'Squirrel issues': Post residents reminded to call in pest problems, even outside the home
May 16, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 16, 2012) -- Squirrels can be a nuisance -- especially when they invade your car or home.
For on-post residents at The Villages of Benning, when rodents cause damage in or around the house, it's time to put in a work order.
"Just like you call in someone to fix your dishwasher, you can call if you're having squirrel issues," said Keith Lovejoy, housing chief with the Residential Communities Initiative.
Peak squirrel mating season is from December to January and from May to June, so there's often a rise of related problems in the spring and again in the fall, after a new generation of squirrels has reached maturity, said Brent Widener, natural resources specialist with the Environmental Management Division, Directorate of Public Works.
While the animals often move into houses, "just looking for somewhere to live," Widener said, there haven't been any reports of squirrels in houses on post since 2010.
"It seems like the majority of the problems are their vehicle," said Amanda Weeks, community director for The Villages of Benning. "So they may not be calling us because … they don't think they need to tell housing to do pest control outside of their home. But we can come out and set traps in the right location to help control the population in the problem areas. And then to take care of your vehicle, you call in a claim to (the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate)."
Soldiers, Family members and DoD civilians can call in a claim if the damage happened while their car was parked at their residence or workplace on post.
"When damage does occur, the first step is to call the military police to make a report," said Cenneta Gunn, OSJA claims examiner. "It's three days or less to process the claim in our office. When they file a claim with us, the first thing they're required to do is file with their car insurance and then the government will consider their deductible. It could take two to three weeks for the check to be deposited in their account."
While the OSJA claim only covers the deductible, the entire cost of repair could be upward of $1,000, Gunn said, depending on the level of damage.
Gunn said she's seen some cases where the squirrel gets into the car and tears up the upholstery because the windows were left cracked open. In one instance, a squirrel entered while a spouse was making trips between the car and the kitchen, unloading groceries. That's why Gunn recommends being cautious about leaving the car door open and lowering the windows more than an inch.
Most of the damage to the cars, however, has resulted from the rodent biting at the wires.
"A squirrel is just like any other rodent, his teeth are constantly growing," Widener said. "They're just gnawing and chewing trying to keep those teeth whittled down."
There's no way to squirrel-proof a car, he said, but residents may want to avoid keeping bird feeders on their lawn, because it draws rodents -- as well as predators, such as snakes, -- right to their backyard.
The primary method of control doesn't harm the squirrels. They are captured live and released elsewhere on Fort Benning, "way away from the housing areas," Lovejoy said, so they won't come back.
The maintenance line -- 706-685-3929 -- is open around the clock, and residents should have a response from pest control within two business days, Weeks said.
"We take all these calls very seriously," Lovejoy said. "We have to do our best to take care of situations, but we have to be aware of the problem to actually address it. So what we really want to do is make people aware that they can call … and their problem can be addressed."