Boston homeowners battle squirrels

Boston homeowners battle squirrels

By Leslie Benson

When Angie's List member David Browne of Cambridge heard mysterious crunching noises coming from his ceiling, he discovered he had two squirrel infestations in his 20-year-old house. "They chewed holes into eaves and damaged the roof," Browne says. "My wood home was especially vulnerable."

Like the houseguest who refuses to leave, Boston's squirrel population is a nuisance, amounting to nearly 56 percent of animal removal reports in the area by Angie's List members in the last three years. It also cost members an average of $475 per incident.

"Although they can live in any attic, wall or basement, those common to this area - Eastern gray, Southern flying and red squirrels - are attracted to older Victorian style homes with dormers, gables and ridge vents," says George Williams Jr., general manager of A-rated Environmental Health Services Inc. (EHS) in Norwood. "They gnaw on edges to gain entry."

Making themselves at home

Once inside, Williams says the rodents feed on garbage and insects. They'll build nests in clothing or furniture, defecating there and breeding litters of as many as eight babies in late spring and summer.

Browne hired A-rated NW Pest Control Inc. in Waltham to catch the squirrels squatting in his house by installing a temporary one-way door attached to a trap cage, which they removed with the living animals inside. But he was disappointed he had to hire a different contractor to repair minor damage.

"Be aware whether the trappers also do repairs," Browne says. "Mine didn't, and I had to find another contractor just to patch holes."

Legal eviction

In Massachusetts, only a licensed Problem Animal Control agent can legally remove wildlife from your home, according to MassWildlife, the state's department of Fisheries & Wildlife. Squirrels trapped on a property can only be released alive on that property.

If they're removed, they may have to be euthanized, says spokeswoman Catherine Williams. "Relocation can be detrimental to the animals already occupying that territory, due to competition for resources and potential spread of disease," she says.

Christina Camacho and David Grinstein of Waltham say they wanted to humanely remove the flying squirrel family living in their attic so they waited until the offspring were old enough to leave the nest before hiring EHS, which installed a one-way trap door to help the critters exit the house safely.

Not only can abandoned litters or squirrel carcasses lead to odor problems, Williams says, but they can also attract insects. Camacho hires EHS annually to reseal her home, she says, so the critters can't get back in.

"Prevention is key," Camacho says. "Deal with a squirrel infestation promptly when you start hearing noises."

John Vallerand, owner and president of NW Pest Control, says to avoid costly damages, you should limit their access to your property. "Trim tree branches, replace rotted fascia boards, install a chimney cap," Vallerand says, "and if you use a bird feeder, keep food off the ground.

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