Flying squirrels require extra efforts to eliminate
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- It’s a bird…It’s a plane…It’s a flying squirrel!
While technically unable to fly like birds and bats, the southern flying squirrel is able to glide from tree to tree using the membrane between its front and back legs to stay airborne. The adaptation of gliding for this squirrel subspecies usually keeps the animals away from predators on the ground.
The flying squirrel is smaller and darker than other members of the squirrel family, and it has larger, darker eyes more suited for nocturnal activity and navigating dark tree cavities. They mate twice a year, which contributes to the significant increases in population sizes reported by homeowners who can’t seem to evict them from attics and crawl spaces.
Flying squirrels are very social animals that will nest in fairly large groups if the space allows for shelter, protection and a dry area to rear their young. Many homeowners report an increase in flying squirrel numbers during the colder months when most animals are seeking refuge from the elements.
These animals elude even the most conscientious of homeowners who take measures to exclude critters. The squirrels are able to fit through very small openings, gaps and cracks in any structure. They often use extended tree branches as a means to gain entry near attics and under eaves.
Some of the more common signs of flying squirrel presence include odors of urine, feces or dead animals in the wall or attic; holes in the wall, wood structures or insulation where animals enter or relocate nesting materials; and noise from squirrel activity at night, such as running or chewing.
Many of these signs mimic the presence of other animals, such as mice or bats, so a wildlife professional may be needed to verify the species. Remove flying squirrels with caution, as they frequently carry lice or fleas that can transmit diseases to humans.
Once you determine that flying squirrels have inhabited your home, decide on a plan for eradication. Removal of flying squirrels from a property is a process, not an event. You will likely need to take several measures to ensure they are removed and permanently excluded.
Check for gaps around gutters, downspouts, ventilation fans and ridge vents. Examine chimneys for entrance points and cap them, if necessary. A one-way door cage is a popular way to allow animals to exit but not return. Be careful of using exclusionary devices when you know there are nursing young in the nest. Female squirrels sealed out or excluded from their young could cause additional damage by chewing through structures to gain access.
Using traps to remove flying squirrels is only effective in combination with exclusion devices. Traps are high maintenance in that they must be checked or set daily, and trapped squirrels require relocation or disposal. If they are trapped and set loose near the property, the squirrels will quickly come back in.
I don’t recommend using poisoned baits to kill animals that are still on the property. Having dead and decomposing animals in the walls or attic may cause even worse problems.
Many homeowners find that trimming branches and limbs that overhang onto a roof prevents animals from getting into a chimney or vent. If flying squirrels persist, a professional wildlife control operator can help you pinpoint the access points, dispatch the animals and place exclusionary devices to prevent re-entry.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.