Pesky squirrels bugging homeowners

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 10, 2008

Pesky squirrels seem to be a constant thorn in the side of many homeowners, especially for those who live in the city. Bird feeding stations and raised planters seem to be their favorite sites to destroy.
Those with pecan, oak or hickory trees can expect visits from our state mammal.
December through January and again in June is the breeding season for gray squirrels in our area, so squirrels will be active during this time. Young squirrels may breed twice a year with a gestation period of 42-45 days with usually three young in the litter.
Shrinking habitats and lack of natural enemies force squirrels to areas of abundant food and water, such as high density housing.
Typically only about half the squirrels in a population die each year. Squirrels can live up to 12 years but rarely in the wild do squirrels live four years.
Both home and commercial remedies designed to repel squirrels have mixed results. Taste repellents such as Ro-pel can be applied to plants, flowers, trees and shrubs in an effort to make the squirrel look elsewhere for food.
Other repellents containing capsaicin (hot pepper mix) can also be used as a repellent with mixed results. Some report hot pepper works well while others tell me the squirrels regard it as a condiment. Homeowners automatically think of using moth balls to ward off marauding squirrels. Unfortunately, this method of control has little or no success.
State wildlife biologists suggest obtaining a deprivation permit if squirrels cause property damage. Call the state wildlife biologist at 919-707-0050 to obtain the permit. Legally, you have to have this permit to trap and release the animal.
Baited live traps seem to be the best method of control for those who live in urban areas. Traps can effectively be baited with slices of orange, walnuts or pecans removed from the shell with peanut butter. Live squirrel traps are readily available from hardware and farm supply stores.
Captured squirrels should be relocated at least 5 miles away to an approved site to prevent return. Wildlife biologists question trapping and release due to the stress placed on the animal and possible spread of diseases, with few surviving relocation.
Hunting season for squirrels this year starts on Monday and closes Jan. 31, 2009. Landowners can shoot squirrels on their property, but those hunting on others’ property must have a valid hunting license.
Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County; call 704-216-8970.
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