A squirrel living in an attic from February to October should ALWAYS be assumed to be a mother 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 in the attic
Be patient with a mother squirrel in the attic
Your first option is to do nothing at all. Squirrels typically live in attic dens for short periods. Squirrel babies are independent at about 4 months old, when they leave the den and disperse from their family groups. If you can wait until the babies are grown and/or have left, you can then close off the access point to prevent other squirrels from using the attic as a nest in the future.
The mother squirrel is living in the attic because it’s a dark, quiet, safe place for her and her babies. If you make the attic not dark, not quiet, and not safe using light, sound, and smell, the squirrel can be convinced to leave your attic and take her babies with her. All harassment techniques should be placed as close as possible to the den entrance, so the mother squirrel can’t ignore them when she comes and goes.
Place a bright light at the den entrance, either inside or outside. 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 entrance. 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 next to the den entrance. 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.
When you think the squirrel is gone, 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, and you don’t hear anything in the attic, the squirrels are probably gone! Temporarily patch the hole with ¼” wire mesh until you can do a more permanent repair.
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.
Many humane removal companies will recommend putting up one-way doors so the squirrel can get out but not get back in. One-way doors are a good option between November and February, when tiny baby squirrels are unlikely. Between February and October, one-way doors can exclude the mother squirrel and leave baby squirrels trapped inside. Besides orphaning the babies, this can cause major damage to property as the desperate mother squirrel tries to get back in to her babies. Make sure the baby squirrels are old enough to be mobile and following their mother before installing a one-way door.
Animal Removal Companies
Sometimes the best and easiest way to get a squirrel out of an attic is to hire a company to do it for you. Wildlife removal companies are not well monitored or licensed, so it is up to you to ask questions about a company’s practices before hiring them. Consult our guidelines for choosing a removal company.