Squirrels are inquisitive and amusing little creatures – until they move into your home. If you think you have squirrels in your house, there are a few signs to look for to be sure.
If you hear rustling sounds in the early morning and late afternoon, you might have squirrels. Other signs of squirrels are: seeing squirrels on your property, finding squirrel droppings, seeing squirrel damage to your house or yard, and a bad smell coming from what looks like water damage.
It’s very important to find out early on if you have squirrels. If left alone, squirrels can cause a lot of damage and the number of squirrels living in your home can quickly grow. And the more squirrels there are, the more damage they can cause to your house. Below are 9 easy ways to tell if there are squirrels living in your house.
You hear scratching and rustling sounds
Squirrels move into your walls, roof, attic, or chimney when they are looking for a warm, dark area to build a nest. When squirrels move in, they build a nest, have babies, chew on hard materials to keep their ever-growing front teeth short, and hide food in the area.
All this hard work means that squirrels spend a lot of time moving around, which makes a noise. The more squirrels there are living in your house, the more noise they will make. In fact, sounds are one of the first signs people notice when they have squirrels.
If you hear scurrying, scratching, rustling, or chewing and gnawing sounds, you might have squirrels. These are the sounds of normal squirrel activities.
But if you hear a desperate scratching in one area that goes on for a long time, a squirrel could be stuck in there. You’ll need to get him out before he dies and causes more problems (like a very bad smell, but we will talk about smelly squirrels in a bit).
You see squirrels on your roof or in your yard
If you have something living in your house and you know there are squirrels in the area, there’s a chance you might have squirrels living with you. If there are no squirrels around, then you probably don’t have squirrels but you might have rats (click here to find out how to tell the difference).
Squirrels that build nests in houses are tree squirrels. These squirrels are active little creatures that spend most of their awake time outside looking for food, drinking water, and climbing trees. Most tree squirrels are active during the day, but flying squirrels are active at night.
Spend time outside to see if you can see tree squirrels in your yard, climbing on your roof or fence, in nearby trees, on utility lines, or in your neighborhood and local parks. At night, look for flying squirrels gliding along in the dark sky between trees.
If you often see the same one or two squirrels on your property, they have made your property part of their territory or range and you can be sure they have nests close by.
A squirrel’s territory is important to them and they will fight to protect it. When trees get cut down, food becomes scarce, or squirrels are forced to look for a new territory to build nests, they fight for an area. If squirrels are fighting on your property, it could mean they want to take over the area and build nests there.
If there are squirrels on your property, watch them to see if they disappear when they get onto your roof. If they do, it’s time to get up there or call in a professional to look for any holes or damage where the squirrels might be getting in through your roof.
You find squirrel droppings
Many squirrels choose a toilet area where they go to relieve themselves. If you find a lot of squirrel droppings in one area of your house, attic, garage, or in the roof, there’s a good chance squirrels are staying there.
Here’s what to look for if you want to identify squirrel droppings:
- Squirrel droppings are more brown than black
- The average squirrel dropping is about 3/8 inch long
- Squirrel droppings are tube-shaped with round edges
Squirrel droppings are often confused with rat droppings. Here’s a great video that shows the difference between rat and squirrel droppings:
If you are cleaning up squirrel droppings, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands well as the droppings may carry diseases and bacteria.
You find a squirrel nest in your roof or attic
Finding a squirrel nest in your home is a telltale sign that you have squirrels or had squirrels living there.
Squirrels usually have a few nests in their territory. But they are always looking for new nesting sites and better places to build a nest, especially if you live in an area with cold winters and the squirrels need somewhere to hide from the cold.
Squirrels enter a house for one reason: to build a new nest or take over an abandoned squirrel nest.
To make the nest more comfortable, squirrels build their nest with things they find outside like grass, leaves, twigs, feathers, moss, and pine needles. They also use materials from inside your home such as insulation, clothes, and paper.
One way to be sure you’ve found a squirrel’s nest is to inspect the walls and roof around the nest. Squirrels always make two holes close to their nest: one hole as an entry point and another hole as an exit point.
One more sign to look for near the nest is hidden acorns or nuts. Squirrels hoard food for the winter and hide this food near their nest for easy access.
You can try spreading a smell that squirrels hate near the nest, to get them to move on naturally.
There’s squirrel damage inside or outside your house
Squirrels can cause a lot of damage both inside and outside your house. Knowing what signs to look for will give you a clue that you have squirrels in your house…
When trying to get in through the roof, squirrels often chew on and make holes in your vents, flashing, or fascia boards. It’s important to know which parts of the roof to check for damage and what to look for, so you know where the squirrels are getting in and out.
Squirrels are rodents, which means their front teeth never stop growing. To keep their teeth short, squirrels spend a lot of time nibbling on things. Once inside your house, squirrels will chew on beams, cables and live wires, along with anything else you have stored there.
So, the most common signs of squirrel damage to look for inside and outside your house are:
- Holes in your roof, which can be as small as a nickel or a quarter
- Teeth marks on wooden beams, molding, walls, or the outer panels of the house
- Chewed cables and wires
Spend time each spring and fall inspecting your house, to see if you find any of the above signs of squirrel damage.
You notice squirrel damage in your yard
Squirrels don’t only cause damage in the house because they do it in the garden too. If you think squirrels have moved into your house, then your yard or property will form part of their territory or range – this is the area squirrels feel comfortable in and spend most of their waking hours.
