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Last Update: 10/18/15
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Eastern Grey Squirrel
The eastern grey squirrel, usually Sciurus carolinensis, is currently the most successful and dominant of the American squirrels.  This is the one most often incurring the wrath of the average homeowner, the one that most often invades homes and structures when it starts to get cold.

This winter, in 2014, promises to be cold here in the northeast.

Most of the time, live trapping is the most practical solution to your squirrel problem.  It does require some study of your target, but the answers are right here!

Fortunately, trapping urban and suburban squirrels is easy with the right trap.  They go right in.  (More on the "right trap" in a minute.)  A little peanut butter does it (almost) every time.  Most of the time, it's quick and easy, once you get the hang of it. Remember, when you do get him, don't let him go.   Here in the State of New Jersey, you are only supposed to do one of two things:    (Your state may have different regulations.)

1) Let him go, on YOUR property....  (silly, eh?)
2) Put him down.

That's it. Two choices. You can't take him to the city park. You can't take him to "the woods." You can't "take" him anywhere, you only have the above two choices.

Number two is the best. I'm not being cruel. I'm telling you like it is. There are definite reasons for this:

If you release him somewhere else, and that animal has any diseases, (and they all do) you have just moved those disease(s) that much further. You moved that animal much faster and further than Mother Nature would, and in the process, perhaps affecting other animals quicker, making for more carriers and vectors of diseases that can affect you and me, your children and your pets too. (Don't forget, after handling ANY animal wild, domestic or whatever, WASH YOUR HANDS with soap and water!)

Besides, if you DO let that squirrel go, you don't think he's going to stay in the woods/park/forest do you? Not for one New York Minute, he's not! He's going to head for another structure. He might even find his way back to YOUR place, you can't be sure unless you take him miles and miles, in a zig-zag pattern. Even then, squirrels sometimes find their way back. Kind of a tiresome ordeal if you have to relocate a half dozen squirrels or more. Especially since most of them will perish anyway, in a far worse way than you could probably devise.

And don't think "he'll be happy" because you took him to the woods/park/forest where there are lots of other squirrels.  Believe me when I tell you that ALL the squirrels will be unhappy.  There is no squirrel, including his own mother, that will welcome him. There's just no way in the world he's going to be able to establish his very own territory, so he's not going to stay where you dropped him.  He'll be chased out post haste, he'll just "head for the light" - someone's house - find some flaw, then find his way in, BINGO, instant squirrel problem.  (Even though I use the term "he," it is just as often, or even more so, that the females do this.)

One final thing.  If the Game Warden sees you, or if someone reports you translocating animal(s), there's a big fat fine for that.  That's ANY animal, dogs and cats included.

Make sure you retrieve all occupied traps quickly, don't let the animals hurt themselves by becoming too upset.  Whatever you do, do it quickly, you can't wait til you "get home from work" - this would be cruelty.  Take care of matters immediately, however you do it, do it quickly.

I have also been asked about how far you have to take squirrels, before you release them, to be sure that they won't come back.  I'm sure this depends on a lot of factors,
but we did an informal test a few years ago and  
the results are here.

I'm often asked for "the least cruel way" to put down squirrels.  I'm not sure there is one.  And, of course, it depends on your own sensibilities.  Naturally, I have my own
ideas, as do most other people, so I put my answer on
this popup

Please. No flames about what I do for a living. It's just something that has to be done. If you start posting on my Squirrel Board how "nasty" you think we all are, I've heard it all before, if you don't like it, please stay away. Do everything the way YOU want to, just don't give everyone grief about it. Too much static gets you banned from the board.

Remember. When you release a (rogue) squirrel that has been raised in a structure, it looks for another home of a similar nature. If he can, he'll come back to your house! Those squirrel pups raised in an attic, will usually seek out an attic for a home. And although squirrels aren't "social," you CAN have several families in an attic....
And there are reasons for putting down rogue squirrels.
Check right here.

As an alternative, there are also licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators that can take your squirrels and acclimate them to their new surroundings, giving them a better chance of coping with a territory move.  I have a short text listing of some rehab experts that I know are qualified to perform these operations.

*(If you are a licensed rehab expert and would like me to add you to our listing, email me.

