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2-15-09 UPDATE: Yikes! It's come to my attention sometime after writing this page that using mothballs to ward off squirrels may well be illegal across the United States these days. Maybe these laws were passed sometime after our own use many years ago-- rendering this a historical document and much less useful to squirrel problems. Apparently it's too dangerous to use mothballs this way. But making a law against it still doesn't solve the severe problems some folks have with squirrels. And lots of folks can't afford to pay professionals $thousands to solve their problem either. We tried those ultrasonic gadgets, and they seemed to work about as well as thumbing your nose at the animals. Does anyone out there know of a less risky but cheap (and legal) way to repel squirrels out of your attics and from inside your walls? If so, please contact me with the info. Thanks! END UPDATE.
Teen injures eye after BB ricochets off of tree by Robert A. Baker / The Post-Standard; December 26, 2008
I can vouch for this happening in real life: you can fire a BB, it strikes a hard target, and bounces straight back into the eye you used to aim with. Crap!
My eye glasses of the time protected me.
Certain conditions are necessary for this mirroring effect, such as the target surface being fairly flat and at right angles to your gun. But ricochets (indirect or second-hand bounces) could theoretically do it too: I've shot squirrels around corners before with BB ricochets, when I couldn't target them directly (they were hiding behind a beam).
The power behind the shot and the hardness of the target are also factors. The weaker the power, the easier to get a bounceback. The softer the target, the less likely to get a bounceback (some BB guns are variable power you can select by pumping more or less; CO2 cartridges also weaken as more shots are expended).
The range matters too. The longer the range to target, the less likely you'll get the mirroring effect.
I was able to dispense with my own targeting of squirrels many years ago, due to finally hitting upon methods to get them out of my hair housing-wise (which was lucky for me, as my eyes also got too bad to reliably hit them any more). But I believe I've personally killed somewhere between 600-800 squirrels with BB guns. And only a tiny number with true firearms (real guns are overkill for squirrel hunting).
By contrast, my dad's probably up to 5000-6000 kills just in the past 20 years. With an unknown number before that. And he's still at it to this day. He uses a laser sight! Ha, ha.
These latest of Dad's kills all took place in an area only maybe the size of a quarter of an acre, sporting only a dozen or so trees-- and within a town!
Squirrels are a huge nuisance in east Tennessee, chewing holes in houses (which helps mice, birds, and bugs get in too), making racket all night in attics and inside walls to keep people awake, chewing on electrical cables (potentially causing fires, electrical power spikes or outages, etc.), not to mention possibly spreading ebola-like diseases like the hanta virus in worst case scenarios. They also scamper across roads causing wrecks. They're basically cute rats that live in the tree tops.
Mouse and rat poison doesn't work on them, because they won't eat it. It may even be formulated to repel squirrels.
Ultrasound appliances don't do much with them either in my experience.
Mothballs are the ticket to make them evacuate an attic or wall (they produce a gas that's poison to everything, including people, but will dissipate within days unless you use too many). Then you fix their entry holes to keep them out. Throwing a few mothballs up into an attic helps clear it within hours. Throw too many though and you'll have a possibly dangerous stink in your living quarters too for a few days. Mothball gas is heavier than air and flows down. With enough mothballs and the right house construction, the gas will flow down from the attic through the inside of the walls and into the basement, and kill all the bugs in your house there, too. Including some of the biggest and meanest spiders, silverfish, and cockroaches you might be hosting. It can take years for these pests to repopulate after a heavy mothball dose. Mothballs evaporate fastest in hot weather, slowest in cold.
Once, I had squirrels living inside the walls below some storm windows (where a newer window is retrofitted over an original to achieve a double-paned 'dead air' space for insulative purposes). I drilled some very small holes in the sills to access the wall's interior, than placed a fragment of a mothball there, shutting it up between the panes, so the gas had nowhere to go but down into the wall. Being that this was in an old and loose house, I also temporarily spread some vaseline around the closed window edges inside, to help seal the gas in, and prevent it from seeping into my living space. The squirrels evacuated at high protest, then I filled the interior space with that hardening foam stuff, through various handy seams between wall and floor in the vicinity.
I've not had to shoot any squirrels for many years now, since chasing them out and patching the holes and filling empty voids with foam.
One bad thing about shooting squirrels is the progeny of the survivors get ever smarter, learning commando tricks to avoid getting shot (evolution in action). Recall you get a new generation every year. After 5-10 years of a clan living in a shooting gallery, the end result is very few survivors, but those few are slick as hell.
When your house is sealed up tight so that they can't move into your attic or walls, squirrels will tend to build nests way up in various tree branches. Once all the leaves have fallen and the limbs are bare, you can easily spot the nests. They look like lots of leaves loosely glued together.
I mention this because once your local weather has turned sufficiently cold, the squirrels will tend to stay inside those nests; sometimes a nest might even contain more than one squirrel at a time. Which means you can take aim in broad daylight at the naked nest and begin shooting into it to kill any squirrels inside. Hopefully you'll have a full CO2 cartridge for this, rather than having to use a pump-action, so you can litter the nest with several repeat shots in rapid fashion, striking at different areas in the leafy accumulation. If you do this too early in the season, or before you've had sufficient cold spells, the squirrels might be too spry and able to escape. And you probably won't get a second chance at catching them in the nest. They seem to abandon nests if they even once detect metal balls hurtling through them at frightening speed. So bide your time until you're sure they're in there.
Unfortunately, in places like east Tennessee in 2008, global warming is stealing away our winter season entirely, so that the squirrels might never be caught in their nests anymore.
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