Anyone who has ever spent any time watching squirrels knows that behind that cute fluffy façade of innocence is pure contemptuous evil. No matter how darling they seem, every little chitter they make and hop they take is part of their ultimate design for the destruction of you, your home and all of your possessions. And why not? There’s a vast squirrel army out there, and vast squirrel armies set up vast squirrel empires. What the squirrels don’t realize, however, is that most of us are indeed smarter than they are. Smarter and more determined. These are the two traits that will ultimately win the war.
Squirrels are prolific reproducers. If you have a couple squirrels in your yard, there is a good chance you will have many more very soon. Additionally, some squirrels actually find ways into your home, or (if they are red squirrels) can gnaw on wood and do damage to houses, decks, or sheds.
The following article will lend you some ideas on doing just that. It will not, however, cover the use of squirrel poison. Poisons have a tendency to leave rotting smelly squirrel carcasses in your attic and yard. Worse yet, live animals frequently eat dead ones. The last thing we want is the family pet getting sick or even dying because it ate a poisoned squirrel.
Squirrel Control at the Feeder
Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders
Usually, a good squirrel proof bird feeder is weight sensitive. Something as light as a few birds will have no effect. But once the weight of a squirrel hits it, the feeding ports are either closed or blocked off. Some are even designed to send the squirrel flying or give it a slight electric shock. Many come with a lifetime guarantee. Do yourself a favor and spend a little extra on a decent squirrel proof feeder. Anything by Droll Yankees, Brome Bird Care or Wild Bill’s is good. It doesn’t take very long for a squirrel to eat a hundred bucks worth of seed. These feeders pay for themselves in no time.
Squirrel baffles are wonderful if used correctly. If on a pole, place the top of the baffle at least five feet from the ground or the squirrels will simply jump on top of them. Also be careful not to let your feeders hang below the top of the baffle. If your looking to hang your feeder from a baffle, make sure it is hung at least 10 feet away from the nearest squirrel launching pad (e.g. tree, tree trunk, bush, house, fence, shed, chair, post). Look for baffles by Erva, Arundale (Mandarin), Aspects and Droll Yankees.
Bird Feeder Placement
Bird feeders are popular, and common in yards and near homes. Unfortunately, bird feeders have one huge negative: The seed is attractive to rodents like squirrels, raccoons, and mice.
Squirrels are amazing jumpers. If you use a bird feeder, be sure to think about how to put it out of reach of squirrels. Place the feeder in a relatively open space. As mentioned above, put it at least ten feet from launching pads. If the squirrel is jumping from high to low, as from a tree, they can easily jump fifteen feet. So keep your eye on the sky and your feeder in the open. As long as there is shelter relatively nearby, the birds will still feel safe enough to come and visit.
Keeping the joint clean is important. If there’s nothing for the squirrel to eat, it is less like that you will have a reason for him to be there. Be diligent about raking up seeds and hulls from under feeders or use some sort of catch tray for underneath. We like the Droll bird feeder that has a wide tray to catch any seeds, keeping them away from squirrels and mice. You can find it here on Amazon.
Don’t leave any sort of food out. Squirrels will happily dine on pet chow, bread, fruits, drippings and scrapings from your grill, basically anything, which is also why it’s important to have a good tight fitting lid on your garbage can.
Nothing works for squirrel removal like live trapping. Get yourself a good old Havahart Live Trap and get those squirrels outta town. As a little tike I helped my grandpa trap and relocate countless squirrels. We used many things for squirrel bait but never found anything quite as reliable as peanut butter.
These are live traps, so you don’t have to worry about being inhumane or showing up on PETA’s naughty list. You will, however, want to take care when handling the trap with an animal in it. They are wildlife, after all, and you don’t now what they will do when panicked.
To keep the mess to a minimum, spread the peanut butter on a cracker or a small hunk of bread before placing it in the trap. For good instructions on live trapping check out the bottom section of Jonathan’s How to Get Rid of Rodents. If you need to get a solid live trap, you can choose from a variety of them at Amazon.
Keep squirrels out of your attic.
Squirrels stink. They will find their way inside through the smallest of holes, gaps, or vents (usually in your roofline) and have zero shame when it comes to relieving themselves in your attic. I think they might even like it.
They also have a good time chewing on wiring, and having squirrels running around in your attic is an unsettling sound that can definitely keep you up at night.
It’s no fun sharing a home with these pests, and it’s even worse trying to get rid of them. So let’s start with avoiding them. Squirrels usually enter your home through the roof. So. Cut off access to the roof. Trim back tree branches to at least 15 feet from the house so it’s too far to jump. For any cables running to your home, very carefully, with the power disconnected, place long loose fitting plastic tubes with a length-wise slit over them. This way, if a squirrel tries to run across it, the tube will spin and the squirrel becomes a flying squirrel.
If you have a specimen tree near your home that you really hate to cut down, then you will need to focus on patching any and all gaps in your roof and soffits (the area just under the overhangs on your roofline). You will want to use metal, because squirrels can find their way through other materials. We like the stainless steel mesh (here on Amazon that is easy to attached to most surfaces, and won’t mess up the airflow in your roof, which is important.