                        THE RIGHT TRAP
This is the right trap.  It is manufactured by HavaHart and is available at many local stores, no matter where you may live.  And although the standard squirrel trap may work just fine, get the 1040(2A) trap if you can.
Hav-a-Hart Squirrel Trap #1040 (2A)

This trap, the model #1040(2A) is larger and will work better on the large squirrels with long tails that can interfere with the door locking shut.  The cost difference is only a few dollars. This trap is sometimes difficult to find, so if you can't find this trap locally, we stock and sell this same trap.  We do use and recommend the HavaHart brand, and we don't mind whether you get them from us or anyone else.

And sometimes, when you have the right trap and have planned everything just right, you'll be able to catch two squirrels at once!

If you purchase your trap at a local retailer, or Home Depot, perhaps, don't buy your trap "in the box."  Take it out of the box, cycle it a few times, make sure it's working correctly.  Or, in the alternative, obtain a money-back guarantee if it doesn't.  Most dealers will offer to replace it or refund your money.  Make sure this is understood. Traps can be damaged even in normal shipping and handling, make sure yours works perfectly.

How do you bait your squirrel trap and what do you use?  It's easy - you probably already have what you need....
How to bait a Squirrel Trap....

Trapping squirrels is really not that difficult.  Just because they are "clever," doesn't mean they're intelligent.  So they really aren't that smart - they are, however, very adaptable. Humans are infinitely more intelligent than squirrels, so you must use the "instinct" part of the squirrel to catch him.  Squirrels LOVE peanut butter.  They also are used to entering small, close places.  A trap is a small, close space.  And he can see right through a properly set trap so usually he isn't afraid to enter.  Once he enters, if you have set the trap properly, you have him.  Even squirrels that have been trapped previously are usually not too difficult to trap because they have been released or have escaped before.

For solving your squirrel problems, it's best to use a combination of trapping and exclusion techniques, so start out by trapping, setting up your trap within the territory of the squirrels you are targeting.  The closer you can get the trap to their entrance, the more assured it will be that you're going to catch the right squirrel(s).

If your squirrels always seem to use a certain pathway, a porch roof, perhaps, set up the trap so it's right in their path. If the roof isn't level, you can make a simple platform for the trap. In this specific case, our carpenter made up this one in about 5 minutes, to catch the squirrel using a vinyl soffit to get inside.

We use this platform in one of our small condo developments, so this little platform gets moved all over the place. It also keeps your trap out of reach of people. If you make your own platform, keep it - you're likely to need it again....

Squirrel Trap platform
One of our vistors to the Squirrel Message Board sent in a picture of the platform he made up, quite a bit fancier than mine.... And it's removable too!

You want this to be easy, so if you can't set the trap anywhere near the hole, then set it up directly under their entrance hole, on the ground.  If you can, it might be better to set the trap up on something such as a picnic table, so there is less of a chance that birds or come other non-target animal will get caught in your trap accidently.

If you're a novice and have never trapped squirrels before, make sure you know every aspect of the trap itself.  Cycle it through MANY times, get familiar with it.  Just as familiar as a soldier is trained with his own weapon.  Take care of that trap, it'll last a long time....  

The first mistake to make would be to get anxious.  The name of the game is patience. You'll be wise to use it.  Chumming for a couple of days, prior to your trapping campaign, will let you know what the local population of squirrels looks like. Then, when you set up the trap, they'll be waiting.

Naturally, you don't always have to do it this way, squirrels get caught in unbaited traps, had it happen many times.

But hearing from anyone with the complaint, "They're too smart for me," only means you just aren't thinking and/or trying.


winter coat
Only use the trap in the daytime.  Squirrels aren't out at night, and you don't want to catch anything except squirrels.  Squirrels are out early, just after the sun comes up, and will return to their chosen nest several times during the day.  They are almost always out and around in the afternoon, especially if the weather is nice or sunny.  You'll be wise to study them a bit and get to know them.  For the best results, you have to know your enemy.

