Sharing Your Home with Gatineau’s Busy Bodies: Squirrel Behavior and Risks

Squirrels are energetic and resourceful rodents that thrive in North America’s diverse landscapes, including bustling urban areas like Gatineau. Understanding their natural behaviours and how they adapt to human environments is critical to identifying a potential infestation and protecting your property and family.

Identifying Squirrel Activity:

  • Sightings: These graceful creatures are often seen scurrying about during the day, searching for food or darting between trees. The Gatineau and Ottawa area boasts three common types of squirrels: the Eastern Gray Squirrel, the Red Squirrel, and the Black Squirrel. Eastern Gray Squirrels are larger and have a grayish-brown coat, while Red Squirrels are smaller and have a reddish-brown coat with a distinctive white underside. Black Squirrels, a melanistic variation of the Eastern Gray Squirrel, have a sleek black coat.
  • Sounds: Unusual daytime noises like scratching, thumping, or scurrying in your attic, walls, or behind chimneys can be signs of a squirrel infestation.
  • Droppings: Small, oval-shaped droppings (about the size and shape of a peanut) found near entry points, in the attic (especially around their nests), or around crawl spaces can indicate squirrel activity. Unlike other potential animal invaders, squirrel droppings are unlikely to have a strong odor.
  • Damage: Torn insulation in your attic, chewed entry points around the roofline, soffit vents, or eaves, or evidence of chewed wires or pipes could all be signs of squirrels in your home. Missing pet food or unusual food scraps scattered around your property can also indicate squirrels searching for easy meals.

Gatineau’s Squirrels: Busy Bodies in the City

  • Natural Habits: Squirrels are active during the day, searching for food and building nests. They’re excellent climbers and jumpers, using their sharp claws and acrobatic skills to navigate trees and branches. Their natural diet consists of nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects.
  • Urban Adjustments: Gatineau’s urban environment provides both challenges and opportunities for squirrels. While natural food sources may be limited, attics can become attractive with their warmth and potential nesting spots. Bird feeders and overflowing garbage cans can also provide easy meals.

Seasonal Shifts:

  • Fall: As fall arrives and squirrels prepare for winter, they become more active, gathering and storing nuts and seeds. This increased activity can lead to more frequent encounters with them around your property.

Health Risks and Property Damage:

  • Disease Carriers: Squirrels can carry diseases like rabies and leptospirosis that can be transmitted to humans and pets. Avoid direct contact with squirrels and their droppings.
  • Property Damage: Squirrels are persistent chewers and can damage electrical wires, insulation, pipes, and even wooden beams in your attic or walls. This can lead to electrical fires, costly repairs, and potential health hazards.

Encountering a Squirrel:

  • Avoid Direct Contact: Squirrels are wild animals and should not be approached.

Preventing Squirrel Infestations:

  • Seal Entry Points: The best way to prevent squirrel infestations is to seal up any potential entry points around your home. This includes gaps around your roofline, soffit vents, eaves, chimneys, and foundation.
  • Remove Attractants: Keep your attic and crawlspaces clean and free of potential food sources, such as birdseed or pet food. You can also trim tree branches that hang close to your house, as these can provide squirrels with easy access to your roof.

Living with squirrels in Gatineau requires vigilance and preventative measures. If you suspect a squirrel infestation, contact a professional wildlife removal company to address the issue safely and humanely.