Their population in the south central hills equal that of fox squirrels. Annual abundance varies directly in proportion to the amount of food produced the previous autumn. Resident landowners and tenants can live-trap a gray squirrel that is causing damage on their own property without a permit from the DNR. The gray squirrel must be euthanized or released within the county of capture on property in which you have permission.
In order to prevent the spread of disease, the DNR encourages homeowners to safely and humanely euthanize the gray squirrels, if possible.
Live-traps can be purchased from hardware stores and garden centers. If you do not want to trap the squirrel yourself, contact a licensed nuisance wild animal control operator. Occasionally, squirrels may enter a house through a pet door. Quietly open windows and a door through which the animal may exit and close the doors that provide access to other parts of the house before leaving the room. Wait quietly for the animal to escape. If the squirrel is already in your chimney or attic, combine bright lights and a pan of ammonia to encourage the squirrel s to leave.
If the mother has had her young in your attic already, you may need to contact a licensed nuisance wild animal control operator for professional assistance. Once the squirrels leave the chimney, install a chimney cap. Also, identify and seal other attic entries after evicting the squirrel s. Gray squirrels have been known to strip the bark from the upper branches of trees.
This behavior typically occurs in early spring and early fall in response to their increased need for sodium. Sap, flowing up from the roots into the branches of trees in the spring and energy rich sap being produced in the fall, contain higher concentrations of sodium. Squirrels will peel back the thinner, more pliable bark, on the younger tree branches to get at the sodium-rich sap.
Certain glues used in making plywood, as well as chemicals found in electric wire insulation, may also contain sodium and lead to squirrels chewing on these objects. Since the damage is directly related to squirrels needing more sodium salt , the problem can often be mitigated by making alternative sources of salt more readily available.
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Squirrels reach sexual maturity at eight to eleven months. They have two breeding periods each year, in January and June. After a gestation period of 40 to 45 days, the females will normally have a litter of two to four young anywhere from early spring until July. The young are born naked, blind and helpless and are weaned between eight and ten weeks of age. Although the young can survive on their own by the time they are weeks old, they generally remain with the mother until she has her second litter.
If they are born during the summer, they may stay with her all winter. Food availability greatly influences survival and reproductive success. Average life expectancy for a squirrel is only one or two years, although females have been known to live up to 12 years and males 9 years. Nuts, such as acorns, hickory nuts, and beechnuts make up the bulk of the gray squirrel's diet and are crucial to its survival.
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The gray squirrel is omnivorous, eating both plants and animals. During spring and summer months, when nuts are not yet available, it will eat a variety of fruits, buds, flowers, roots, mushrooms, insects, and small bird eggs.
Because the nut crop is crucial to its survival, however, the gray squirrel will "scatter hoard" the nuts, burying them one by one about an inch below the ground. Shared by many squirrels, these buried nuts are relocated by a keen sense of smell and a good memory.
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Nuts that are not eaten may grow into trees. Years of abundant food allow the squirrel population to multiply. When good food years are followed by years of low nut production, the squirrels may migrate in large groups to find food.
One major migration took place in , when hordes of squirrels moved across Vermont from east to west, through trees, over land, and even swimming through rivers and ponds. Populations usually recover to former levels after a couple of good mast years. In Vermont, the best management opportunities for gray squirrels are in mature hardwood forests dominated by oak. The presence of mature hickory and beech in these stands further enhance their value to squirrels.
As they tend to stay near their nests, gray squirrels can be managed in wood lots as small as five to ten acres. A gray squirrel density of one per acre is a reasonable goal in good habitat, with two five per acre possible in the very best habitats.
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Small woodlots, riparian zones and field borders can be managed for gray squirrels if they are five acres or more in size, at least 50 feet wide and have nearly complete canopy closure. A minimum of pounds of acorns and nuts per acre is required to maintain good gray squirrel populations and to also encourage use by other wildlife; more than 80 species of birds and mammals are known to rely on acorns for survival. To provide this amount, hard mast producing trees must be 15 inches in diameter at chest height and a major component of the forest.
Good habitat should have two or more primary hard mast trees species plus several alternate food producing trees, such as ash, maple, butternut, hop hornbeam, and black cherry, as insurance against poor mast crops.