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EnvironMental 'SQUIRRELS'

'Squirrels' Sarah Mariam Koshy

Occassionally some of us, or the luckier few of us, often, notice a cute little squirrel scurrying away in our garden. They always seem to be busy at work hopping from tree to tree and appear chewing on something constantly. So, what am I getting at? Well, these tiny creatures have a mighty important ecological role and they aid in sustaining the ecosystem.

Here's how: Squirrels have a strange habit of collecting seeds, which are their source of nutrients and burying them all around their environment to be found later. Often with time, these squirrels forget where they buried their seeds which leaves them there and that effectively becomes sowing of these seeds. This behaviour of burying seeds for later is called caching, and it changes the composition of a forest, by expanding them and changing the types of trees that are there.

The reason they are constantly seen chewing on things is because they have incisors — front teeth — that are always growing. If they don’t chew on something regularly, their teeth end up growing into their lower jaw and skull. To avoid the horror, squirrels will chew on anything that helps wear down their teeth.

Squirrels are generally considered vermin because they damage homes and structures by chewing openings through the siding and underneath eaves. They also chew through unscreened chimneys and vents to build nests in these areas. Squirrels steal fruits and so they are unwelcome in gardens and fruits orchards. While this troubles the farmer community, we must also understand that urbanisation has led to loss of forest land, where squirrels used to build their nests and found food. In the absence of their natural habitat they, too, have adapted to city and town dwelling.

Here are some ways to handle some situations without causing any harm to our squirrel population:

1. Make sure to trim branches that extend six feet near the roof or any other part of your home so that they do not hop on over from trees
2. Ensure that chimneys and vents are covered with mesh in order to prevent squirrels from entering 
3. Make sure to ask professionals to cover utility lines with PVC pipes as it rotates if any animal tries climbing over it thus preventing them from chewing on the insulation or even getting electrocuted themselves
5. If trapping the squirrel is the only way to get the existing squirrels out of your house then make sure to have professionals carry out the procedure and ensure that they are safely captured and relocated


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