Plug Test

This 1/2-inch plywood was between a female squirrel and her young, but not for long.
This 1/2-inch plywood was between a female squirrel and her young, but not for long.

The image at the right was a brand new piece of 1/2-inch plywood that was placed over a gray squirrel hole after it left. While the adult did leave, the carpenter neglected to think about the young left behind. The gray squirrel didn’t forget!

The paper plug test is a  great method to find out if a hole is occupied or has been abandoned. Don’t use this technique if you think the culprit is a bat or bird. They will have difficulty getting out. Thanks to Stephen Vantassel for the photo of the plywood as well as the procedures below.

The Golden Rule of Wildlife Damage Management:

Never seal a hole without making sure it is empty.

Equipment needed

  • 2 to 3 sheets of newsprint (not glossy paper).
  • Painter’s pole long enough to reach the hole with 6 inches to spare.


Step 1. Safety: Where are the power lines? You must know where the power lines and other dangers are. If you get too close to power lines with a metal pole, you run the risk of electrocution. Look for dangers at ground level as well. A drop off or slope could cause you to fall while you are looking up and not paying attention to the ground.

Step 2. Take a few sheets of newsprint and wad them around the tip of your painter’s pole so it won’t fall off as you set up to place it into the hole. Press the paper into the hole firmly so it won’t fall out due to gravity or wind.

Newspaper sheets near end of pole.
Wrap newspaper tightly around tip of pole.
Wrap paper tightly around tip of pole.

Step 3. Monitor the hole. If the paper hasn’t been moved in 3 to 4 days, the hole is no longer being used and can be closed off. Wait longer if the weather has been unusually severe. Animals such as raccoons den up, especially in winter during bad weather, sometimes up to two weeks or more.  Never seal any hole unless you are positive it isn’t active. Failure to heed this advice can result in terrible consequences.

Press firmly into hole.
Press firmly into hole.