Keep catching squirrels until you think you have them all.  Depending on how many are around, this could take a few days.  Squirrels are mildly territorial.  They do maintain a "home territory," but it may often overlap with other squirrels, especially near large food sources.  Actual nesting, roosting areas are generally defended vigorously.  So when you've set the trap out, caught a succession of squirrels, and haven't caught any more for a day or two, you have (presumably) caught all the squirrels in that territory.  Move the trap around to be sure, watch for squirrels you might have missed.

Depending on population density, you will have some time, a few days or a week, or even more, to make repairs before new squirrels move in.  Move in they will, squirrels from adjoining territories will soon discover the former tenant is missing.  These territories are loose and lightly defended except in periods of famine.  A wild squirrel, in an urban environment might last a shorter time than the generally accepted 4 to 6 year life span.  On the street it's usually somewhat shorter.


Trapping animals is always a touchy subject.  Most of the bad press has been about "leg hold traps," which can often injure an animal by merely snapping shut.  Even though your Hava-Hart traps catch them live and unhurt, it's best to shield these traps from the public eye for security purposes also.  Always hide trapsets behind bushes, sheds or planters.  Observe where the
Leg Hold Trap
squirrels patrol, this will be their "territory," so this is where they will "discover" your trap. You don't want them to be suspicious, you want them to be curious.  So you need to both disguise and make that trap attractive.  This is where the experience part helps.

Many of your neighbors may not like to see you trapping, so you should properly hide your trapsets.  You may lose traps to people that steal them, either because they don't want you to trap, or they just want the trap.  Or both.  So make sure your trap is in a secure place.

Naturally, you can only trap on YOUR property, do not trap on any property besides your own without written permission.  (Do I really need to say that?)

When you finally think you have them all, temporarily block their entrance hole, jam it with newspaper or something, and then patch the hole using hardware cloth and your trusty staple gun.  Leave the newspaper in place, behind your patch, so you can tell from the ground if there is any residual activity. If there is no activity for a couple of weeks, remove the hardware cloth and make your permanent repairs.

Okay, so what happens if you seal off a squirrel (or something else) inside, somewhere, and it dies in there?  What do you do?  This is a tough question, and I get this all the
time.  There are some things you can do, and I put the details on
this popup


If your squirrel problem is in your attic, and if they're already up there, wreaking havoc, then this is what you do with your trap:

Set the trap up, fully set and baited, under the light in your attic.  Clear a spot so you can set the trap down right under the light.  Leave the light on, 24/7.  If you don't have a light up there it might be a good idea to rig one up.  Squirrels, remember, are afraid of the dark so they'll quickly explore the areas where there's light available.  Don't forget to place a bit (only a little bit) of "*chum" near the trap.

*(For those that have never been fishing, "chum" is bait, scattered about, to attract the fish.)

You can also chum BEFORE you set up and install your trap.  If you don't presently have a trap and need to purchase one, you can still chum now.  That way, they will be looking for and expecting another handout.  HINT:  If you're trapping more than one or two squirrels, then when you set up your trap, disable it and let them get the bait a couple of times.  This will help to make sure you have the attention of those squirrels and that they will be less wary of the trap.  You can do this on the inside or the outside, it WORKS!

If you have TWO traps, you can wire one of the traps, the outside trap, in the completely open position, fully baited, but disabled so the doors don't close when your squirrel(s) take the bait.  Be sure to re-bait the trap as needed.  Let them come and go. It'll look like Grand Central Station.  Then use the SECOND trap in the attic, the squirrels will expect the same treatment.  The outside trap will become part of their surroundings, just like a bird feeder.  The inside trap will not seem ‘strange' to the squirrels taking the chum from the outside trap, and will presumably only trap the ones that are entering your attic - reducing the chances of your trapping the ‘innocent bystanders.'  

Oh, and by the way, if you buy your traps from me, I'll give you a sizeable discount if you buy two or more traps at the same time.  You'll get a running jump on your squirrel problem, be able to catch squirrels quicker and take advantage of the tips and tricks on these pages.

Normally, when your trap springs and you catch a squirrel, he will shortly let you know he is there by incessantly hunting for an exit, and in the process, rattling the trap so that you can hear it.  Even if you hear nothing, check the trap at least every 24 hours if it is inaccessible, check it as often as you need to when it's within sight.

