Squirrely East Texas
Everything from Squirrel Removal to Squirrel Dumplin’s
By Dana Goolsby
East Texas- East Texas has historically been a stronghold for squirrels. The Pineywoods are home to millions of the furry critters. Some might think squirrels are cute, fluffy little creatures that are fun to watch as they frolic in the trees or in the yard. Others believe they are nature’s terrorists and pose a severe threat to East Texas infrastructure. And, there are even some who just think they are dinner.
There are three types of squirrels that commonly inhabit the Pineywoods. The fox squirrel is the most common squirrel in East Texas and can also be found in central Texas. East Texans often refer to the gray squirrel as “cat squirrels,” also quite common in East Texas. The flying squirrel is the smallest of East Texas tree squirrels. They are not as common as the two species mentioned above and are the only nocturnal squirrel that can be found in the region.
Palestine, Texas seemingly has more than its fair share of squirrels and has for over 100 years.
In November of 1906, the Grapeland Messenger published an excerpt from the Reynard News. The excerpt began, “Syrup making began today by G.B. Kent. New syrup will be on the market right soon.”
Reynard was once an established and growing community. The community was situated 12 miles southwest of Grapeland and 14 miles west of Crockett, known as Trinity Chapel in the late 1800s.
The excerpt went on to tell of a local couple who had struck out for Palestine “hunting an up-to-date dentist.”Jack Beasley and his wife purchased a “carry-all” on their trip and sent word they would be returning to Reynard “in style.”
Before they returned to Reynard from Palestine the Beasley’s sent one more update. This update specifically noted how squirrelly the Palestine area was.
“The woods are full of squirrels and the price of bacon has been cut to a great extent.”
Today, Palestine is still squirrelly. Squirrels roam about the neighborhoods at will, freely in the parks, and through the trees with ease.
Squirrel- it’s what’s for dinner. East Texans have been cooking up squirrels for centuries and although the trend is dying out there are those who continue this practice. Squirrel hunting is deeply rooted in East Texas culture.
For generations, East Texans have chased the bushy-tailed, acorn-hoarding critters through the deep woods. Squirrel hunting was, by far, the most popular hunting activity in East Texas. East Texans would take to the woods in droves, in search of the main ingredients for squirrel dumplings or for another Pineywoods squirrel recipe.
Other folks would never dream of eating a squirrel- not fried squirrel, not squirrel dumplings, not baked squirrel, or squirrel gumbo, or even squirrel mulligan. They will not eat squirrel, not here or there. They will not eat squirrel anywhere. Not in a box or with a fox, not in a house or with a mouse. Perhaps they would not, could not eat a squirrel because they belong to a large family of small and medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae.
On the other hand, perhaps they would not eat squirrels because they had rather watch them play and frolic in their yard. Maybe they love to see the little creatures perched on their porch eating out of a feeder or scurrying from limb-to-limb, chasing one another for hours. The fact is, many people love squirrels. Some people intentionally try to attract squirrels to their home just to watch them while they drink their morning coffee.
One yard owner in Lovelady, Texas located in south Houston County constructed a “Mission Impossible” obstacle course for squirrels hanging around his yard. Over the course of two weeks, the owner added a new section to the squirrel obstacle course every time the squirrel completed the course and got the nuts. Click here to see the Mission Impossible Squirrel Obstacle Course, which proves not to be impossible at all.
Despite savory squirrel dumplings and witty squirrels who can conquer intricate obstacle courses, there are those who despise the creatures and consider them to be East Texas terrorists.
Tree squirrels can be real pests in urban areas. They can and will eat pecans, fruits, berries, birdseed and anything you plant in your garden. They build nests in attics, insulation, and in the walls of houses.
Before you declare your house haunted, you might want to consider the possibility of a squatting squirrel. Sounds of running, tumbling, or gnawing coming from your attic or walls during the day may not be a spook at all, but rather a squirrel who has found his way into your home. If you hear these sounds at night, it is highly likely you have a rat or maybe a ghost because squirrels bed down for the night.
Squirrels can cause extensive damage in one’s home. If you have ever had a squirrel breach your home then you probably know all too well the effects they can have on your insulation, woodwork, electrical wiring and plumbing.
