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Is a Squirrel a Rodent?

November 27, 2020
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Squirrels are animals best known for scurrying up trees and storing nuts for the winter. They are indigenous to Europe, North America, and Asia but have been introduced to other places like Australia as well. Due to their appearance, many people wonder if squirrels are classified as rodents.

So are squirrels rodents? The answer is yes. Squirrels belong to the Sciuridae family in the scientific order Rodentia. They are the medium-sized cousins of marmots, chipmunks, and prairie dogs. Like every other rodent, they have special teeth that are continuously growing. Squirrels are also considered pests in various areas because they can cause damages to properties.

 Are Squirrels Rodents?

Rodents are the largest order of mammals, animals that breathe air and give birth to live babies instead of eggs. There are over 1500 species of rodents worldwide, except for Antarctica. These animals can survive in almost any habitat such as tundras, forests, rain forests, grasslands, and deserts. As most rodents are omnivores, their diet allows them to adapt to new environments.

There are three major groups of rodents:

  • Mouse-like rodents with long whiskers, tails, and pointed faces
  • Cavy-like rodents such as guinea pigs with shorter tails, stronger bodies, and large heads
  • Squirrels with flexible bodies, soft fur, and bushy tails

Some rodents have evolved with different features from others. Chipmunks and hamsters, for example, have pouches in their mouths good for storing excess food. Other rodents like beavers are capable of living in the water. Rodents come in all shapes and sizes too, from tiny field mice to pig-sized capybaras.

The one thing all rodents have in common is their special, extra-large and strong teeth. Rodents have sharp, chisel-like upper and lower incisors that never stop growing. These mammals use their teeth to gnaw on food and carve out shelter. Although they are considered to be prey for many animals, their sharp senses and agility allow them to use their teeth and claws for defense.

Squirrels are distinct among rodents for having long, fluffy tails. These creatures have dark eyes, small ears, and pointed faces. Squirrels often have brown, black, or gray fur -- although a few have red fur. They weigh around 11 - 18 pounds and can climb trees quickly, thanks to their sharp claws. An average squirrel will also have larger hind legs and smaller front paws that resemble human hands with padding. 

Why Squirrels Are Considered Pests

Squirrels have a better reputation than other rodents like rats or mice. Squirrels want to be left alone so they’re harmless for most of the time. However, squirrels are forced to move to urban areas as their natural habitats are threatened or destroyed. Living alongside humans makes squirrels more likely to become destructive nuisances in the long-term.

One reason why squirrels are considered pests is because of the health hazard they pose. Squirrels are the primary carriers of rabies, tick fever, and powassan encephalitis. The insects living on squirrel bodies like fleas or ticks are also carriers of diseases.

If squirrels manage to infiltrate human spaces, they leave behind urine and droppings that are unsanitary for the people moving in these places. The smell of dead squirrel bodies can also cause humans headaches and nausea. Sick or cornered squirrels also have the tendency to fight back by biting or clawing. Those that are accustomed to humans are especially fearless and territorial. 

Another reason why squirrels are so fearsome to homeowners is that they can cause a lot of damage to properties while on their quest to find food and shelter. While many squirrels climb in through chimneys, some opt to chew their way through walls and roof tiles as they look for a nesting hole. The holes, cracks, and burrows squirrels make invite other pests like bats and insects into the house as well.

Even more alarming, squirrels can cause fires inside a building. They can gnaw on the insulation from the electrical wiring in your walls and set off a fire. In fact, many insurance companies found that at least 20% of all mysterious, accidental fires are caused by squirrels and other rodents

In outdoor spaces, squirrels will chew through trees and ornamental plants to take care of their growing teeth. As they hide acorns in trees or bury nuts in the ground, squirrels also damage the lawns as they dig. Farms, food storage and food processing facilities should also be wary of squirrel infestations because these creatures can easily eat through the produce.

How To Identify A Squirrel Infestation In Your Home

The best way to prevent squirrel-related damages from happening is to stay aware. Knowing the signs of their presence will keep you alert and prepared for any possible infestation. Some ways to identify possible squirrel infestations are:

  • Squirrels fighting around the area: If you spot squirrels fighting in your neighborhood, it is a sign that your home is at risk. When squirrels fight, it usually means there is a large population around and they’re all squabbling over the limited resources available.
  • Footprints and tracks: Squirrels have small front paws with four toes and large back paws with five toes. This makes their tracks easy to identify, especially during the winter when there is snow or mud on the ground. In warmer seasons, you can see their footprints if their paws get dusty or wet. If you suspect squirrels around your property, place a piece of cardboard covered in flour on the high-traffic area to check if footprints will appear.
  • Water damage on your walls or ceiling: When large squirrel populations are present in an area, their feces and urine may build up and seep into the structures. Their waste will affect the wood and insulation with staining, peeling, or bubbling on your walls.
  • Strange noises during the rainy season and winter months: You are more likely to hear the squirrels before you see them. If you do have squirrels in your home, you can hear a lot of scurrying, scampering, chewing, or scratching noises. These sounds are usually accompanied by physical damages and teeth marks.
  • Droppings and foul odors: Urine, droppings, and the smell of dead squirrel bodies will alert you of their presence in your home. Droppings are also easiest to identify as they are dark pellets left around the garage, attic, or other entry points. Be cautious when cleaning up after squirrels as their waste could contain diseases and bacteria. It’s best to avoid touching these directly so use gloves and other protective gear. 

5 Steps To Take If You Do Have A Squirrel Infestation

After figuring out whether or not you’re dealing with squirrels, you have to remove them from the premises and prevent them from entering in the future. Here are a few steps to take when you’re dealing with squirrels:

  1. Check for baby squirrels or a nest, especially if you catch an adult squirrel from March - September.
  2. Wear protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and leather gloves to cover yourself from potential bites or scratches.
  3. Cut down overhanging tree limbs, vines, and shrubs to keep squirrels away from your roof.
  4. Repair holes, gaps, and cracks on the building structure. You can also consider using a chimney cap or attic vent screens.
  5. Remove bird feeders or mount them high up with a cone-shaped baffle. Squirrels are more likely to damage hanging feeders by climbing down the wire or shaking the wire until food drops to the ground. 

NYC Rodent Control With Positive Pest Management

Instead of handling the risk of a squirrel infestation yourself, it’s best to go directly to a professional pest control service. Pest control specialists are well-versed in trapping, killing, or relocating squirrels.

At Positive Pest Management, we have years of experience in dealing with all types of pests. Contact us today for an initial inspection.

Learn more: 10 Sure Signs You Have Rodents In Your House

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