Pick up some carpet remnants at the carpet store. Ones large enough to put under the trap. This will keep the trap stable, in case it is a bit wobbly, and give it a soft "floor." Over time, it will also acquire the scent of the squirrels in your neighborhood. Squirrels, even though they are mainly "sight" animals, do use scent for identification. Leave a couple of other carpet remnants around that you use for your chum. Little islands where they get food. I do this when I'm doing a job where I suspect that I may have trouble catching squirrels that have been caught before, or ones that appear to be trap-shy. Don't use the same carpet when you trap again, or in a different area, as that same scent will seem "foreign" to different squirrels. Use a different, new carpet when you trap at a different time.

Try to take care of a trapped animal as soon as you can.  Squirrels caught in a trap will do their utmost to get out, and sometimes do, given enough time.  Besides, it will attract the attention of other untrapped squirrels and if your animal is trapped for too long a time, it may have a detrimental effect on how quickly other squirrels will enter your trap.

Trapped squirrels will be afraid of you, so cover the trap with something he can't see through, (an old towel or blanket) before carrying him through the house.  Frightened animals will often defecate in fear and you might want to prevent this from dropping on your rugs.  Squirrel poop looks like this.

Cover your trapset when you carry it away from a trap site, both for the animal's well being and any neighbors, either Homo sapiens or Rodentia.

You would also be wise to secure both doors of the squirrel trap shut with a stretch cord such as the way pictured here.  Be careful moving through the house with a trapped animal, you don't want him loose inside.  Have someone move ahead of you, opening doors and clearing the way.  Always keep the trap covered while transporting animals, they will settle right down and won't cause any problems.  If, somehow, he
does get loose, inside the house,
follow these directions.


First and foremost, make sure the trap is operating correctly.  Cycle it through several times without failures, to make sure it will do its job.

If a squirrel is reluctant to enter your trap, wire it in the open position and leave it in his territory, fully baited, using only a small amount of chum around the trap.  Once he takes the chum, do not replace it and eventually, the peanut butter will wear down his resistance, and he will enter the trap.  After a few times taking the bait from the disabled trap, you can remove the wire from the trap and you will be able to catch the squirrel on his next trip in.

When this happens, you should consider the possibility that there might be MICE that are invading your trap.  Mice will be able to escape through the cage grid of either the HavaHart 1030 or the 1040 traps.  Some of the other models too.  Mice can get through anything they can get their head through - that's just about the size of a dime.

To find out if mice are stealing your bait, you bait the trap as you normally would, except you leave it closed and block the sides so that nothing can reach through the sides.  If your bait still disappears, it's a good bet that mice, or other small rodent, is getting in and out of the trap.  This, by the way, doesn't necessarily mean you don't also have a squirrel (or something else) problem, it just means you have to consider the possibilities of other critters.

Sometimes, a large squirrel will enter your trap, but have an especially long tail that he holds in such a way that the door doesn't lock shut and he escapes.  Oftentimes, the smaller and shorter 1030 HavaHart model will force the squirrel to lower and lengthen his tail, preventing a door from locking and allowing his easy escape.

You can foil this by using (on a HavaHart trap) a one-door set on the model 1030 or
1040 squirrel trap.  I explain how,
right here on this popup

Most of the time, failures will be YOUR fault.  You don't really think you're going to come home with a trap and automatically be Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett, do you? You'll be wise to study your target, know what you're up against before you jump to the fore.  Do you know which squirrel is which?  No?  If you do, you can get them one, two, three, every time.  Strive to do that, it makes you more efficient.  Not only are squirrels clever rodents, but they're used to man, and they get up into those high, inaccessible areas, those places where it's going to be difficult and/or expensive for you to get there.

For the most part, "free food" is what does it here, coupled with the fact that squirrels are curious and used to people. People, of course, are the main reason and also the main problem. They either feed the squirrels or allow them to feed in improper places that bring the squirrels close to our dwellings.

Some birdseed in the area where you're going to trap will attract the birds, which will attract the squirrels. (Don't forget, sometimes you'll have to use that brain of yours, it should be bigger than his....)

