Nipping a Squirrel Problem

Q. I have a problem with squirrels. They are getting into my attic and destroying things. I thought of putting poison outside, but I don't want other animals eating it. I believe they are building a nest and bringing in food. I am desperate. Help. Help.

- E.M.,

Lowell, Mass.

A. Know what kind of squirrel you're dealing with, says Stephen Vantassel of Wildlife Removal Services Inc. in Springfield, Mass. In your area, the three types are reds, grays, and fliers. Red squirrels are the hardest to combat, because they cache food indoors, and they can learn to avoid traps.

Every state has its own laws, but in Massachusetts, poisoning squirrels is illegal, as is transporting wildlife. That means you can trap squirrels and kill them, but you can't move a live animal to another location.

Mr. Vantassel says you have two choices: trapping or excluding. The first is easiest but not for the squeamish. Buy box traps (any other kind is illegal in the state) with a single door - look for brands such as Safeguard, Pioneer Wildlife, or Have-a-Heart - that measures 5-by-5 by-18 inches or 7-by-7-by-24 inch. Bait trap with peanut butter daubed directly on the treadle (the trigger point) or smeared on a stick placed behind the treadle.

Place the traps in the attic, on the roof, or on the ground (the latter may catch more than just squirrels). Once a squirrel is caught, the homeowner can ask the local animal-control officer to destroy it for a small fee.

For the exclusion method, you must find all the openings from the outside and seal all of them - except one - with metal flashing (squirrels have been known to chew through 1/2-inch plywood). Usually the active opening will have fresh marks. At that opening, install a one-way door. A company called Tomahawk Live Trap makes one called the Excluder. The spring-loaded door allows squirrels inside to leave, but bars their reentry.

Wildlife-damage control companies offer their services often at a flat rate (between $200 and $350). Vantassel maintains a Web site with information and tips, including how to keep your home critter-free: www.wildlifedamagecontrol.com

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