It’s hard to keep squirrels from digging up your bulbs and flowers and from eating up your veggies without using a fence. And as long as you bury it a good 8-12 inches below ground (they can burrow), fencing works pretty well. Just make sure to use something with a small mesh such as hardware cloth.
While this method works great for your veggies, it does make it a little harder to admire your flowers when you’re looking at them through a protective barrier. For this reason, many products have been developed to help deter the little devils. Many squirrel repellents such as Squirrel Away and Scoot Squirrel rely on hot peppers such as cayenne, red and chili peppers. Ground white and black pepper are also common. These are frequently advertised as both additives for your bird food and as deterrents from forbidden spots.
Many other products such as Shake Away and Squirrel B Gone rely on concentrated predator urine. The idea is simple: hungry killer fox = stay the heck away. These products are meant to be sprinkled, sprayed or hung around flower beds and other squirrel free zones. For instance, Amazon sells Shake-Off Coyote/Fox granules. This may help.
If you’re not a gardener and just want the tree rats to quit chewing on your stuff, find a bitter tasting gel or spray like Ro-pel. For any squirrel repellent make sure to read the directions carefully as it is sometimes necessary to reapply after a certain amount of time or after a rain.
Results from products like these can be quite varied. I make my living at a wild bird feeding store where people complain to me about squirrels at least 872 times a day. So needless to say, I hear many war stories from customers on squirrel pest control. Some people swear up and down about these deterrents and buy them over and over again while others tell me how “it didn’t work worth a darn!” So while I think many of them are definitely worth a try, don’t be terribly surprised if you don’t get the results you were expecting.
Best Natural Squirrel Control
Feed birds safflower seeds
Safflower seed is very common for backyard bird feeding. It is found in many blends and is a favorite of the cardinals. Chickadees, mourning doves and various finches are also glad to eat it. It does, however, have a somewhat bitter taste than many squirrels find unfavorable. You won’t eliminate the squirrels, but you likely will keep them at a distance from your house.
Feed squirrels squirrel food
Invest in some squirrel food. Squirrels love corn, peanuts or whatever else they can find. Whatever you get, go out in the yard and scatter it around. The squirrels will then spend most of the day rummaging in the grass searching for morsels instead of chilling on your feeder. You might also consider a squirrel feeder. Squirrel feeders should be placed lower to the ground (at least at first) so that the squirrels can find them easily. The Birdola Squirrel Kob Bungee is very popular and entertaining. A cob of corn is connected to a chain and a little bungee chord. This gives the squirrel his dinner and you a good chuckle.
Install motion-activated sprinklers
This is a good method for chasing off not only squirrels, but also deer, raccoons, cats, dogs and peeping toms. It does no real damage to any sort of critter and your grass and garden plants appreciate the water.
Use strobe lights
Using strobe lights like the Squirrel Evictor (similar to this product on Amazon) in your attic or crawl space is safe, environment friendly, and just plain bugs the crap out of squirrels. It’s irritating, disorienting and makes squirrels want to get the heck out.
Bring out the big guns
First, a disclaimer: If you don’t believe in using guns, there are many things you can do instead (above). And always check the rules for using a firearm or air rifle in the town, village, or county where you live. We can’t do that for you, only you can do that.
As long as it’s legal to do so where you live, one option is to grab a gun and pop the squirrel. Game over. Or, if you don’t want the game to be over, you can always use a BB gun which technically is not a firearm and likely will not actually kill the squirrel, but could bruise him well and provide a deterrent.
Are there different types of squirrels?
Yes, there are mainly two squirrels in North America and Europe, the Red Squirrel and Gray Squirrel.
The Gray Squirrel is more common and larger. it is a prolific breeder, and have babies twice a year, with as many as 9 at a time! They love to forage for seeds, nuts, and acorns. While a gray squirrel can get inside your house, usually in the attic by way of a tree, they are typically not all that destructive. But when they get inside, there is a good chance they will urinate.
The Red Squirrel, on the other hand, is smaller and less common. In North America, red squirrels are going to be more commonly found in Northern areas and the Rocky Mountains. Think places like Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, and New England. Red squirrels can be destructive! They gnaw and chew on wood to get inside a building, and once inside they chew some more to find insulation or wood to build a nest. You most definitely want to be vigilant against red squirrels.
Do Squirrels Hibernate?
Not really. They might slow down a bit in winter, but you will still see squirrels out in the cold and in the snow. They don’t hibernate because they don’t have bodies capable of putting on enough extra fat to not eat during winter. They tend to be less active in the coldest of weather, though.
There is some proof that squirrels are actually pretty immune to the cold. They don’t have the same brain receptors that causes many other mammals to avoid cold air or cold surfaces.
Do Squirrels Carry Rabies?
Now, some good news. Squirrels are hardly ever found to have rabies. Rabies are much more common in raccoons, skunks, and woodchucks (not to mention bats). Squirrels are very low on the list of animals that you need to worry about for rabies. They can carry other diseases, though, like ringworm and typhus.