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Pest & Rodent Control In Sarasota & Bradenton

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The Gray Squirrel: Beloved, Invasive, & Damaging. A Comprehensive Look at this Common Rodent

The gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), found in the SarasotaLakewood RanchBradenton, and Parrish area near us, is the type of rodent our customers have a love-hate relationship with.  Customers love them because they are cute with their bushy tails and erratic movements.  They hate them when they chew on the wood trim of their house, disturb them as they run through their attic and soffit, and damage things like electrical wiring. People love to watch the gray squirrel, but it is also a damaging, invasive rodent.  Below we will take an in-depth look at this beloved nuisance rodent found in our area  

gray squirrel

The Grey Squirrel at A Glance:  

They are amazingly agile rodents fantastically adapted for climbing.  Their ability to grasp onto surfaces while upside down makes them more difficult than rats and mice to keep out of buildings.  Squirrels are typically tree-dwelling rodents known for their bushy tails and cute appearance. They are active during the day and can be seen scampering around parks, yards, and wooded areas for food. The grey squirrel, commonly found in Florida, is a medium-sized squirrel. Adult grey squirrels typically weigh between 1 and 1.5 pounds.  They measure between 17 and 20 inches in length, including their tail.  The squirrel’s coloring is a grey-brown fur coat, and they are known for their bushy tail.  

What Does the Gray Squirrel Eat?

Squirrels are omnivores, eating both plants and animals. They have strong, razor-sharp teeth used for cutting through the shells of nut casings. Their diet consists of nuts, seeds, and fruits.  They will, however, consume insects and bird eggs (particularly the eggs of songbirds & woodpeckers). Squirrels also eat small animals such as frogs and rodents such as mice and shrews.  Although they will eat other animals, it is not a significant part of their diet. They primarily rely on plant-based foods to survive.

How Long Do Gray Squirrels Live?

Although answers from scientists vary, the average lifespan of a gray squirrel in the wild is about 6 years. Some may live 10 years or more, especially if they can access food, shelter, and protection. Male squirrels tend to have shorter lifespans than females. This is possibly due to the stress of mating and defending their territory.  They have a high infant mortality rate, up to 50% of newborns dying before their first year. This is partly because of predation, disease, and competition. It is also due to the risky behavior of the mother squirrel.  She often exposes her babies to danger by moving them too often or too late to protect them.  Despite these challenges, gray squirrels are an adaptive species that have thrived in urban and rural environments.

Breeding Habits of the Gray Squirrel

The breeding season in Florida varies depending on many conditions. Generally, the breeding season begins in late December or early January and lasts until May or June. During the breeding season, the male becomes more active and vocal, engaging in chasing and courtship behaviors toward females. Female squirrels, on the other hand, become receptive to mating and may mate with multiple males.

After mating, the female gray squirrel enters a gestation period of approximately 44 days. She then gives birth to a litter of 2-6 offspring, blind, hairless, and helpless. The young squirrels, also known as kits, depend on their mother’s milk and care for the first few weeks.  As the breeding season progresses, the male gray squirrels continue to mate with others, leading to multiple litters. This reproductive strategy allows gray squirrel populations to expand rapidly and adapt to changing environmental conditions. It is important to note that gray squirrels can cause damage and nuisance during the breeding season, as they may enter homes and buildings in search of suitable nesting sites. Therefore, it is recommended to take preventative measures, such as sealing potential entry points and removing food sources, to avoid conflict with gray squirrels during this time.

How was the Grey Squirrel Introduced to Florida?

Legend has it that the gray squirrel was a secret agent of the squirrel mafia, sent to Florida to expand their nut empire and establish a new branch of the organization. Ok, that’s false… but man, what an excellent start to the next cartoon super movie, right?  The real story is below. 

Introducing the gray squirrel to Florida was a human-driven experiment with unintended and long-lasting consequences.  The gray squirrel is a native species of North America, and it is believed that it naturally expanded its range southward over the centuries, following the availability of suitable habitat and food sources. However, in the mid-20th century, humans intervened in this natural process by intentionally introducing gray squirrels to Florida for hunting and aesthetic purposes. The exact date and origin of the introductions are unclear, but it is known that multiple releases occurred in different locations, including cities, parks, and private estates.  Initially, the gray squirrel introductions were successful, and the squirrels adapted quickly to Florida’s warm and humid climate. 

Over time, the negative impacts of the introductions became evident. The gray squirrels competed with native squirrel species, such as the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) and the southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans), for food, shelter, and nest sites. They also transmitted diseases and parasites to other animals and caused damage to crops, gardens, and structures.  Today, the gray squirrel is considered an invasive species in Florida, subject to state and federal agencies’ management and control measures.

Why Do People Love Squirrels?

