These photos were taken by a previous tenant of mine, a photographer with an excellent zoom lens. He realized there were squirrels afoot when he started hearing the sound of skittering animal feet behind the walls on the top floor. There's a couple of long triangular spaces up there, between the inside walls (which are vertical) and the roof (which is slanted). Humans can't access them, but critters can, especially if they chew their way in from the outside. So my tenant went outside one morning when he started hearing the noise, and stood in the driveway, looking up at the house, and pointed the camera at the eaves just below the second-story window. Pretty soon he had clear shots of all three invaders.
There are a few interesting observations to make here. The first is the relative size of the squirrels. I wouldn't be surprised if I was looking at a mother and her two children. The second is the hole itself. Notice how the paint actually goes down inside the hole. That means that this hole has been here for years, ever since before the previous owners painted the house at least. They didn't bother to seal it - or perhaps they were not aware of it, and the painters never told them. On the other hand, if you lean out the top story window and look down, you can clearly see the hole below you in the gable sticking out from the wall. How could they have missed it? Perhaps they thought it was "cute" that squirrels could move in?
If I was raised in Missouri, I'd probably decide to take out all three squirrels with a pellet gun and then staple some wiring over the hole. Problem solved. Except that water can still run down into the hole and corrode the house... Okay, maybe not a complete solution. Also if the squirrel was raising any babies that were too young to move, they would starve to death sealed inside the house, and then decompose. Not a charming idea. I wanted a more humane solution.
Yet again, I was this guy:
I've been here before!
So I called up Wildcare Solutions Inc, and got an education over the phone.
There are two species of squirrel populating Oakland, and the breeding seasons for both of them taper off from May to June (then pick up again later in the year). Once a squirrel makes a nest, it can be as little as a few weeks before it has babies there. Since we're certain that squirrels are living in there now, chances are very high that there are baby squirrels in there too. Stranding the adult squirrel outside without her babies would make her panic and chew a hole back in somewhere else. So in the end, I'd just have more holes in my house.
Or, I could tolerate the squirrels for a few months until mid-June. Baby squirrels remain immobile right up until they're ready to live in the outside world, so once the babies are scampering around, I could install a one-way door over the hole to make sure they all exit, then close up the hole, and immediately bring in contractors to fix the damage with something more permanent. The timing would be important: I would need to fix the hole before the start of the next breeding season, or another round of squirrels could move right in.
I scheduled an appointment with Central Bay Roofing as well as East Bay Roofing, and had them both give me scenarios for a permanent fix. Both of them settled on the idea of installing a long sheet of aluminum over the damaged area, with a jointed edge that fits under the bottom row of shingles, and another jointed edge that overhangs the gable so water can run harmlessly off. Squirrels will chew through wood but they hate chewing on aluminum.
I accepted the bid from Central Bay Roofing, and waited until June. The scampering continued, sometimes a lot of it, sometimes none. I came out one morning and looked at the telephone pole in my front yard, and saw five squirrels on it, hanging sideways with their claws dug in. They were all staring at me, as if to say, "what's up, sucker?"
Eventually, Mr Costa the squirrel expert came out to meet me:
He examined the hole, then went back down to his truck and did a little arts-and-crafts:
When he was done, he had this:
A hand-assembled one-way door, made of wire screening, plastic pipe, and duct tape. He carried it up his ladder and installed it over the hole, like so:
Then he screwed wire mesh down all over the gaps in the woodwork - even the small ones - so any squirrel squeezing out the one-way door would be stuck outside for the day.
There was an identical hole in the gable on the opposite side of the house, so he assembled a second door and covered that one too. He was pretty sure there were no squirrels inside, but putting the doors on for two days would confirm it. He outlined the scenario:
"The squirrels might return this evening or the next, and prod and scratch around the devices, looking for an entry point. If you're around when it happens and you hear it, it would be helpful to open the window and make a little noise to scare them away. Since there aren't any baby squirrels inside, the squirrels outside won't be desperate to get in, but they will still be curious."
Two days went by, and we didn't hear a peep. Mr Costa came by and removed the doors, then added more mesh.
He left behind a screwdriver attachment in case the roofers needed it to remove the mesh - a nice touch. Then the roofers showed up. These guys have balls of steel:
They laid out the aluminum in long sheets on the driveway, cut and bent it, then carried the chunks up the ladder together and welded them into one large piece using a portable kit. I had to look closely at the ladders before I realized they actually had special attachments that were designed for this kind of configuration. The work was all done in two days, including painting.
And that would have been the end of it, except the aluminum that they installed on the back of the house popped up after a week or so, revealing a gap large enough for squirrels to pass through:
Getting Central Bay Roofing to come back and fix this problem took two whole months. Did squirrels move back in and start scampering around again during that time? According to my current tenant, yes they did. But according to Mr Costa it wasn't breeding season yet. So I took a risk and had the contractors re-seat the aluminum in the late morning, when any adult squirrels would be outside. So far I haven't seen any new holes chewed in the house... But who knows?
So how much did the consultations and the repair work cost, altogether? The contract had other work mixed into it, so I can't give an exact number, but I'd say it runs around $4000. Curse youuu, you crazy squirrels!