Squirrels & Groundhogs
|Life||Squirrels are active mostly during the morning, then resting midday, and active again until dusk. They do not hibernate.|
|Home||Protected trees or human-made structures.|
|Food||Nuts, buds, seeds, flowers, fruit, and occasionally bird eggs.|
|Young||2 litters per year, each having between 1 to 7 babies. At 2 months old, the young leave the nest to forage with the mother.|
If there are squirrels living in your attic
You will know squirrels are in your attic because there are noises during the day, not the night (which is most likely raccoons, who are nocturnal). It is best not to evacuate squirrels during March to October, because it is most likely a mother with young inside the attic. Young begin leaving the den around 2 months old and exclusion techniques should not be used before then. Effective deterrent methods include:
- A battery-powered light shining towards the den at all times
- A battery-powered radio tuned to an all-talk station at a high volume placed near the den
- Visiting the attic several times a day (make noise and move things around)
Be patient at this stage because it may take a few days for the mother to find a new suitable home and move the babies. After using the methods above, confirm that the squirrels are gone by putting a plastic bag over the entry hole of the attic. After several days, if the bag has not been ripped down, you can permanently seal the hole with sheet metal. If the bag is down, continue with the deterrent methods and check back after a few days. If you see a squirrel frantically trying to enter the attic, young may be trapped inside. Immediately unseal the entry hole.
If there is a squirrel trapped in your chimney
Never smoke squirrels out of a chimney. Instead, lower a thick rope down the chimney so that the squirrel can climb out. If that is not an option, and the exit is clearly visible for the squirrel and leads DIRECTLY outside, you may open a door or window leading directly outside, and close all other doors and windows. Turn off the lights and open the damper so the squirrel can exit the chimney. Place some nuts near the exit and leave the room. He will be attracted to the outside light and air and leave on his own.
Once you can be sure that no squirrels are left in the house, cap your chimney with a heavy steel mesh. If you are not able to evacuate the squirrel in either method above, contact the SPWC, the SPCA or Humane Society, or a wildlife rehabilitator for help.
|Life||Stay close to their den for safety. Hibernate for about 5 months, about November to March.|
|Home||Forests, crops, backyards, or parks, usually on the side of a road or cliff side. They live in complex burrows with separate spaces for their different needs.|
|Food||Grasses, leaves, berries, dandelions, vegetables, and clovers.|
|Young||Babies are born in late spring, about 4 to 6 in a litter. The young mature quickly and are independent by midsummer.|
Groundhogs manage to look sweet and dumpy at the same time. They are constantly on the alert when outside their burrows, and give a shrill warning whistle when alarmed. When fighting, seriously injured, or caught by a predator, they will squeal or produce a sound by grinding their teeth.
Groundhogs are usually admitted to the Centre either because of a natural illness or being hit by a car. They have a lack of large predators in this area (i.e., bears, wolves, cougars), and have been known to fight off small dogs and foxes. You will not likely see a groundhog during the cold weather months and well into the spring, as they will be buried under the earth in deep hibernation and starting to raise their young. Babies remain in the den for up to 6 weeks after birth, and then emerge around late June or July.
If you come across a groundhog, adult or young, who seems to be injured or wet through, contact the SPWC immediately as he will need rescuing.
If there is a groundhog under your shed or porch
If this occurs in the summer months, the groundhog is most likely a mother with young. Since the young cannot leave the den until 6 weeks of age, please be tolerant until the fall when the young leave the burrow. At that time, remove all vegetation near the entry hole. Noise, light and odour deterrents can all be used to help convince the groundhog to leave the burrow. Place a battery-powered radio tuned to an all-talk station at a high volume near the burrow, and a battery-powered light shining towards the burrow. These methods will bother the groundhog (in a humane fashion) and make her feel like moving out.
Once you suspect the groundhog has left, place some loose hay in the entry hole. If the hay is not disturbed for 3-4 days you can take steps to permanently seal the hole. Place heavy wire screening over it and dig a 1’x1’ trench around the hole, placing heavy wire screen inside. Check the hole every couple days to ensure that no animal is attempting to dig back into the burrow.