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How to Spot Squirrels in Your Attic

Squirrels can be cute and fuzzy when they’re chewing acorns in your backyard. But those teeth aren’t as cute when they’re gnawing wires in your home or tearing up insulation.

Squirrels don’t have the “icky” reputation of other household pests… but they’re still wild animals, and they can do serious damage.

When squirrels makes themselves at home in your attic, they often create a real mess by gnawing on things or leaving behind feces and urine. That much damage in small areas can lead to costly repairs. And while they’re usually harmless, squirrels – like other rodents – have been known to spread disease.

There’s no place like it – and it’s yours, so make sure you protect it. Let’s talk.

How to Spot a Squirrel

How can you tell if your furry friends have decided to move in? Here are a few things to look (and listen) for:

  • Scurrying feet: Squirrels are most active during the day. If around dawn or dusk you hear the sounds of little feet above you, odds are there is a den nearby.
  • Strange smells: You may not notice it at first, but over time the smell of animal urine and feces can become quite strong. If there’s a putrid smell, it’s safe to assume you have a pest problem.
  • Entry points: Squirrels can enter your home through pretty much any opening in your house. So keep tabs on your doors and windows. Look for teeth marks around your home and watch obvious entry points, such as attic vents. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on nearby branches leading to your roof.

How to Get Rid of Squirrels

Finding your squirrel housemates can be easy, but getting rid of them isn’t as simple. Squirrels will often need some incentive to leave, so convincing them to move out will take time and effort.

Luckily, you don’t have to work in pest control to escort squirrels out of your home safely. Here are some tips to evict those pesky rodents:

  • Block all routes. Limiting entry points can discourage squirrels from returning. Consider using wire mesh, caulk or similar materials to seal up your home. After you’ve secured your home, leave one entry point open. Then place some newspaper over it and wait. If the newspaper stays intact after a few days, you can seal off the final entry point. It’s also a good idea to trim branches leading to your house and keep food stored away so they won’t come back. An important side note: be especially careful in early spring and mid-summer, as squirrels raise their babies during this time. Sealing off an entrance too soon can separate the mother squirrel from her babies and ultimately make matters worse.
  • Humane harassment. Squirrels won’t always leave right away. The Toronto Wildlife Centre recommends a few go-to tricks to scare squirrels out without physically harming them. Try placing bright, fire-safe lights; a radio; or strong smells like apple cider vinegar near where the squirrels are hiding. These signals tell squirrels that predators are nearby and the area isn’t safe. Once the squirrels leave, it’s safe to seal all entryways. This is the go-to option when it comes to squirrel moms and babies.
  • Live traps. Traps can be helpful, but this method should be a last resort. In many states, it’s illegal to trap and release squirrels. What’s more, squirrels that have been trapped and relocated often abandon their babies in the process – even if they’re moved together. So be aware of your local laws, and consider calling a pest control professional for help.

Does Insurance Cover Damage from Squirrels?

When it comes to your coverage, the specifics can get a little hairy. Different types of insurance will – and won’t – kick in from squirrel damage, depending on where and how it happens.

Generally speaking, here’s how it works:

  • Your car: If squirrels or other rodents chew through wires or nest in your car, that damage can covered under the optional comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy (subject to certain conditions, limitations and exclusions). See what can happen in our video, “Rats in the Hood.” 
  • Your home: Generally speaking, damage caused directly from squirrels – such as gnawing, scratching, or droppings – isn’t covered by your homeowners insurance, since the damage is gradual and often preventable with home maintenance. The cost of pest control services isn’t covered, either.  However, if a squirrel causes a sudden loss – for example, it chews through a wire that sparks and starts a house fire – your homeowners insurance would generally pay for damage from the fire, since that’s a covered peril under most policies (subject to certain conditions, limitations and exclusions).

An insurance professional like an Erie Insurance agent can help you understand what your insurance does (and doesn’t) cover. Find a local home insurance agent to ask questions.

Want More Pest Control Tips?

Pest infestations are unpleasant to think about, but they can happen to anyone. Check out these related stories from the Eriesense blog:

Owning a home means the honey-do list never really goes away… but the rewards of having your own place are worth the effort. While you’re looking after your home, we’re looking out for you. Learn more about homeowners insurance from ERIE and request a free quote online.

ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York).  The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.

The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of July 2022 and may be changed at any time. 

Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. 

The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states.  ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York.  ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia or New York.  ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York. 

Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.