What is the best way to prevent red squirrels from chewing through screen window coverings? – John Bradley, via email
Red squirrels are the Terminators of cottage-country pests: unwavering, persistent, practically unstoppable. “They’re the most notorious little buggers for making holes,” says Glen Robertson of Robertson’s Wildlife and Pest Control in Coldwater, Ont. One way to keep them out—since the best way would be to turn your cottage into a windowless concrete bunker—is to change or reinforce the window screens. Either replace regular screens with heavier-gauge metal ones or, even better, says Gary Ure of Second Nature Wildlife Management in Kingston, add a layer of hardware cloth with 1/2″ openings or diamond-mesh lath on top of the existing screens. “It doesn’t make for the prettiest view,” he admits, “but you don’t need to keep it forever.” Try this double-screen strategy for a season (use washers and short screws to attach the screens, so you can kick them out in an emergency), and then take them down the following year. You may have only one problem squirrel; eliminate its entry point, and by next summer—hasta la vista—it may have given up, moved elsewhere, or died.
Make sure you’re not attracting squirrels to the cottage: Move bird feeders away from the building, cut back overhanging branches, and remember that kitchen food smells—especially baking—will encourage them to climb right through open windows. (So don’t leave any pies cooling on the sill, Grandma.)
And sorry, Red: Trapping—live or otherwise—is an option, say our experts. “It’s not nice, but you’ve got to defend your property,” says Robertson. “You would not believe what kind of damage one red squirrel can do.”