Squirrels are one of the most common home invaders found in the southeast. There are three different species currently present in the region. But what about the squirrels you see out your window, the four legged creatures that climb your trees and eye your bird feeders as if they were their last meal? These are the Gray squirrel (sciurus carolinensis) and the Fox squirrel (Sciurus niger).
Gray squirrels like mature upland and bottomland hardwood forests. Since they are partial to hardwood they can also be found in mixed pine and hardwood forests as well. Size wise is generally 12 ounces to 1.5 pounds. The food they eat comes in a wide variety. It very well known that they enjoy acorns (as popularized in many media outlets) however they find their nutrition in other places as well. This includes buds and flowers of trees, along with hickory nuts, dogwood fruit, mulberries, blackgum fruit, grasses and more.
Fox squirrels differ from Gray squirrels in that they are a bit more specific in their habitat. They are partial to pine and so forth are found in pine and mixed pine/hardwood forests. They can range from 1 to 3 pounds. They have a wider variety in coloring as well going from black to pure blonde. Red squirrels are smaller than Gray and Fox squirrels. Gray and Fox squirrels have similar eating patterns, on occasion even including small insects and other arthropods.
Do you know the kind of squirrels that live in your neighborhood? If one would close their eyes and bring the first image of a squirrel to mind in all likelihood it would be of the Gray. They are the most commonly found in the southeast. During my college years they were rather famous around campus.
Being well integrated in the routine of student activity, they would become brave enough to come close to a munching student. Of course, any slight movement from the snacking party and they would scamper off to their next target.
Breeding season is twice a year. First is in early winter, around December or January. Second comes in summer, around June or July. Each litter contains 1-5 newborns.
But what happens if they get into your home? Squirrels cause damage to lawns and houses. Whether their looking for a place to hide their haul or a place to have their babies they can become quite a nuisance. Not only pipelines, but wires can be chewed through causing electrical damage to a home.
The best course of action if this happens is to perform exclusion. Seal off any possible openings into a building with a heavy wire mesh around 1/2 inches. Once all entry points are sealed squirrels can chew through even more portions of the home while trying to escape. Traps need to be set to get anything that is inside when everything that was sealed off. Types of traps include: leghold traps, box traps, snap traps, and cage traps. Common bait used are slices of oranges or apples, walnuts or pecans removed from the shell, and peanut butter. One can also take a look at the shrubbery in a 6-8 foot radius around their home and trim back anything that may be allowing the squirrels access.
Squirrels may be relatively small, but they can have a large impact on our environment.