To tell if squirrels are in the area, look for the following signs of damage in your yard or outdoor area:
- Broken bird feeders
- Garden plants, fruits and vegetables that are being eaten (click here for the full list of what squirrels eat)
- Teeth marks or damage to outdoor wooden furniture and deck railings (but make sure these aren’t from wood-eating insects)
- Garbage bags ripped open
- Small holes in soil where squirrels have dug up acorns and nuts
- New mounds of soil on the ground where squirrels have buried acorns or nuts for winter
- Squirrel damage to trees, such as stripped bark and nipped-off branches
These are all very good signs you have squirrels. But they aren’t definite signs of squirrels unless you see squirrels causing the damage or there are a few signs of squirrels along with the damage in your yard. The more signs you have, the more likely it is that you have squirrels.
You see squirrel tracks
Like other animals, squirrels leave tracks or footprints in soft sand, mud and ice.
Squirrels have four or five toes on each paw, usually four toes on the front paws and five toes on the back paws. Their front legs are longer than their back legs, and they tend to pounce along instead of walk.
If you don’t see any squirrel tracks but you think you know where squirrels are walking, sprinkle flour or baby powder on a piece of cardboard and place the cardboard in that area. If there are squirrels moving around there, you will soon see their tracks in the powder or flour.
There’s a bad smell and perhaps water damage
There are two ways squirrels make a strong smell in a house:
A squirrel dies somewhere in the house, either because it got trapped or it was poisoned. Over time, you will notice a rotten smell coming from an area of your house or through the vents. This can happen to tree squirrels that nest in the roof and high up in the house, but it can also happen to ground squirrels that burrow under the house to nest there.
Squirrels choose an area as their bathroom area, where they do their business. You might start noticing water damage or water spots on your ceiling or walls. If there’s no leaking or burst pipe to blame, these spots could be a buildup of squirrel urine and feces that has seeped through the wall or ceiling and is showing up as brown water-like marks.
Over time, this buildup can make the paint bubble and peel off, and the smell of urine and feces can become very strong and overpowering – even through walls or ceilings.
If the water damage is squirrel waste, you will need to call in a professional to replace the insulation and wall or ceiling panel.
You have signs of squirrels at certain times of the day and year
There are certain times of the day and year when you are most likely to see, hear and find signs of squirrels.
Squirrels can move into your home at any time, but they’re most likely to do this when:
- They are getting ready to have babies, which is usually in early spring and late summer
- The winter is coming and they need a warm place to hide out when it gets very cold, whether they are hibernating squirrels or not
Squirrels, like all animals, have times when they are active and times when they sleep:
- Gray squirrels and fox squirrels are awake during the day, so you will probably hear them moving around in the morning and late afternoon when they leave and come back to their nest.
- Flying squirrels sleep all day and leave the nest at night to look for food. You will hear flying squirrels leave the nest when the sun sets and return by the time the sun rises.
The most common times to hear squirrels in your house are in early spring, late summer, and winter. Most squirrel activity can be heard in the morning and late afternoon or early evening.
How to tell what squirrels are in your house
There are two types of tree squirrels that really like to build nests in people’s houses: gray squirrels and flying squirrels. But how do you know which one is sharing your home?
The table below gives a list of the different signs between gray squirrels and flying squirrels, so you can tell which squirrel has a nest in your house:
|GRAY SQUIRRELS||FLYING SQUIRRELS|
|Have large, loosely layered nests built with leaves, grass, paper, twigs, etc.||Build small, soft, neat nests lined with moss, pine needles, grass, and leaves|
|Make noises by the nest in the early morning and late afternoon, before sunset||Awake at night. Flying squirrels make noises after sunset as they leave and again at sunrise when they return|
|There are fewer squirrels so there’s less noise: Gray squirrels live alone but sometimes share the nest with another squirrel in winter. Three or four babies are born at a time, and they stay in the nest with their mother until they are 10 weeks||There are more squirrels nesting together so there’s more noise: In winter, there can be 4 to 10 flying squirrels sharing a nest. They have 2 to 7 babies in a litter, and the babies often stay with their mother for 4 or 5 months|
How to get rid of squirrels in your house
If you want to move squirrels out of your house, try the following tips and products available on Amazon (just click on the blue links provided):
- Cut down the branches on any trees that are within 10 feet of your house, so they can’t access your roof.
- Stop feeding them: remove bird feeders, secure your garbage bins, and keep your yard clean by picking up fallen fruits and nuts.
- If squirrels are getting onto your roof by running along cables, get these slim PVC pipes (they come in many colors and can easily be cut to the length you need). Cut the pipes along one side and slip them over the cables. When the squirrels try to run along these pipes, the pipes will spin and throw the squirrels off.
- If you know which tree the squirrels are climbing to jump onto your roof, wrap this sheet metal about 6 feet up the tree’s trunk. Make sure to use sheet metal that’s at least 2 feet wide, and keep it in place with springs and wire so the tree can breathe and grow. When squirrels try to run up the tree, they will slip on the metal and won’t be able to get up.
- Close all the holes in the roof except the biggest one, which is their main hole. Check every area of the roof to make sure you got all the holes. Trap the squirrels and relocate them if state laws allow this. Or use a one-way exclusion door to let the squirrels out of the main hole but not back in (don’t use these methods if there are babies in the nest in early spring or late summer as the mother will chew her way back in to get her young). Wait at least 30 days. When all the squirrels are out, seal up the main hole with steel, so the squirrels can’t chew a hole to get back in.
- Put a good-quality squirrel nest in a nearby tree, to encourage the squirrels to leave your house and move into the tree. Their natural instinct is to live in trees if they are tree squirrels, so they might move out willingly.
- Spray the entry holes and the nesting area in your roof with this all-natural squirrel repellent, to stop the squirrels from coming back and prevent new squirrels from moving in.