Dear PoP – Squirrels!

Photo by PoPville flickr user cacophony76.

“Dear PoP,

I’m having an issue with squirrels in the rafters/attic of my rowhouse. At first it was an occasional annoyance but now they seem to be making a home up there and constantly running around and scratching. I was curious if you might be willing to post this and see if any of your readers have dealt with such issues and how they resolved them? Anyone tried any products or used an exterminator or other service? In a normal house you would be able to search around the attic and find the holes and plug them. But in a row house it’s such a tight space between the ceiling and rafters that there isn’t a very good access point to really see what’s going on or to get up there an search for holes that might be allowing them to get in. Doing some research online I see that there is an anti-squirrel strobe light that you can install that supposedly repels them but not sure if there’s really enough space up there for the light to get through to all areas or if this actually works? I would really like to get rid of them before they do permanent damage.”

I have had success with Adcock’s trapping service. Of course you could look into the Rodenator Pro

35 Comment

  • Some folks say Brunswick Stew isn’t authentic unless it has squirrel in it. Me, I just have them with fava beans and a nice chianti.

  • Rat Poison. It’s just cumodin, so it’s not going to create some huge toxic mess in your house. The problem, is that you’ll have dead stinky squirrels in your attic in August.

  • We used Dixon’s Pest Control, 202-882-6565, to get starlings out of our attic. They put up a netting under the flashing at the back of the roof to close up the space where the birds were getting in. Unfortunately, I think we’re going to have to have it redone.

    • Just wanted to add to my mention of Dixon’s that I just called to see how long they warrant their work for – because we’ve had several more birds get in – and got a whole lot of attitude for daring to even question how long the work should last for. NOT recommended.

  • The strobe light will only make them dance, and you’ll probably find that more annoying than the scratching and running around. And when one of them starts playing that god-awful music they listen to, you’ll find yourself wishing you could just move out. I’d suggest putting a cat up there. A large, hungry cat.

  • The strobe light will only make them dance, and you’ll probably find that more annoying than the scratching and running around. And when one of them starts playing that god-awful music they listen to, you’ll find yourself wishing you could just move out. I’d suggest putting a cat up there. A large, hungry cat.

  • My plott hound can take care of that for you no problem…

  • Why does this person think they are squirrels and not roof rats? In NW DC roof rats are a much more serious issue than squirrels that came indoors. I suspect that the original poster is confused- rats live in your attic, not squirrels. If you have not physically seen the squirrels with your own eyes, they’re rats.

    • Squirrels can also live in attics. It’s quite common actually, especially in winter.

    • Nah, we had squirrels in our ceiling crawlspace. We had rats (downstairs) a couple years later. Big differences: the rats ate just about everything in sight; the squirrels had cute fuzzy tails and stayed out of the kitchen.

  • No one wants to admit they have rats!

  • Thanks everyone for your tips. It’s my place and they’re definitely squirrels. Have seen them with my own eyes – the creepy black ones and apparently not scared of humans as it came right up to me when I was shining the flashlight around. Anyone tried trapping them on their own?

    • The problem with traps, is that then you have to empty them without getting bitten….and unless you have a method for locating and patching the access hole, you’re in for a long winter.

    • Save the $200 if you’ve got the time and are eager for the hunt.

      Try a few rat traps and see what you catch. A nice acorn on a sticky trap.

      If you can confirm they are outside eating on a nice sunny day, patch their entrance (use the $200 for a nice new ladder and some materials).

      I wonder what else would drive them out? Van Halen? Pressurized air? Squirt bottle with some ammonia in it? A mean cat. A mean dog. A paint gun (another good use for the $200 plus you’ll get some target practice).

      You’re the superior mammal! Claim your space!

  • I am currently dealing with the same situation. Couldn’t trap on my own because there was no way to physically access where they were getting in. There were a few holes near the roof line they were able to get into. I called Trap Pro out of silver spring and they came by and patched the holes and caught a squirrel(pretty good service I guess).

    However, a second squirrel has made its way in. Big issue here is if you live in a townhouse there can be “crossover” problems where the squirrels can crawl in from connecting townhouses, which is the problem I have now. The only way to stop this is to not only catch the squirrel but block their access to your rafters. Somehow they are going to have to put up a divider inside the wall, not looking forward to the ordeal. Good luck!

