How can you get rid of squirrels in your yard and home? Your best bet is to exclude, rather than eliminate, them. You can also try repellents, habitat modification, trapping, or a mix of all four.
How to Get Rid of Squirrels
For the squirrels that have unleashed a little mayhem across your property, incorporating the following measures will help control their numbers.
Restricting access to your house and portions of your yard is the most effective way to handle a squirrel problem.
“Screening or blocking all potential entrance sites, such as small gaps under the eaves, overlapping roof sections, and knotholes, can prevent tree squirrel access to buildings,” the University of California Integrated Pest Management office says.
UC Pest Management also suggests you:
- Install sheet metal (26 gauge) or hardware cloth (0.25 or 0.5 inch) along the siding and other potential entry points. These can deter squirrels from gnawing their way into your home.
Check to make sure there aren’t already any squirrels rummaging about your attic or crawl spaces beforehand, though. If you don’t, you risk accidentally trapping these animals inside. A trapped animal can cause even more damage in its attempts to escape.
- Cover utility wires. Wrap non-electrical cables in 2- to 3-feet lengths of light PVC pipe. Cut the pipe lengthwise, spread it open, and place it over the wire. The squirrel will fall off the tube as it spins.
- Wrap a metal collar two-foot-wide around trees, at least six to eight feet above the ground.
- Build a cage around your plants. Pest-proof cages use one-inch mesh or chicken wire. Make your own DIY cages to protect your patio plants.
For burrowing squirrels, bury at least 6 inches of fencing underground and bend at a 90-degree angle to prevent digging into your garden, or you can add an electric fence.
- Apply thick mulch, pea gravel, or decorative items around your plants to keep squirrels from digging in your planters.
Modify Their Habitat
Besides exclusion, you can manage the squirrel population by creating spaces they’ll more naturally avoid and by limiting access to water and food sources.
- Trim overhanging tree branches to prevent them from reaching your home.
- Cover trash cans with a tight lid or keep them in a secure location.
- Rake up fallen acorns, fruit, or seeds from around bird feeders and trees.
- Remove standing water from dripping faucets, holes in your yard, or anywhere water accumulates after rain. Empty bird baths until you’ve solved your squirrel problem.
- Install squirrel baffles on the posts to keep squirrels out of your bird feeder. Place bird feeders away from your home or trees that squirrels can jump from or buy squirrel-proof bird feeders.
- Don’t feed squirrels. Everybody says that, but you can set up a squirrel feeding station (a basket of assorted nuts) at the edge of your property, so these animals will congregate there, rather than near your home and garden.
If your home sits on heavily forested land then exclusion and habitat modification may not be possible. Fortunately, from DIY to buying online, there are squirrel repellents readily available.
Natural and DIY squirrel repellents
- Spray them. The easy, cheap way to scare squirrels off is to squirt them with a hose. You can also install a motion-activated sprinkler system to keep them at bay.
- Get a pet, even if it’s a plastic one. A dog or cat may enjoy chasing squirrels out of your yard. Plastic owls installed in high places like your roof or a tall post can keep squirrels at bay.
- Treat your plants, like bulbs and flowers, with a mixture of cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika, or other spices around the base of your plants. After it rains, reapply. Add it to your bird seed. The birds won’t taste it, but the squirrels will. Store-bought capsaicin sprays are also available. Do not use repellents on the fruits and vegetables you intend to eat.
- Grow squirrel deterrents by planting allium, daffodils, garlic, or fritillaries with your spring bulbs because rodents of all kinds will avoid them.
Chemical squirrel repellents
Consider applying store-bought repellents around plants and near potential entry areas of your home. They come in spray or granular form and are often made with thiram, a fungicide.
You should only trap squirrels that have made their way into your home since outside is where they belong.
- Choose your trap: One- or two-door live trap cages are the two humane trapping options available.
- Place your trap: Good locations are in front of entry points, in the attic, or in the crawl spaces of your home. Check the traps twice a day, especially in attics where heat can kill the animal.
- Bait your trap: The PennState Extension suggests using nuts, peanut butter, or slices of oranges and apples as squirrel bait.
