Stumped by a squirrel
April 27, 2010 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Stumped by a Squirrel - can you help? We have a squirrel,in the attic, a probable nest, possibly babies in the nest, a Havahart live trap. It's been a couple of weeks, and since the first time we baited a smaller trap, s/he hasn't taken the bait from the (ostensibly) appropriate size trap.

Details. We started with a smaller Havahart trap that a neighbor had, while we waited for the larger, apparently appropriate trap. Squirrel took the food (bread and peanut butter) and triggered the trap, but got out. Sq is big, we think s/he got in to eat and the door stayed open on the tail or butt, and Sq backed out.

The larger trap arrived, we've baited and left it out for about 9 days. It sits there, doors open, bait untouched. We've used peanut butter and bread, walnut, hazelnuts, and some fresh bok choy leaves at different times. And moved the trap around, including right near the suspected nest site. She is often visible when I check the trap, not afraid. then I thought that was a bad idea and moved it nearby but about 5 feet away. It takes a bit of force to trip the trap, but I don't think that's the problem - the food is not taken. could we have spooked her with the smaller trap?

What are we doing wrong? Any ideas ?
posted by judybxxx to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
I'd use cheese, which invariably snagged our squirrels in our Haveaheart. (These were outdoor squirrels, which liked to raid our bird feeder.)

And never touch or move the trap once baited.

I must admit you are being nicer than I'd be to an animal in my house, especially one that was reproducing. In your shoes, I'd be releasing our best huntress cat in the attic, not baiting a trap.
posted by bearwife at 2:09 PM on April 27, 2010

Response by poster: I absolutely would use a huntress cat if I or someone I knew had one.
posted by judybxxx at 3:14 PM on April 27, 2010

Best answer: We have the exact situation albeit with peanut butter on ritz crackers (and several cracked but not shelled pecans from our neighbor's tree) as the lure.
All I can tell you is:
1. when your attic heats up the squirrel(s) will leave.
2. this (now) is when you must find their access points. It'll be easier because the mother is going outside for food and water. Closely search the exterior roof area in the area she exits. Repair egress point(s) with metal flashing or mesh.
3. next fall, or whenever your attic again cools, squirrels will be drawn back to that space even if you do manage to catch or drive off the current inhabitants. I've been told this is due to the attractant now in your attic (their urine.)

After reading many squirrelly websites I'm convinced Havahart traps (for squirrels specifically in the attic) rarely work. None the less I check mine every morning so the animal wouldn't be trapped in the noonday heat. After all these weeks I might Hav-a-heart attack if the trap actually did its job.
posted by Twist at 3:32 PM on April 27, 2010

Can you mount your trap over the exit hole so that she runs straight in?
posted by IanMorr at 3:39 PM on April 27, 2010

I probably shouldn't be putting this in the thread, because it isn't helpful for your problem in the slightest, but I can't not share it-- when all is said and done you might find the NPR "This American Life - Squirrel Cop" story extra-hilarious.
posted by mireille at 3:45 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We got our very best and first huntress cat from the pound. She moused our whole house as her first act of domination of the animal kingdom (which ultimately extended to the memorable time all 10 pounds of her chased off 5 semi-feral dogs.) She lived a long and happy life with us, keeping her skills sharp in quiet times by leaping out from under furniture to grab my sister's legs.

So . . . you will have to keep and house, perhaps even love and pet, your huntress, but cats with similar talents are probably waiting right now at your local animal shelter for adoption.
posted by bearwife at 3:46 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: squirrels will be drawn back to that space even if you do manage to catch or drive off the current inhabitants. I've been told this is due to the attractant now in your attic (their urine.)
True, so very true. From my experience after you finally get them out of the attic go around the house and spray a mixture of ammonia and water (70-30) all over the eaves and anywhere they may try to chew their way back in. You may have to do it several times because they are persistent buggers and will keep trying to chew their way back in as long as they can smell their scent. As a matter of fact, every fall I still go around and spray just to be on the safe side. Also, what seems to have helped is the neighbor's cat likes to lay on my roof.
posted by govtdrone at 4:34 PM on April 27, 2010

Get them out before the babies mature. Once they do, you will have that many more squirrels that believe your attic is their house.

(My havahart baited with crunchy peanut butter (at the far end of the trigger plate) works fine. Except for that one squirrel that was smart enough to keep his feet back far enough to keep the door from locking. Propping a heavy object (pipe or long file) on the top of the door was enough to git that one. The faster fall of the door was enough to capture him.)

(Also, you have to change the bait once it dries out and stops smelling delicious.)
posted by gjc at 4:59 PM on April 27, 2010

We weren't so nice when squirrels inhabited our attic last spring. We actually hired someone to come out and do the dirty work for us, mostly because our roof has a steep pitch and we didn't want to kill ourselves going up there. Squirrels can cause all kinds of problems if they decide to start chewing things like electrical wires and we weren't willing to risk that, either.

The squirrel man's very best piece of advice: if you're doing it yourself and relocating them, you have to take them AT LEAST 10 miles away, preferably further. Otherwise, they will easily find their way back to your neighborhood and your house.
posted by fresh-rn at 6:31 PM on April 27, 2010

In the attic? Is there an access panel for the attic, like a piece of wood that you push out of the way to get in there?

Take that access panel out and replace with a piece of cardboard. On the cardboard goes a peanut butter cracker. On the floor directly underneath goes a great big empty trash can. Squirrel walks on cardboard, falls into trash can; you move squirrel out of house.

My dad did this when I was a kid and it worked in a couple minutes where traps had failed -- it was just one adult squirrel, though.
posted by clavicle at 7:34 PM on April 27, 2010

Response by poster: well, I have been changing (or adding to) the bait every few days. No evidence Sq touches it. Yes we want to get them out before the babies mature. and thinks for the tip about the urine and the ammonia. We don't have such an access panel, and we do think we know how Sq got in, chewed a hole in screening over a vent. Don't want to trap Sq inside and have another hole chewed. But how to get Sq to eat the bait? OK, will stop moving the trap, can't really cover the nest area with the trap.
It's comforting that others have had problems with the Havahart trap. More ideas welcome. I want that to work.
posted by judybxxx at 9:59 PM on April 27, 2010

Best answer: Forgot to add this last night when I wrote my original comment...

I found this site a while ago when I had the same problem. It offers lots of good suggestions, as well as products you can purchase.

Good luck!
posted by fresh-rn at 5:08 AM on April 28, 2010

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