Homeless Squirrels Looking To 'Rent' Chappaqua Attics

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Chappaqua residents have seen more squirrels take refuge in their homes since Hurricane Sandy. Photo Credit: Critter Control of the Hudson Valley

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. - Hurricane Sandy caused flooding and power outages throughout New Castle, and local pest-control agencies say it has also caused more rodents to seek refuge inside homes.

While wild mice and rats sometimes become "tenants" in towns right along the Hudson River, areas more inland - such as Chappaqua - have seen a big increase in instances of squirrels moving into houses, experts say.

Northern Westchester is home to three kinds of squirrels: flying, red, and gray.

“Squirrels like to nest in hollow trees. So when Sandy knocked a good amount of those trees down, they tend to look elsewhere,” said Mickey Wright, owner of Critter Control of the Hudson Valley. “A nice, warm attic is usually one of the first places they look.”

Wright said squirrel calls have increased up to 20 percent in the past three months compared to previous years - and that Hurricane Sandy could be the cause.

He also said that while rats and wild mice are more likely to be found in homes closer to water, inland towns have seen an increase in those, as well.

“What happens is, those guys get pushed inland to neighboring areas. So places like Chappaqua and Armonk have seen a rise there, as well - but not as much as squirrels,” said Wright.

While it is difficult to track their patterns, it is likely that many rats and mice fled the Hudson River area when it flooded during Hurricane Sandy, said Errol Fisher, president of Elmsford-based Citadel Pest Control.

“We typically get calls about mice and rats at this time of year because they are fleeing into homes to get warm. But overall, we’ve seen more than a 10 percent increase this year, especially after Hurricane Sandy,” Fisher said. 

Wright said it is possible that Hurricane Sandy also helped decrease the rat and mice population in some areas, but says his company has seen a 10 to 20 percent increase in calls this year throughout Westchester County.

“We had a very warm winter last year, so the populations of most animals, especially rodents, were way up this year before Hurricane Sandy,” Wright said. “Sandy had an impact, for sure, in bringing that down, as it may have destroyed some dens. I don’t know that it would have permanently chased them out and into homes, but it’s possible that’s been a reason for the increase in calls.”

Fisher and Wright recommend residents take several precautions to prevent rodents from entering their homes. The first step in prevention: sealing up all holes that could lead into homes or garages.

While rat traps, glue pads and other rodent-prevention merchandise is easily available, both experts agreed that those methods are often ineffective.

“Placing traps is not that easy to do right and can be dangerous for little children and pets,” Wright said.

“We get a lot of calls for live trapping, and that’s fine if the mice haven’t made dens in your home. But if they have, it’s very likely they’ll return in the next two days. Overall, trying to trap rodents yourself can be harmful. And bottom line: It’s not effective.” 

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