The neighbors upstairs

31 May

A gray squirrel has a snack on campus.

For the past year, my boyfriend and I have shared our home with another couple. They lived above us. We could hear them walking around up there, and we suspect we heard them copulating above our own bed. The problem we had with this couple, though, was that they never paid rent. This is probably because they were squirrels.

The situation came to a head a couple of weeks ago. We had been away for the weekend, and came home to discover one of our upstairs neighbors lounging on our couch underneath an afghan. How did he get there, you ask? He fell into a wall, wasn’t able to climb back up into the rafters, and decided to chew his way out through the wall.

Once I got past the trauma of having a squirrel running around my house digging through the aloe plants and cuddling under the blanket my mom crocheted for me, I began to wonder how and why these squirrels chose our attic — of all places — to be. Was this normal? And did we need to worry about squirrel diseases or something haunting our house now?

Who better to ask than our resident squirrel expert, Carolyn Mahan?

A professor of biology at Penn State Altoona, Mahan’s specific area of study is the behavioral ecology of flying squirrels. Nonetheless she was game to talk with me for about half an hour on a Friday afternoon about my Squirrel Situation.

I learned that all species of squirrels either make a drey — a bowl- or ball-nest — or find a cavity to build their nests in — like our house.

“There was probably a gap,” said Mahan, of how the squirrels got into the attic in the first place. “They don’t need a lot of space to get through.”

According to Mahan, squirrels will readily chew through vinyl siding or wood if there is some sort of hole or gap started there already. And in the case of the insulation the squirrels were pulling out of our roof and throwing onto the deck, it most likely was simply in their way.

An important answer I got from the gracious Dr. Mahan: there will be no squirrel diseases haunting our house. The most danger a squirrel poses, Mahan said, is its habit of chewing through plastic coating on wires — which could in turn lead to either an electrocuted squirrel or a fire hazard in the house.

The good news is the squirrel didn’t do much damage in our house — aside from the nice squirrel-sized hole in our bedroom wall. There doesn’t appear to be any wire damage, and we have since patched up the hole that the squirrels were using as their front door.

There are plenty of nice trees in our neighborhood. Maybe they can hang out in one of those?

Tell me about critter escapades in your own home/office/other personal space in the comments section below. I’m sure we’re not the only ones with a ridiculous story to tell!

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4 Responses to “The neighbors upstairs”

  1. Amie June 1, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    We had the same problem in our old house, the squirrels had chewed a hole and let themselves in the area between the roof and the drywall in the ceiling (through a hole started by hornets, another fun issue) , fortunately they never made it INTO the house… but we were warned that chewing wires/starting a fire was the biggest concern. We had an exterminator evict the squirrels (and relocate them)… they said when there’s one squirrel there’s usually a family of them, but apparently our squirrels were just two. They were cute little buggers… you know, once they weren’t our roommates anymore. Fortunately the situation is fixed now, but what a headache! Glad you kept your sense of humor about it! Nice post!

  2. Amy June 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    I woke up one morning and went into the bathroom….and spotted a chipmunk in the toilet. No kidding. I had to fish it out with a pan and put it outside. The following day I entered the kitchen and a chipmunk was hanging out there. I was so confused. That one I just chased out. The next day I questioned my roommates only to find that one of them was catching the little guys and keeping them in cardboard boxes in his room. He was trying to make baby chipmunks to raise as pets. The end.

  3. Joy June 30, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    I stupidly started feeding a squirrel Cheez It’s several years ago. It eventually started hanging out on my deck, sleeping in the sun, jumping up on the table next to where I was sitting to get a tasty treat. It then decided to ” mark” his territory, peeing on my lounge mat, jumping on the screen door to get my attention and peeing, etc. It would stand at my door if it was closed and look to see if I was there. I sadly decided it was time to cut it off, no more snacks. It took a while, but it stopped the bad behavior. It must have died the next winter because I have not seen it in 2 years now. I knew it was “my” squirrel because it had a deformed tail that may have been run over by a car. I guess I just felt sorry for it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Raptor in residence | Research Matters - December 10, 2013

    […] We haven’t seen our hawk in a while now, so she has probably moved on to a different area to hunt. I probably would have moved away from the clamor of campus as soon as possible if I were her, too. Although she certainly had many fat squirrels to feast on while she was here — if you’re a regular reader, you know how I feel about squirrels. […]

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