- Empty your trap: After trapping one (or several) intruders, release them back into your yard. The Humane Society says that relocating wild animals isn’t always the best option as the animal is likely to die. If you don’t want them on your property, contact a local wildlife professional to remove them.
- Protect your home: Follow up with exclusion measures to ensure these rodents can’t break in again.
Why You Should Control Squirrels
Why would you want to get rid of these bushy-tailed creatures in the first place? They seem harmless enough, scurrying about outside feasting on fallen acorns or sprawling across tree limbs to reach buds and seeds.
Problems arise when these squirrels invite themselves to:
- Eat your food from the vegetable garden or bird feeder
- Dig up your lawn in search of nuts or to bury food for later
- Nest in your attic or crawlspace and chew your wires
“In residential areas, squirrels cause damage because of their tendency to gnaw on structures. They will chew siding and under eaves to make openings for their nests,” the PennState Extension explains.
“Once they have made a nest, squirrels will chew on insulation [and] wires. This habit is dangerous because the bare wires may cause a fire. They also travel along power lines and may short out transformers.”
Signs of Squirrel Damage
Since other animals can cause similar lawn and structural damage — think chipmunks, mice, and gophers — be sure squirrels are the true culprits in your case.
A few clues to watch out for are:
Outside squirrel damage:
- Broken bird feeders: Squirrels will typically break the seed tray or canister.
- Torn-up garden beds: Something’s chewing on your fruits and veggies, and uprooting your flower beds.
- Holes in the yard: Squirrels often dig holes that are shallow, 2-inches wide, and have little to no topsoil around them.
Inside squirrel damage:
- Musty smells: Living spaces may start picking up foul odors from dead squirrels, urine, or critter droppings.
- Strange sounds: Busiest in the early morning hours, you’ll hear scurrying, clawing, rustling, or chewing noises.
- Teeth marks: Squirrels frequently gnaw on wiring and furniture or make holes in your vents, flashing, or roof.
Types of Squirrels
Native to every continent except Australia and Antarctica, squirrels belong to the rodent family and are closely related to chipmunks, prairie dogs, and marmots.
There are more than 200 species of squirrels that live all over the world. Various types include Eastern and Western gray squirrels, black squirrels, fox squirrels, red squirrels, and Northern and Southern flying squirrels.
They’re classified into three main groups:
- Tree squirrels: Tree squirrels, the typical squirrel with bright eyes and bushy tails, and known for their frequent chatter. They are also the largest group of squirrels, with 122 species of tree squirrels across 22 genera.
- Flying squirrels: North America is home to only two species of native flying squirrels. They have soft gray-brown fur on the back and flanks, white undersides, a flat tail, and big, black eyes for night vision.
- Ground squirrels: There are 62 species of ground squirrels across the world. Ground squirrels have large bodies, short legs, razor-sharp claws for digging, and they chirp.
Ranging in size from about 7 inches to 27 inches, depending on the species, squirrels do not pose much of a direct threat to humans. If they feel threatened, however, they could bite.
Active year-round, but especially during the fall. They are most active in the early morning hours.
Squirrels mate in late winter and spring, producing one or two litters a year. Each litter has about three to five offspring.
According to the University of Missouri Extension, they don’t typically live longer than four years. Populations are naturally kept in check by illnesses and predators, such as foxes, hawks, owls, cats, dogs, and snakes.
FAQ: How to Get Rid of Squirrels
Not usually. While many home insurance policies cover damage from wildlife, most insurers don’t cover squirrel damage because it’s viewed as avoidable.
Squirrels can carry Salmonella and other potentially hazardous diseases, but transmission to humans isn’t verified. According to the Humane Society, no human has ever contracted rabies from a squirrel.
Not really. Rodents, like squirrels, stopped responding to ultrasonic sounds after only a few days of exposure, according to pest control experts.
If you’re considering purchasing this type of product, do your homework on businesses beforehand, and buy from one with a high reputation. Keep in mind, though, that many people in the pest control business claim that they are ineffective.
When to Call a Professional
Overwhelmed at the thought of tackling your squirrel problem all on your own? Enlist the expertise of a local pest control pro. Armed with years of experience, these folks will evaluate your home and yard to develop a plan that will help end your squirrel problems once and for all.
Main Photo: Mathew Schwartz / Unsplash