  • We used Adcock’s years ago. They did good work with the trapping, after which we sealed off the squirrel entry points.

  • Friend of ours on Oak St. had this problem. he could see them peeking out of an inaccessible hole they nibbled open near the roof. Take care of it right away because they are peeing on your rafters and are planning to have a whole nest of babies up there, if they haven’t already. They can do a lot of damage as they soak your ceiling with urine and make their access holes bigger. We had flying squirrels (!) make a nest in the attic up at our old cabin up near Sperryville. They are fluffy and their eyes are huge, there is almost nothing cuter, but their pee stinks and the scratching/scrambling is so creepy! Went up there with a flashlight and they were clinging to the rafters and had a big fur-lined nest of babies in the insulation. Maybe 15 of them! After the nest grew up and left the house we sealed off the opening with wire mesh.

  • Pop- Do you remember how much it cost to have them removed professionally?

    • Prince Of Petworth

      I can’t remember exactly but I wanna say something like $200 but it was a while ago. They came back multiple times to catch them all.

  • Brian… what type of townhouse are you in? Seems odd to me as most in DC have double brick walls that actually extend higher than the roof level with roofing material (metal or newer rubber) being all that is between the brick top surface and the world above. There isn’t a shared attic or other means to go from house to house… a practice to reduce fire spread I believe.

    • If DC rowhouses were built right, they would have roof materials going all the way up, but some don’t. It is possible to imagine some guy in 1880 cutting corners. Unless your row of houses has some outcropping dividing the houses 6 inches or more above the roof, you might have a common roof with your neighbors.

  • Some advice – take them over a large body of water before you release them from the live trap (Potomac, Eastern Shore??) so they don’t find their way home.

  • unless you empty them underwater after the little bubbles come to the surface

  • My next door neighbor left with his family on vacation for almost a month and came home to find his house was broken into, the place completely ransacked…

    Except after they cleaned it all up it happened again! Over the course of the next week they managed to figure out they didn’t have a thief, they had a family of 4 racoons.

    They got into the house from the “frieze” at the front of the house (a piece of metal made to look like wood trim at the top of a lot of DC rowhouses). This might be wood on some houses, but if it’s metal it’s mostly hollow, so if corroded on one side could provide an entrance for squirrels, rats, racoons…who knows!

    • Indeed, there is a huge racoon that meanders from porch roof to porch roof up here in the Petworth highlands. I often wonder which frieze he chooses as home.

  • Pellet gun and some really good aim! Is such an approach actually legal to take out squirrels in the yard, or for that matter rats in the alley?

    Poison some acorns?

    Is it legal to kill squirrels outdoors in DC? Our plot is overrun with them, quite a large group of families, it’s not unusual to see like 15-20 romping all over the place, leaving quite a mess. I’ve thought about live traps, pellet guns, poison bait. While I think animals deserve a fair chance, really now, they’re not paying rent here?!

  • A plastic owl hung near the opening where the squirrels are getting in might work. It worked for me at my old house in Dupont. I think I bought it at the hardware store on 17th. But Pfeiffers used to carry them

  • i had the same problem — in my porch roof. i put some ammonia in a squirt bottle and soaked the place where they entered. they were gone within 24 hours.

  • Now, any suggestions on how to get rid of rats in the yard? They are getting bigger and bigger.

  • Hello!
    Great question. Check out Humane Wildlife Services! Not only do they get the squirrels out and gone for good, but they do it humanely, (without killing, trapping or relocating!)

  • Humane Wildlife Services is great because they don’t relocate the animal or kill it like most trapping companies do (it the mother is relocated, the babies will die)

  • loved the humane options. thanks!

  • We hired Adcock’s in December to get rid of squirrels. Kinda steep, but they were successful and guarantee their work for five years, meaning they’ll come back out and do it all over again for free. They came out the day after I called and charged $370 to trap the squirrels and $400 to patch the access points. I may not be recalling this correctly, but I think it was $160 just to come and investigate and then that was applied to their trapping fee.

    We thought we also had squirrels in the space between the first and second floor of our house, but they told us that was either mice or rats, squirrels would stick to the roof line. Unfortunately, nothing to be done for that because row houses have infinite access points their trappers would never be able to find. I just pray whatever it is never finds a way to get into our living space because it sounds way too big to be mice.

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