. They may eat pecans, fruits, berries, bird seed or vegetables in home gardens or even nest in attics. It seems like overnight they can remove pecans, peaches or other fruit from your home orchard or garden. In your attic, they can chew on wires and cause other problems. So what can homeowners do to prevent damage?
Making trees, attics and buildings squirrel-proof is a permanent solution to the problem, does not harm the squirrels and presents no legal difficulties. Squirrels usually gain entrance to attics and other structures from the roof, especially if tree limbs overlap the roof line. This problem can be solved by trimming tree limbs back at least 8 to 10 feet from the roof.
Exclusion is one method. If trees are close to the home and trimming limbs does not deter entry to the roof, other means of exclusion may be warranted. Sometimes sheet metal bands placed around the trunk of the trees can discourage squirrels from climbing. These bands should be 2 feet wide and 6 to 8 feet from the ground to be effective. This method is effective for single trees near a home. For multiple, trees where the squirrel can jump from tree to tree, other exclusion methods may need to be explored. In attics, screen mesh such as hardware cloth or steel wool can exclude squirrels from entering the vents or openings. Netting can be placed over some sensitive crops, such as strawberries, berries and more to prevent damage.
Trapping and relocating squirrels is another method of removal in the home, especially if they get into the attic. Squirrels in Texas are classified as game animals. If the squirrels are causing damage or creating a nuisance, trapping may offer some relief. Anyone wishing to legally trap squirrels and relocate them once caught should notify representatives of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at https://tpwd.texas.gov before exploring this option.
There are no registered toxicants or fumigants to use on squirrels around your home. There are some repellents registered for repelling squirrels. Effectiveness will vary. Shooting is not an option for many, especially in urban areas. In most cities, discharging a firearm within the city limits is prohibited.
Many times people do not want to cause harm to wildlife in the area, but want to mitigate the damage caused. No matter what the wildlife species, check the legality of control or method used before exploring these options.