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.
But first, let’s talk about why you’d 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, though, when these squirrels invite themselves to partake in the spoils of your garden (or your bird feeder), dig up your lawn in search of nuts (or to bury food for later), or nest in your attic or crawlspace.
“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 on its website. “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.”
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.
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, and they’re classified into three main groups: tree squirrels, flying squirrels, and ground squirrels.
Various types include Eastern and Western gray squirrels, black squirrels, fox squirrels, red squirrels, and Northern and Southern flying squirrels.
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 and potentially spread a host of diseases.
Active year-round, but especially during the fall, these animals 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, though, 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.
How to Get Rid of Squirrels
For the squirrels that have evaded such fates and 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 installing sheet metal or hardware cloth along siding and other potential entry points. This can deter squirrels from gnawing their own way in.
Check to make sure there aren’t already any squirrels rummaging about your attic or crawl spaces beforehand, though. If you don’t, you run the risk of accidentally trapping these animals inside. A trapped animal can cause even more damage in its attempts to escape.
2. Habitat modification
Besides exclusion, you can manage the squirrel population by creating spaces they’ll more naturally avoid.
Trim overhanging branches and limit access to food and water sources by sealing trash cans, raking up fallen acorns, placing bird feeders away from your house, and removing standing water.
You can take things a step further and 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.
Of course, if your home sits on heavily forested land, exclusion and habitat modification may not be as possible. Fortunately, there are squirrel repellents on the market you can use.
Made with thiram (a fungicide), capsaicin (an irritant derived from chili peppers), or mustard oil, these sprays can be applied to plants, bird seed in feeders, and near potential entry areas of your home.
The gel-based formulas are not recommended. According to The Humane Society, gel-based pesticides prevent squirrels from climbing branches and other areas, but the gel can also harm other animals, such as birds.
As outdoors is where squirrels belong, save the trapping method for those that have made their way inside. The PennState Extension suggests baiting wire-cage or box live traps with nuts, peanut butter, or slices of oranges and apples.
After trapping one (or several) intruders, release them back into your yard. Follow that up with exclusion measures to ensure these rodents can’t break in again.
Other methods to rid your land of squirrels — or at least prevent them from doing damage — include getting a dog or a cat, planting mint, and adding thick mulch, rocks, netting, or fencing around flower beds, trees, and gardens.
When to Call Pest Control
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 on Unsplash