Squirrels are excellent climbers, and often nest on balconies or ledges very high up on buildings. At Toronto Wildlife Centre, the highest nest we’ve ever heard of was on the 23rd floor! Squirrel nests on balconies are usually in old furniture or stored household items.
Squirrels on balconies are almost always mothers with babies. Squirrels have babies twice a year, in the early spring and the late summer, so be careful: you don’t want to orphan the baby squirrels. Squirrels are excellent mothers and will move their babies to a new den site when frightened, but evicting a mother squirrel always runs the risk that she might abandon or become separated from her babies.
What to do if a squirrel is living on the balcony
Be patient with a mother squirrel on the balcony
Your first option is to do nothing at all. Squirrels typically live in balcony nests for short periods. Squirrel babies are independent at about 4 months old, when they leave the den and disperse from their family group. If you can wait until the babies are grown and/or have left, you can then clean up the balcony to prevent other squirrels from nesting there in the future.
The mother squirrel is living on the balcony because she’s found a dark, quiet, safe place for her and her babies. If you make the nest not dark, not quiet, and not safe using light, sound, and smell, the squirrel can be convinced to leave your balcony and take her babies with her. All harassment techniques should be placed as close as possible to the den, so the mother squirrel can’t ignore them when she comes and goes.
Place a bright light near the den. Make sure it’s fire-safe. Squirrels don’t like bright lights in their homes.
Tune a radio to a talk station and place it near the den. Music doesn’t mean anything to squirrels, but the sound of human voices is threatening to them.
Soak some rags in Apple Cider Vinegar or ammonia, and put them in a plastic bag. Poke holes in the bag to let the smell escape, and hang it near the den. You can use dirty kitty litter in a plastic bag the same way. Both of these smell like a predator and will make the mother squirrel feel unsafe.
Patience and persistence
Keep all of the above going for at least 3 days and 3 nights. You’ve got to be persistent to convince the squirrel to leave.
Depending on the shape and location of the nest, you may just be able to look inside and check to see if all the babies are gone. If the nest is in an inaccessible area, you’ll need to make sure with a paper test: either stuff the entrance with balled up newspaper, or tape a double sheet of newspaper over the hole. Wait another 3 days and nights. If the paper is still in place, do a visual inspection of the area to make sure the squirrels are gone. Once they are, clean up the balcony to prevent squirrels from nesting there again.
What NOT to do
Trapping and relocating a squirrel might seem like the “humane” option, but it isn’t. Relocated squirrels don’t tend to survive when they’re moved off of their home territory. Relocated mother squirrels leave behind babies which are then orphaned without a mother to care for them. A mother squirrel relocated with her babies will mostly likely abandon them when faced with a new, unknown territory. In Ontario, it is illegal to relocate any wild animal more than 1km from where it was found.
Every year, Toronto Wildlife Centre receives hundreds of calls about baby squirrels orphaned because well-meaning people trapped and relocated their mother. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to care for them all.