Often this becomes beneficial and sometimes even necessary.  If you have a trap-shy squirrel, you might have to do something more than just bait and set out the trap, which is usually what everybody expects and gets used to.  Unfortunately, sometimes it is just not that easy.  And at those times you're going to have to use your head, or you're gonna need a pro, someone familiar with how squirrels tend to react with their
environment.  I put some ideas right here
on this popup

Rome wasn't built in a day!  Although many people can often plop down the trap outside, almost anywhere, baited and set, and start collecting squirrels before you can finish that beer, sometimes it just ain't that easy...  Since this probably not an instant decision you've made, to trap the squirrels, that is, take the time to attract them to the area where you plan your trapset.  Then CHUM!  Chum for a few days, if you can. And, sure, if you already have the trap, you can leave the trap right there, let them get used to it, it definitely helps.  You'll have them fighting to get in by the time you're ready to trap them!  There's an infinite number of smart ways to attract the squirrels, to get the better of your adversary.

So you want to know what you should do if you got a BABY squirrel in your trap. Should you let it go or what?  Well, that's a tough question, but it actually happens quite often.  Or maybe you know you have babies in there and you're able to get to them.
Here's one answer on this popup.

And, yes, there's always the danger you WON'T be able to get them, and they might die is an out-of-reach area. Happens. Happens a lot. In fact, it happens many times without you even knowing about it, baby squirrels and other small animals just don't have a lot of body mass. So there's a good chance it won't affect you. You'd be surprised how many animal skeletons we have found in lofts and attics where no one noticed anything amiss. It all depends on people's sensibilities.

There are several kinds of exclusion devices on the market for the purpose of "allowing" the squirrel to leave the structure, but which then bars him from re-entering. But, do they work?  Short answer is "sometimes."  For the most part, however, exclusion devices allow the squirrels another chance to get back inside.  This can create an even bigger problem, and with more damage to fix.  If you use any kind of exclusion method, you'll be smarter if you combine it with a proper trapping campaign.  Often, the "excluded" will just try to get right back in, just like as in this picture.

Read what one of the visitors to UnExCo's squirrel pages, Jim Steiger, from Tennessee, had to say about how he used our site, and the Squirrel Message Board, to solve his squirrel problem.  Jim has a couple of interesting observations in solving his problem, I
put it all
right here on this popup

                     HUMAN SCENT
Squirrels are not averse to "human scent" on squirrel traps.  As a matter of fact, many squirrels in our environment could just as well be attracted to the human scent. Certainly might attract the ones that tend to occupy the attics of occupied structures. Examine your catch closely.  Make sure you have not caught any nursing females. (Nursing females' teats will look swollen and used.)  Release nursing females immediately, without harm. Always allow nursing females to rear their pups.
Eastern Grey Squirrel

Why do you want to release a nursing female?  Well, I'm sure you don't want to have anywhere from three to nine pups perish in your (or your neighbor's) attic.  Release her, let her rear those pups, you'll be able to get her and her pups after they're weaned. Squirrels have short memories, and she DID get out, didn't she?

Actually, there aren't any of these, we're talking "rodents" here.  But sometimes, and not too often, you might meet up with the squirrel equivalent of Einstein, and he'll discover that he can reach through the sides of the trap, (we find females employ this trick more often) thus escaping the falling doors and still being able to retrieve the bait.

If this happens, cut suitable strips of hardware cloth and wire it to the sides and top of the trap.  In all situations, keep squirrels away from the sides of the trap, by using strategic placement, so they can't reach in through the sides or interfere with the trip rods.  You can also disguise the trap in other ways.  Enclose it with cinder blocks or wooden, weighted boxes of some sort.

Whenever you change your trapping methods, in any way, make sure your target is confidant about entering your trap.  Leave the trap open, baited and disabled, so the animal(s) can go in and out, at will, and eat the bait, without tripping the doors.  Don't use chum and take your time.  After your squirrels are used to going in the correct way, you can re-enable the trap and catch them on the next go-around.

It isn't always easy....  You will probably need patience and persistence to do this job effectively.  I've been fooling around with these little guys for over 40 years and they still surprise me.

Make sure you empty these traps quickly.  Within a few minutes is best.  Carry a covered replacement trap, set and bait the replacement, place it next to the occupied trap and use the cover for the occupied trap when you carry it away.  The cover will quiet the occupant and tend to confuse any cohorts of this squirrel you might also want to trap.

