For many people, the term “rodent” conjures up images of big hairy rats that are associated with structural infestations and disease. Needless to say, rats are not the most endearing group of rodents, but the rodent family also includes squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, chinchillas, porcupines, beavers, guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils. With the exception of porcupines, these rodents have a favorable reputation among humans, and some are even kept as pets. While squirrels are not kept as pets, many people consider them to be harmless creatures due to their ubiquitous presence in residential areas and urban parks. However, squirrels are considered to be urban pests of economic significance due to the costly property damage that they are well known for causing.
As pests, squirrels are best known for gnawing on human structures, particularly house siding located beneath eaves, which is where squirrels frequently establish nesting sites. Squirrels are also well known for establishing a presence with attics, closets, and wall voids where they often chew on electrical wiring that can lead to power outages, and in some cases, house fires. Their wire-chewing habits are not limited to houses, as squirrels also damage electrical wiring in vehicles. For example, two weeks ago, a Pittsburgh couple’s SUV nearly caught fire as a result of squirrel pest activity that had taken place in the vehicle’s engine.
Squirrels spend most of their time gathering and hoarding many types of nuts. Squirrels protect their treasured nuts by burying them in the ground where they are unlikely to be found by other squirrels. Homeowners often become annoyed when one or more squirrels bury nuts in residential yards, but these homeowners should consider themselves lucky, as squirrels can be far more destructive with their nut hoarding behaviors. For instance, after a Pittsburgh couple smelled something burning while driving their SUV, they discovered that squirrels had stashed hundreds of walnuts along with massive amounts of grass beneath the vehicle’s hood. The heat of the engine nearly ignited the dry grass, and a mechanic later counted 200 walnuts located in various areas within the vehicle’s engine. Luckily, the couple stopped driving in time to prevent their vehicle from becoming seriously damaged, but the mechanic also noticed that the rodents had chewed through the engine’s fuel-injector hose. In response to this incident, the couple had the walnut tree in their yard removed.
Have you ever found squirrel-induced damage in your home or car?