Relocating Squirrels In The Winter – Why It’s A Bad Idea

relocating squirrels in winter

It’s the middle of winter, and you notice a family of squirrels has taken up residence in your attic. You’ve tried to get them to leave, but they keep returning. What do you do? The first thing you consider is relocating. However, relocating squirrels in the winter is not a good idea; here’s why.

Squirrels have a difficult time with relocation during the spring and summer months. It will be more challenging for them to find food, water, and shelter during the cold winter months. In addition, live trapping them during winter can be very dangerous because they are exposed to the cold wind, snow, and freezing temperatures. If it doesn’t die, it will endure so much suffering it will wish it was dead.

So what should a homeowner do when a squirrel enters the attic during winter? You can’t just ignore them and hope they will go away. 

Doing so can result in them doing damage to your home and chewing on wires, which is dangerous for you and your family. In addition, killing them in your home can result in dead animals in your walls and ceilings, creating an unpleasant smell.

We’ll share some tips to help you deal with squirrels in the cold winter months in the most humane methods possible. 

Will Squirrels Survive Relocation In The Winter?

According to the Humane Society, squirrels have the lowest relocation survival rate compared to other animals. With a mere 3% survival rate, relocation, especially during the winter, is a death sentence.

The reason 97% of squirrels relocated fail to survive is that they cannot overcome the disorientation and unfamiliarity of the new area and don’t know where to find food, water, and shelter.

These rodents become familiar with their natural habitat. They know where to find their food caches, who their competitors are and where they live, and which areas are safe. 

When you relocate a squirrel, you remove it from its home, family, and resources. The chances of the displaced squirrel surviving are slim in a new area with unfamiliar surroundings.

Is It Cruel To Relocate Squirrels In The Winter?

As mentioned, relocation is hard on squirrels, regardless of the time of the year. However, their survival rate is lower during the winter, which can be cruel, as they are exposed to the dangers of extreme cold weather.

Relocating a squirrel in the winter will likely result in starvation, dehydration, hypothermia, and predation from other animals.

For these reasons, relocating a squirrel is not advisable if it is done in the winter months. Instead, more humane methods exist for dealing with squirrels in the attic during winter.

Euthanizing May Be More Humane

In some cases, euthanizing the squirrel may be more humane than relocating it in winter. When done correctly, euthanasia is a painless and peaceful way for an animal to die. This video discusses tips on humanely euthanizing a squirrel.

However, you should always consult with wildlife experts or professionals before deciding on this method of dealing with a squirrel in your attic during winter. 

Every state has rules and regulations regarding euthanasia, so you must contact your state wildlife office to receive information on how to proceed.

How to Kill Squirrels Humanely?

Depending on where you live, there are several methods to euthanize a squirrel. Before euthanizing a squirrel, contact the department of agriculture in your state. They will be able to provide you with the necessary guidelines for humanely euthanizing a squirrel.

The allowed methods for euthanizing wildlife will vary. However, some of the most common methods involve live trapping. Once the squirrel is trapped, they will remove the squirrel and drown them. Other states allow residents to shoot the squirrel after it is live trapped.

Several pest control companies or wildlife removal specialists in your area can humanely do this for you.

Prevent Them From Coming Into Your Attic During The Winter

Not everyone is comfortable killing squirrels, so we’ll share some alternative methods for dealing with a squirrel in your attic during winter.

  • Cover all entry points with mesh wire and seal them off entirely with silicon caulk.
  • Trim any tree branches near the house so they cannot easily climb through an opening or window.
  • Clear away vegetation, debris, and anything else that may provide a hiding place or access to the house.
  • Place one-way exclusion doors on entry points so that any squirrels already in the attic can leave but not re-enter.
  • Use Repellents – Place natural repellents around your foundation walls and attic entry points to deter squirrels from entering. Peppermint, ammonia, cayenne pepper, and garlic are all-natural repellents that can be used.

Following these steps, you can humanely deal with squirrels in your home during the winter.

Best Time of Year to Relocate Squirrels

Relocation during any time of the year is hard on wildlife. However, if your state allows it and you don’t feel comfortable euthanizing a squirrel, the best time for relocation is early autumn or spring when the weather is mild and more food sources are available.

With global warming, however, the best time for relocation may vary from year to year. Use your judgment; for example, if there’s a huge warm spell and the trees have plenty of acorns, then it may be an ideal time to relocate the squirrels.

Their chance of survival is greater in the spring or autumn since these are both times when food is more plentiful, and temperatures are milder. In addition, they won’t have to worry about high snow drifts and cold temperatures.

5 Tips for Relocating Squirrels In The Winter

This video discusses why it’s a bad idea to release a squirrel in the winter. If you decide to relocate a squirrel during the winter months, here are five tips for helping them survive.

#1 Protect Them From The Cold

When live trapping, consider the elements. If you live trapping on a particularly cold or windy day, consider covering the trap with an old towel or blanket to protect them from the elements while they wait to be relocated.

Also, check the trap often to ensure they don’t spend more time in it than necessary. Leaving the squirrel inside the metal trap outside the element can quickly become too cold and even freeze to death.

#2 Consider Lethal Trapping

In most instances, it’s more humane to lethal trap a squirrel in the winter. However, depending on the type of trap you use, you’ll have to destroy the squirrel by shooting, drowning, or fumigating it.

Instead, consider using a conibear trap to instantly capture and kill the rodent. A conibear trap is more humane in that it instantly kills the animal. 

These traps are dangerous and will kill any animal that goes into them, so use extreme caution when setting them.

Also, check your local regulations before using a conibear trap, as some states prohibit their usage.

#3 What’s The Temperature Like?

Take the weather into consideration when relocating a squirrel during the winter. Try to avoid releasing it during the extreme cold. Their chances of survival are much lower if released during the coldest days.

For instance, if you live in an area that experiences long winters and heavy snowfall, the more humane method is to euthanize them. Releasing them in frigid temperatures is a slow and cruel way for them to die.

On the other hand, if you live in an area with mild temperatures and some foliage coverage, then releasing it may be a viable option.

#4 Is There A Good Food Supply?

Relocating a squirrel requires finding an area that is conducive to its survival. This means releasing them in an area with food sources and access to shelter.

Consider the amount of foliage in the location where you’ll be releasing it. Is there enough vegetation for them to eat? Do they have easy access to nuts, acorns, and other foods?

Also, remember to release them at least 10 miles from your property. Otherwise, they’ll just come back.

#5 Are There Babies?

Before removing a squirrel from your attic, ensure she doesn’t have babies. Relocating a squirrel in the winter can be difficult for her babies if they are too young or still entirely dependent on their mother.

Instead of releasing her into the wild, contact a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. These people specialize in rescuing animals, treating, and caring for wildlife animals. They have the proper training and permits to remove the nest and care for the babies until they are old enough to be released.

Final Word

Relocation is not a good option if you find a squirrel in your attic during the winter. It can be cruel and result in death for the animal. Instead, use more humane methods to eliminate squirrels, such as using exclusion techniques or consulting with professionals about euthanasia.

Doing so will help ensure that the squirrel won’t suffer and will have a better chance of survival.

If you relocate them, waiting until winter is almost over is best. 

In the United States, the official end of the winter is March 20th. Therefore, this is the earliest time you should consider relocating squirrels, as they’ll have a better chance of survival.

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