That also might mean that you'll want to have TWO traps.  Good idea!  I always figure two on just about every job.  So I'll always be able to leave a vacant trap and pick up an occupied trap.  Or maybe catch more squirrels quicker!  Believe me, you'll think many times how smart you were to get TWO. You're not talking big bucks here. Much less than the cost of an exterminator's visit!  If you take care of those traps, they'll last a long time.

BTW, if you order from us, and order two traps at once, I'll deduct $25 from the total order.  Go to our General Store, scroll on down to the Hava-Hart 1040 trap.

Usually these smart squirrels are "rogue" squirrels.  These are animals that have not been able to establish a REAL territory and will specifically target homes and other suitable structures.  They are the "criminals" in the squirrel world.  These animals, when caught, should not be released.  Even if you release them in the woods, they will always seek out a similar structure to the one they were used to.

So for that reason alone, don't release a (probably) trap-shy rodent that is inclined to enter places where people don't want them.  Squirrels that are bred inside structures will automatically seek out similar structures, so a few houses infested with squirrels can plague an entire neighborhood with continuing and increasing batches of squirrels with that dangerous inclination towards entering heated residential structures.  Keep these squirrels away from your house, do not feed any wildlife (that includes birds) at all.

Super Squirrel
These rogue animals give up any consideration of a natural environment, and that cute, fuzzy-tailed squirrel has just morphed into a fuzzy-tailed RAT.  An animal such as that could be very difficult to control unless you have the
complete cooperation of your neighbors - as bad or worse a control problem as roaches or rats.  Worse, because squirrels can be quite destructive, damaging wiring, plumbing, siding, as well as personal possessions.  Rodents of all kinds leak urine all the time, so after constant infestation, this can get to be unhealthy to you and attractive to more rodents.

                                  THE CARE AND FEEDING OF TRAPS
These traps are touchy.  They are easily rendered useless by incorrect treatment. Treat them with care.  Don't toss them in the back of your garage, make sure they are up out of the way where they won't get knocked around.  Hang them up somewhere.  If they get bent up too much they will not be able to be adjusted so that they work effectively.

Each time you use the trap, BEFORE you use it, set it up and make sure it is operating correctly.  Cycle it several times, making sure it locks completely on each trip.  The only adjustments are by bending (slightly) various components of the trap.  Be careful doing this.  Lose track of what you're doing and you might as well trash the trap.

If you are a current Termite Renewal Customer, we will lend you a squirrel trap at no charge if you pick it up at our office, and drop it off after you're finished with it.
Map to United Exterminating Company

Just give us a call, let us know about your problem, and we will insure that there is a trap here in the office, and available for pickup.

We will have an exterminator on hand, when you make your pickup, to show you how to use the trap, give you complete instructions and answer any questions you might have. For this reason, we want the person who is to use the trap to pick it up so our instructions won't be second-hand.

We will also rent traps, at a preferred rate, to our Regular Service Customers.  Rentals can include delivery and instruction only, or can include the pickup of trapped animals.

We will also rent or sell these traps to the general public.  Prices will depend on whether you pick this item up or whether we deliver it to your home or place of business.  If you are local to us, prices include instruction in the use of this trap.  You can be an "expert" in no time.  We deliver from our trucks in our regular three-county area.

                           - DETAILS -
Call in for more details, or visit our OnLine General Store for trap purchase information.
Hav-a-Hart Squirrel Trap #1040 (2A)


Each house is different, even if they might look exactly alike, and each will experience different problems during it's lifetime.  So if you discover a squirrel problem in your own house, and have even MORE questions, just post your question(s) on our 'infamous' Squirrel Message Board - where you can usually find an eclectic bunch of exterminators, trappers, animal control experts, and then there's me.  Post your question and get an answer.  

For the most part, if you're handy, and don't mind getting up on ladders, you can do just about everything yourself for the cost of just a few dollars and your own time!

If you came here from another site, please visit our main Squirrel Page for even more information concerning squirrel control.

All the Popups on the Squirrel Trapping Page

I keep this site in flux and under constant construction.  If you have any comments or
recommendations about my Web site, you can tell me about it
right here.

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