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Squirrels in the attic? Pointers on humane wildlife removal

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Squirrels in the attic? Pointers on humane wildlife removal

Ned Bruha/AP A young squirrel makes itself at home in a residential attic.

A mama squirrel recently set up a cozy nest in our attic — it was cold and she had a brood to care for. When the tykes were old enough to go outside the nest — cute as can be, peering over the roof eaves — my husband, Paul, rigged up the “have-a-heart” trap, relocating them to places you’d think squirrels would like: a forest preserve and a wooded college campus.

But we later learned his efforts were misguided. Experts say most squirrels don’t survive being moved. They succumb to everything from turf wars to an inability to adapt to new habitats.

Ned Bruha of Oklahoma City is one of the few specialists in humane wildlife removal. He says the wiser move — in addition to leaving the job to pros — would have been to let the squirrels hunker down until they were ready to leave the attic on their own, and then provide them a one-way door. There’s no real risk in letting them hang out awhile, Bruha says; the danger of squirrels doing damage like chewing through wires is overblown.

When the animals do move outside, they’re in familiar surroundings. Without remedial and preventive repairs, however, you’ll likely have another tenant soon. “If you have squirrels in your attic, you do not have a squirrel problem. You have a house problem,” Bruha says.

Once the animals are definitely out, Bruha deodorizes their former home with an industrial-strength cleanser designed to neutralize the odors that wildlife leave behind, and that attracts others.

Next: Repair the areas the squirrels have been using to go in and out of your attic, and make sure they don’t create new entry points. Preventing that doesn’t require elaborate repairs, he says. “There is no reason to make your house look like Fort Knox to keep them out forever,” he says.

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