 People love to watch squirrels because of their comical and zany behavior.  People love to watch them dart and jump and play with each other.  They shake their bushy tail, seemingly run, and play like a careless child. Customers will say, “I saw him rubbing his face on an acorn!  It was so cute!” We then explain that’s how he makes the acorn with his scent increasing the chances they will find it later once it’s buried during their scatter-hoarding process.  Humans love to hear them “talking to them.”  They will make a rolling chirping noise.  Most people don’t understand that the squirrel is “telling you off”! “Back Off,” “Get Out Of My Yard,” or “You’re Walking On My Food.”  They will also become vocal if you are near their home, food resource, or just if they believe you to be a threat.  For more information on squirrels and pest control related to squirrels, click the link below:

Read More:  Squirrels Pest Control What are squirrels?

Why is The Gray Squirrel Considered a Nuisance? 

They are considered a nuisance animal by the Florida Department of Agriculture.  To answer that question, though, depends on the context of which you are asking.  They are a nuisance to man in a different way than they are to the environment.  The grey squirrel in Florida may seem harmless and expected, but it is an invasive species that can threaten the state’s native wildlife.

      • The Grey Squirrel is an Invasive Species
            • As an invasive species, they can harm Florida’s ecology. They can outcompete native species for food and habitat, which can disrupt local ecosystems.

            •  They can also prey on the eggs and young of birds and other small animals, which can significantly impact local bird populations.  They will inhabit and explore the same areas in trees as woodpeckers and are known to eat their eggs.

            •  They are also known to damage trees by stripping bark and chewing on branches

            • Today, it is recognized as an invasive species in Florida and is subject to management and control measures by state and federal agencies. These measures include trapping, relocation, exclusion, and public education. Efforts are also being made to monitor the gray squirrel’s population trends and genetic diversity and to study its ecological impacts on the Florida ecosystem.

        • The Grey Squirrel is a Nuisance to Man
              • They are known to chew through wires inside and outside of the attic damaging electrical components, cable lines, and other utilities. 

              • They will run in the soffit and attics of homes, disturbing homeowners trying to enjoy peace and quiet.

              • Bird feeders our customers put out to enjoy the birds quickly become squirrel feeders.  

              • A squirrel’s incisors grow their entire life, and they must chew to keep them usable for bringing food into their mouth.  This leads them to be heavily destructive to exterior wooden trim.  We commonly see them chewing on rough-cut cedar fascia board and other types of wood in areas protected from birds of prey, typically in the shade.    

        gray squirrel

        What Size Hole Can the Grey Squirrel Get Through? 

        Gray squirrels can fit through holes as small as 1.5 inches in diameter, about the size of a golf ball. They can easily enter buildings and homes through roof gaps, walls, soffits, and vents.

        Preventing & Removing Squirrels from Your Home 

        Preventing squirrels from entering your home is the best way to avoid costly damage. Here are some tips to prevent squirrels from gaining access to and damaging your property:

            • Trim trees: They are great climbers and can go right up the side of your house.  But there’s no reason to make it even easier for them.  Tree branches near and over your home are a pathway to your home.  Keep branches trimmed at least six feet away from your house.

            • Seal entry points: They can squeeze through small openings roughly the size of a quarter. Seal gaps or holes in your roof, soffit, walls, and foundation.  If that is outside your skill set, contact the pest control company specializing in wildlife removal and rodent exclusions such as Rodent Solutions in Lakewood Ranch.  Our rodent specialists can humanely remove squirrels inside using excluder traps with one-way doors. These allow squirrels to leave but not make their way back inside.  When we install the traps, we will seal up, and squirrel-proof all other potential entry points so they can’t get inside anywhere else.  Typically, after 3-5 days, we remove the excluder trap and seal that opening.  This allows the squirrels to remain alive and well, no longer inside your home. 

            • Repellents: Several commercial repellents can deter squirrels from chewing on specific areas such as wooden soffits, fascia, and other exterior items.  They are typically gel-type products that are painted or caulked into place.

          Read more about Rodent Exclusions for Squirrels: What is a Rodent Exclusion? 

          As wildlife and rodent control experts, we understand that squirrels can be a nuisance to homeowners. If you’re having an issue with squirrels inside your attic, we should be your only call in the Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota, Bradenton and Parrish area.  

          FAQ

          Here are a few commonly asked questions about squirrels:

          Q: Are Squirrels Rodents?  

          A: Yes, squirrels are rodents!  

          Q: How Long do Squirrels Live?

          A:  Squirrels typically live 4-5 years in the wild

          Q: What Does Squirrel Poop Look Like?

          A: Squirrel poop looks a lot like rat poop.  It is oblong and round in shape.  About 3/8 of an inch long.  It is slightly fatter in the center than at the tips.  Fresh droppings are dark blackish/brown but may change color and get lighter.

           Q: Where do Squirrels Sleep?  

          A: Squirrels always sleep in nests in Florida.  They will build them out of small twigs, leaves, and moss.  As we mentioned above, they are happy to sleep in your attic if you haven’t had a rodent exclusion performed. 

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