Jordan Ronson of West Tisbury would wholeheartedly agree with actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who insisted, “You can’t be friends with a squirrel.”

Squirrels, Jordan explained to me on a recent phone call, are “attacking and eating the house.” He is understandably frustrated, and while he hasn’t yet proclaimed war on these marauding mammals, he wants to know why they are persistently pestering him and what he can do about it.

The torment has been total and has continued over a long period of time, with more than 20 years of squirrel struggles. Squirrels have nested in his attic, chewed his deck and foraged on his outdoor furniture.

With their constant and longstanding behavior, it is not surprising that Jordan has begun to wonder if they are passing along their persistence to the next generation. Likely the behavior is learned, rather than inherited.

It is not a personal vendetta. Author and naturalist Hal Borland explained, “You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the idea of a violet.”

The nature and biology of squirrels require their chomping. As rodents, squirrels must chew because their teeth grow continuously their entire life. If they are unable to file and scrape them down, the incisors will curl up into the roof of their mouth and the animal will die from starvation or when the teeth eventually pierce the roof of their mouth and puncture their brain.

However, this propensity to chew can be redirected away from the house. Providing chew toys or alternatives can save furniture, trim, and decking. Suggestions include using sticks, bones or nuts to entice squirrels away from the home. Start by having these things near the affected areas and subsequently moving them further away into the yard or woods. Another recommendation is to place metal hardware cloth on wood that is being chewed.

There are others techniques to negate the gnawing. For furniture, spray or paint the legs with capsaicin, which is the active compound in hot sauce, or other organic deterrents. Remember that reapplications will be necessary after rain. More permanent are paints and other chemical treatments intended for this purpose.

Keeping squirrels out of the house is accomplished by exclusion: basically, covering all holes, soffits, cracks and gaps that allow the squirrels entry. Often these animals are looking for a warm place to den and raise their young. If squirrels have already gotten into your attic or crawl space before you exclude, make sure that there aren’t young already in the nest, or else the mother with do anything to get back to them–including more intense damage. Since squirrels breed twice a year in spring and late summer, these are the times to avoid eviction.

And while trapping is an option, legally, release must be on the property where the animal was trapped. Transporting wildlife and releasing it elsewhere is illegal. If you are thinking about a more (shall we say) “permanent” solution, remember that squirrels are considered game and, thus, hunting activities are regulated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In order to hunt them, one must have a permit and all killing must occur during squirrel season.

Nature lover Henry David Thoreau reminds us, “The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest,” so don’t take lightly that choice, especially if you reconsider the idea that they have generational memory. So, not only will they haunt you but more will take their place and they may continue to nibble on your furniture, house, and deck with a vengeance.

Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature and The Nature of Martha’s Vineyard.