Several Palestine families have waged war on squirrels who invaded their homes. Recently, one family’s ceiling collapsed because a squirrel had chewed off a PVC pipe cap on their plumbing, which in turn flooded the crawl space above their kitchen. Another family trapped a squirrel in their hot water heater closet briefly. The squirrel managed to chew his way through the floor of the closet with ease in order to escape.
What can homeowners do to prevent squirrel damage? There are several approaches to squirrel proofing your home.
Plug up all the holes and trim your trees.
Trim tree limbs over and near your home. Squirrels can take soaring leaps from limb to limb or from limb to house. Limbs that are near or lead to attic openings should be removed. Some homeowners even place sheet-metal bands around the trunk and large limbs in hopes of discouraging squirrels from climbing.
Screen mesh and steel wool can also help hold the pesky critters at bay. Cover all openings with some sort or small netting. Chimney tops, attic vents, openings around the ground level of the house or under-pinning. Screen mesh can also be used to cover your garden in order to protect fruits and vegetables from squirrels.
Exclusion may not deter a very determined squirrel, but it will certainly make it harder.
What can homeowners do if there is a live squirrel in their home?
Move out! No, not really, but you will want to remove the squirrel as quickly as possible before he wreaks havoc on your home and causes damage.
Break out the live trap. If you do not own a live trap or you cannot borrow one, you can pick up a small one from your local tractor supply or feed store.
One thing to consider when trapping a squirrel is the time of year. Female squirrels give birth to a litter of three to four young in the early spring and possibly again in the fall. If you happen to capture a mother squirrel, her young will surely die in your home, most likely causing quite an unpleasant smell. This is something homeowners will want to carefully consider when preparing to capture a squirrel in their home.
Before you bait your live trap, you will need to do a bit of detective work. You need to find out how the squirrel is gaining access into your home. If you are going to go to the trouble of removing him you want to make sure he cannot get back in. You will need to observe the squirrel’s routine.
Inspect the outside of your home for the entrance hole. Squirrels generally leave their nest around dawn in search of food, therefore making this a prime time to catch the squirrel creeping in or out of your house.
Once you find the hole, you can purchase the appropriate material to seal or cover it.
Now, bait your live trap. Squirrels love fruit, peanut butter, nuts, seeds and vanilla extract. Most people have the best luck with peanut butter. Slather some peanut butter on a cracker or two and toss in them back of the trap.
Set the trap in the squirrels path, near the entrance hole. You should set the trap when you have time to listen for the trap to close.
Once you hear the trap close, the squirrel must be removed quickly in order to prevent stress to the animal. Before you even pick the trap up you will want to put on some heavy-duty work gloves. Squirrels have very sharp teeth, and any squirrel in a trap is going to be very angry. Be prepared to listen to quite a bit of complaining on the squirrel’s part.
If you intend to relocate the squirrel, you should first contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Tree squirrels in Texas are classified as game animals; however, they can be legally trapped if they are causing damage. You should also have a planned release location before you even set your trap.
Currently there are no registered toxicants or fumigants in Texas that can be used against squirrels; however, there are some registered repellents. Effectiveness of any remedy will vary from case to case.
Shooting a squirrel in your home is never a good option, especially if you live in an urban area. It is illegal to discharge a firearm within most city limits.
Take a stab at squirrel dumplings! Here’s what you need:
- 3 squirrels, cut up (All hair and shot removed should be removed)
- 1 egg
- 2 cups plain flour
- 3/4 cup broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- salt and pepper
First, boil your squirrels in four quarts of water until they are tender. Remove the squirrels from the broth and allow them to cool. Then remove the meat from bones. Set aside.
In large bowl, mix 2 cups of flour, 1 egg and one teaspoon of salt with 3/4 cup of broth and roll into ball. (HELPFUL HINT- If you don’t want to make your own dough, you can use canned biscuits. Simply roll out the biscuits and cut them the same way)
Strain the broth to remove any stray shot then resume boil. Return the meat to boiling broth.
On a floured cutting board, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough ball (or canned biscuits) to a thickness of about 1/16 inch. Cut the dough into 1-inch wide strips and drop strips into the boiling broth one at a time.
Cook approximately 10 to15 minutes, until the dumplings are tender. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve and Enjoy!
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