Residents of Glen Oaks Village are wondering what is causing squirrels to set up housekeeping under the hoods of vehicles in their co-op.
The situation has gotten so bad that one car was declared a total loss by an insurance company and another required rewiring. In the latest case, a car was left unattended for 36 hours and one of the furry critters had time to build a large nest on top of the engine.
Justin Conklin, a resident and co-op board member, noticed the smell of something burning after he returned from an outing with his family. He then popped the hood and found an empty nest that he was able to remove.
Conklin also discovered that the heat shield blanket under the hood had been chewed through by the nesting squirrels, but there was no damage to the wiring. He had last worked on his car a day and a half before.
This is the second time a squirrel has infiltrated Conklin’s car from underneath the vehicle and built a nest.
Bob Friedrich, co-op president, said a security vehicle there was declared a total loss, while a second one was damaged and had to have a new wiring harness installed.
“The rampaging squirrels have apparently taken their cue from the Occupy Wall Street crowd and are now occupying Glen Oaks,” he joked.
But Friedrich is concerned about what he sees as a growing squirrel aggressiveness and population problem in the area for the last six months. He noted that residents aren’t feeding the squirrels or encouraging them to become tame and that the critters are not being aggressive toward people.
“Last year, some ate through screens and got into attics,” Friedrich said. “We humanely trapped them, painted one of their tails red and let them go two miles away in a wooded area. The one with the painted tail returned in less than 48 hours.”
Since then, he’s learned that the critters have to be released at least 10 miles away so as not to return. Meanwhile, Conklin is hoping a pepper spray mixture will keep the squirrels away from his car.
The city Department of Health does not have a policy regarding picking up aggressive squirrels and referred questions to wildlife trappers.
Aline Euler, education director at Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston, said she has not heard of area squirrels setting up housekeeping under car hoods.
Euler said the squirrel behavior may be due to the critters running out of territory, overpopulation and the fact that it’s mating season. “The early spring and warm weather confuses them and they may be desperate to find nest-building locations,” she said.
Friedrich said he will ask state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) to get the DOH involved in trapping squirrels.
“These aggressive squirrels pose a hazard to children and property and the city needs to deal with this issue,” he said. “They need to be trapped and returned to areas where they can do little damage.”
Glen Oaks Village is located at 70-33 260 St. on 110 acres. It has 2,904 apartments.