Lupe Perez loves animals, which made her discovery one hot August afternoon last week even more upsetting.
Her cat had jumped into a neighbor’s yard on the 700 block of Wenonah Avenue, and when she chased after it, she heard a scratching noise coming from a nearby roof.
“I thought, ‘Oh my god, what’s that noise?'” Perez, 72, said. “At first I thought it was electricity sparks.”
Instead, it was a squirrel trapped in a cage. Temperatures were in the 80s that day, and she figured it had to be close to 100 degrees on the roof.
“They were cooking themselves up there,” Perez said. “I was so upset with those poor animals trying to get out of there.”
Scott Slate, 41, owner of the home, first noticed scratching noises coming from inside the walls and in the attic of his house after he and his family moved in three weeks ago. The family discovered holes in the roof, so his first intuition was to call pest control.
“I need to protect my investment; it’s really up to me how I do that,” Slate said. “If it’s capturing a few squirrels and relocating them, then that’s what I need to do to make sure they’re not destroying my house.”
Smithereen Pest Control set up traps around the three holes in the roof and is relocating the 10 captured squirrels. They also set up a piece of cardboard around one hole. When it didn’t move for an extended period, they knew the squirrels had moved on after the holes were patched up.
Perez, however, was upset with how the animals were treated and speculated that pest control euthanized each one.
“It really breaks my heart,” Perez said. “If I could go on a ladder and let them go, I would, even if he shoots me.”
Slate owns a cat and dog and says he is also an animal lover.
“I emphatically made sure that these squirrels have not been euthanized,” he said. “It would be silly for me to kill them when he could just drop them off a few blocks away and fix the holes.”
Slate’s family had a problem at their previous home on Fair Oaks Avenue when a squirrel somehow entered, climbed through a heating vent and ended up on the Thanksgiving dinner table before they chased it off.
Slate and Perez have since reconciled their differences and the 50-year resident of the neighborhood is coming over for coffee and banana bread next week.
Jason Pounds, senior animal control officer for Oak Park, said trapping squirrels is legal as long as you’re licensed and the animals are inside your home or causing property damage. Trappers can release squirrels 100 yards from the disturbed property, but the department of agriculture recommends euthanizing any trapped skunks or raccoons.
“They’re the animals out there that can carry rabies,” Pounds said. “Plus they’re a nuisance because they’re destructive and can be aggressive.”
Victims of squirrel mischief should only use trapping as a last resort, Pounds said. Trimming any branches hanging over roofs or vines on the side of a house and placing bird wire on windowsills and gutters is the best remedy.
Residents should never feed squirrels because it makes them more comfortable with human contact and leads to them entering attics and chewing screens, he said. Also, clean up any debris from birdfeeders daily and keep trash cans securely covered.
To flush a squirrel out of an attic or awning, soak a rag in ammonia and put it in the area before patching up the hole.
“You can trap them every day, and you’re never going to get rid of them, so the best bet is to not invite them in,” Pounds said. “As soon as you trap them, another one is going to replace it.”