About Nuisance Flying Squirrels
Caught a glimpse of a flying squirrel during its night-time exploration of your neighborhood? Or maybe you have them nesting in your attic or munching on your garden.
Read on to learn more about flying squirrels, and what you can do to prevent them from moving into your home, or how to remove them.
The only nocturnal member of the squirrel family, there are three species of flying squirrel in North America: Southern, Northern, and Humboldt’s flying squirrel.
The name “flying squirrels” is misleading: the squirrels don’t fly, they glide. They have a special fold of skin, a fur-covered membrane, that attaches from the front leg to the back. When leaping from a tree branch, the flying squirrel stretches its legs, which spreads this membrane out into a kind of glider wing. They use their fluffy tail as a stabilizer while in flight, and as a brake to slow down before landing. This unique ability allows the flying squirrel to move between trees and cross gaps of over 150 feet, without having to touch the ground.
Flying squirrels are omnivorous mammals, eating both plants and meat. Their diet includes insects, fungi, mushrooms, tree sap, flowers, seeds, and even bird’s eggs and carrion.
Habitat & Predators
Flying squirrels generally prefer to live in wooded areas, where they can use their gliding abilities to stay safely out of reach from ground predators, such as American martens, Canadian lynx, and red foxes. However, they still need to look out for airborne predators, such as large owls and hawks, and so make their dens in small spaces, such as tree cavities and the rock crevices on cliffs.
Flying squirrels can crawl through any small gaps present in the exterior of your building and nest in your attic. While these adorable little animals are just trying to find somewhere safe to live, they can also cause a few problems for you.
- Flying squirrels are social animals, so a family nesting in your walls, attic, and crawl spaces will lead to a build-up of urine and fecal matter. The foul smell emanating from their nesting area can cause health problems. Flying squirrels carry lice, fleas, parasites, and have been shown to pass on typhus.
- Like all other squirrels, flying squirrels will do damage to your home with their gnawing. They can tear up insulation and chew through wood, drywall, and electrical cables, creating fire hazards.
- In their search for food, flying squirrels can also cause damage to your garden. If you don’t install covers, you could find your fruit and vegetables munched on, and your flowers eaten. Because they also eat insects, you may even see little holes dug up in your yard by the flying squirrels searching for bugs, or burying a cache of nuts.
If you’re worried about a potential flying squirrel problem, there are measures that you can take to avoid it. It’s easier to prevent flying squirrels from nesting in your home than it is to get them out.
Keep Them Out of Your Attic
To stop them from entering your home, seal up any cracks and holes in the roof and wall of your house.
- Check the eaves, soffits and roof tiles for holes, and cover any gaps with hardware cloth or steel mesh.
- Make sure that any chimneys or vents have caps and covers, and don’t leave any access points wider than ½ inch open for the flying squirrel to enter.
You can also get a professional to make additional repairs for you.
Don’t Feed Them
- If you have homegrown fruit or vegetables, check on them daily and harvest as soon as they ripen.
- Try installing bird netting or mesh cages. Make sure the mesh is fine enough to keep the flying squirrels out; they can make it through gaps as small as a ½ inch wide.
- Pick up any fallen fruit, nuts, and seeds from the trees in your yard.
- If you have a bird feeder, make sure that it’s squirrel proof, and clean up any spilled seed on the ground.
Professional Removal Tactics
If you already have flying squirrels nesting in your attic, then you might want to call in a wildlife removal expert.
They will be able to come in, assess the situation, and determine the most appropriate course of action. The first thing they will do is determine where the flying squirrels are accessing the attic from, and how many there are. From there, there are two main tactics:
Sometimes the best way to remove the flying squirrels it to install an exclusion door. This requires inspecting the building, identifying all the access points, and sealing them with hardware cloth, metal flashing, or other materials. The professional will then install a one-way exclusion door over the flying squirrels’ main entrance point. The one-way door allows the squirrels to move out but prevents them from returning.
Another tactic used by professionals is to use repeater traps. This is a live trap that allows the capture of multiple flying squirrels without having to reset the trap.
Some professional agencies will also provide decontamination and cleaning services, so check when deciding who to hire. If they don’t, you’ll either need to do it yourself or employ another agency for the decontamination service.