Yikes! There’s a squirrel in the house! Even though you know you’re in no real danger, a moment of panic is understandable. But calmness is the key to a quick resolution. Besides, within a few minutes, you can make it easy for the squirrel to find a path back outside—problem solved both yours and the squirrel’s.
Here’s your plan:
- First, put children and pets in another room, behind a closed door.
- Close doors to other rooms to keep the squirrel from entering them.
- Open the nearest door to the outside.
- Open easily accessed windows. (See note below about second floor windows.)
- Leave the room and give the squirrel time to find her way out.
- Once the squirrel leaves, close the door and windows and let your children and pets back out of the closed room.
- Look for how the squirrel got in and follow tips in “Final Steps” below.
NOTE: In the case of second floor windows: If the squirrel is in a second-floor room and there is cement or another hard surface below the window, it won’t be safe for the squirrel to exit via the window. Instead, capture the squirrel with a humane box trap or by approaching her with a blanket in front of you, dropping the blanket over the squirrel, and quickly gathering it around her so you can carry her outside and release her.
Squirrel caught in fireplace behind glass doors or screen?
Sometimes a squirrel ends up caught behind the fireplace door or screen. She may have fallen down the chimney accidentally or taken up residence in the chimney as a den for raising her young. In either case, if the squirrel is trying to get out via the fireplace, it likely means she’s having difficulty going back up to get out.
NEVER attempt to use fire or smoke to evict a squirrel from your chimney. This outdated tactic is cruel, dangerous, and deadly for the squirrels.
Provide the squirrel an exit
If you can either safely access the roof yourself, or hire a chimney sweep to do so, you can provide an easy way out for the squirrel. Drop a ¾ inch or larger diameter rope down the chimney. Make sure it reaches to the fireplace floor, and attach the other end firmly to something on the roof. The squirrel should now be able to climb out. Using a loud voice, playing a radio loudly, or placing cider vinegar soaked rages on the fireplace floor can encourage the squirrel to more quickly use the rope to escape.
If accessing the roof is not possible, follow the directions above for a squirrel loose in the house, opening the fireplace doors or screen only after you have closed interior house doors and opened an exterior door and windows to provide a clear path out. You may also want to place a humane box trap into the fireplace as you open its doors or screen. If the squirrel is too frightened to come out of the fireplace and leave via an open window or door, the lure of peanut butter bait inside the humane box trap may enable you to capture her so you can carry her back outside and release her on site.
Getting the squirrel out is a victory, but you still need to figure out how the squirrel got in your house—and then make repairs to seal off that entrance.
- Was it through an open door or window? Install a screen door or window screens for times when you want to leave the door or windows open.
- Was the entrance down the chimney and through the fireplace? Look into local building codes for chimney caps and get one installed as soon as possible.
- Is there an unscreened vent? Install heavy-gauge wire screening over all vents, and keep them clean so they operate effectively.
- Are there rotted fascia boards? Repair them with metal flashing or return them to original condition using appropriate materials.
A word about squirrel babies…
No openings or vents should be repaired or covered until you can be sure there were no babies left behind. If it is February through May or August through October you can be pretty sure there are babies present. If this is the case, wait a few weeks until the babies are old enough to leave the nest with their mother. If you cannot wait till the family leaves on their own, hire a professional who knows how to keep families together or reunite babies with their mom.
Occasionally, despite good intentions to check thoroughly for babies before sealing up an access point, baby squirrels remain behind. The mother will likely return, and may do a bit of damage trying to retrieve her babies. If you observe her frantically trying to get back inside, remove the repair materials temporarily, allowing her to rescue her offspring. To determine that mother and babies are indeed gone, fill the opening with wadded newspaper. After two to three days the newspaper stays undisturbed indicating no animal activity, it should be safe to seal up the entryway.