Don’t be fooled by a cute and cuddly exterior – squirrels are becoming quite the menace in the US.
Following 2010’s warm winter and an unexpectedly generous crop of nuts and seeds, squirrel numbers in certain areas of the US have exploded to record-highs. Sadly, while their bushy tails and bright eyes might capture the hearts of some, fruit farmers are seeing their crops laid to waste, drivers are having constant near-misses trying to avoid the things and domestic pest-controllers have never been busier.
Southern Vermont has been particularly badly affected by overpopulation of squirrels, with farmers having stated that an “infestation” on the current level is truly unprecedented. Squirrels by the hundred are waiting out of sight for apple crops to near perfection, then swarming to orchards and in some cases destroying and entire tree’s fruit in the space of a single afternoon.
And as if to rub salt in the wounds, many are taking only single bites from one apple before moving onto the next, rendering dozens worthless in a matter of seconds. Along with destroying the crops the farmers depend on for their income, squirrels are also known to chew bark away from the trunks of the trees, eventually casing them to die.
Farmers across the country are united in their expectations to face hardships on an annual basis, though none expected this year’s to be a plague of red squirrels.
In one area of South Carolina alone, grey squirrels are known to have killed at least 100 mature trees over recent years.
Biologists expect squirrel populations to occasionally spike at a result of various conditions leading to an abundance of food, but this year’s explosion is on a scale the likes of which none saw coming. Plans to capture and inject squirrels with birth control chemicals are now being considered and in some parts implemented, while other towns have begun using bait laced with chemicals to achieve the same effect.
The prospect of a cull has mercifully been left out of the equation so far.
The abundance of food supplies is also known to be contributing toward a boom in the populations of other rodents, including mice.
Most areas are however being advised that the infestation is likely to come to an end over the coming months, after this year’s acorn and beechnut yield was significantly lower than average. This could represent the very reason why so many squirrels have taken to gathering food from other sources, including the crops of farmers.
This is however of little consolation to the farmers that are seeing their income swallowed up or destroyed right before their very eyes.
Problems are not only being reported by farmers, as motorists in record-numbers are reporting near-misses resulting from efforts to try and avoid flattening dozens of squirrels darting across busy roads. In residential areas, homeowners in growing numbers are also reporting squirrels nesting in their attics and roofs, causing damage to the structure and depositing urine and feces all over the place.