How to Deal with Nuisance Squirrels in Your Yard

Nuisance Squirrels

Squirrels are cute and fun to watch, no arguments there! But these furry little critters conceal a sneaky nature behind those innocent doe eyes and cuddly silhouettes. They’re capable of impressive amounts of destruction to your yard and, if left unchecked, won’t shy away from exploring your house either. Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a few humane tips on how to deal with nuisance squirrels in your yard and co-exist peacefully.

Signs of a squirrel invasion

Bushy-tailed squirrels have a nasty habit of helping themselves to all things edible and not so edible in your yard. They’ll gnaw on tree bark, bird seed, budding vegetables, fruits, and flower blooms, or dig holes in the yard. They’ll even set up nests in attics and crawl spaces if they find a way in. 

Catching these mischievous creatures before they wreak havoc is important. Here are some signs that squirrels are lurking in your yard: 

  • Bitten, half-eaten, or missing flowers and fruits, especially soft and juicy ripening fruits and vegetables like squash, peppers, melons, cucumbers, and tomatoes
  • Munched-on seed heads 
  • Small holes in pots and planting beds
  • Squirrel droppings 
  • Teeth marks on wooden molding and beams in crawl spaces around the house
  • Food disappearing quickly from bird feeders or broken bird feeder
  • Stripped tree bark or nipped-off branches
  • Eaten spring bulbs
  • Ripped garbage bags
  • New mounds of soil in the yard where squirrels bury nuts or acorns for the winter

What attracts squirrels to your yard

There are plenty of reasons why squirrels are so tempted to damage your yard or garden. Some factors that attract squirrels include:

  • Trees! Squirrels love trees, especially those that produce fruit and nuts. If you have large trees around the perimeter of your yard, there’s a fair chance a large squirrel population is lurking. Squirrels nesting in trees isn’t necessarily bad unless the tree’s acorn- or fruit-filled branches are close to or touching your house.  
  • Water and food are big attractions for squirrels. You might’ve set up a bird bath or bird feeders around your property. Birds love them, but squirrels treasure them just as much. Squirrels will do anything to get a taste of what’s inside the feeder, which is frankly very entertaining to watch! Easy food and water sources in your yard are one of the main reasons squirrels keep coming back.
  • Thick vegetation: If your yard has lots of shrubs and hedges, you will surely see squirrels running about them. Squirrels are fond of thick vegetation or other areas with shelter because they don’t feel safe in open spaces. Thick shrubs make perfect hiding and chilling spots for squirrels. 

How to prevent squirrel damage

You need to make your property unattractive to nuisance squirrels to repel and remove them. Here are a few strategies to keep squirrels away:

Remove food and water sources

More often than not, squirrels hang around your yard because they find food and water easily here. Removing these sources should be your first step. Squirrels mostly eat plants in the wild, but truth be told, they will eat anything and everything in your yard. 

Unsecured trash bags, fruit trees, easily accessible bird feeders, bird baths, and pet food all attract squirrels. So, before you install scary spikes or resort to extreme measures like squirrel poison, know that the best way to deter squirrels is to eliminate the things that attract them. 

If you have an established garden with a variety of vegetables, fruit trees, and flowers, you cannot possibly get rid of it just for the squirrels. Here’s what you can do:

  • Remove any fallen fruit from your garden.
  • Put a protective net over fruit trees or shrubs.
  • Store trash in a sturdy trash can with a lockable lid.
  • Bury food scraps deep down in compost piles.

Use squirrel repellents

The most effective way to deter squirrels is to use chemical spray repellents, but be careful. The University of Arizona states that some repellents are toxic and can harm squirrels, other animals, and even humans. They’re also detrimental to the environment. 

Look for natural squirrel deterrents that repel squirrels but are also environmentally friendly. You can whip up a spray concoction or lay down towels doused in apple cider vinegar as an effective DIY remedy. 

Anything that smells and tastes spicy or minty will keep squirrels away. You can make your own repellant by mixing a bottle of hot sauce with a gallon of water. You can also add a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid before spraying it in the yard so it stays longer on the leaves. 

Another tree- and plant-safe addition to this concoction is raw egg. It will make the mixture sticky and more viscous, allowing it to adhere to tree bark. Squirrels will let go of the tree or won’t even attempt to climb it when this sticky mixture adheres to their paws.  

Other than that, you can sprinkle pepper flakes, cayenne pepper powder, or garlic-pepper powder on plants and surfaces. 

Scare them

Dogs and cats are living, breathing squirrel deterrents. Especially dogs. They’re great at chasing squirrels. You just need squirrels to start associating your yard and house with danger and they’ll be as good as gone. Let your pets out in the yard at irregular intervals so the squirrels think the danger is always there. 

Pro Tip: Save your dog’s hair when you brush it, and use it with mulch around your yard. Squirrels won’t come near when they smell predators. 

If you don’t have a pet to scare away squirrels, add a statue or figurine of a similar predator on your property. Plastic owls placed on elevated areas, such as the roof or fence, and around the yard, will do the job. Spraying these statues with anti-squirrel sprays also helps. 

Another strategy to scare squirrels off your yard is to set up mouse traps. Although a mouse trap is one of the most violent pest control products, using them correctly will repel squirrels without hurting them. 

Secure and anchor the mouse traps into areas where squirrels like to dig, and cover the traps with a little dirt or newspaper. When a squirrel starts digging, the motion will disturb the newspaper and set the trap off. The loud noise and shock will have squirrels running for safety. Since you’ll be anchoring the traps in the ground securely, there’s no risk that it’ll capture and harm the squirrels in any way. 

And once squirrels are afraid of your yard, they won’t come back. So, it’s a safe and effective way to get rid of squirrels. 

Spread mulch

If squirrels are damaging your carefully tended garden, an easy solution is to use synthetic mulch. 

Mulch is a thin layer of organic and non-organic material placed above the soil for better moisture retention, and it prevents weed growth and helps deter pests. The best part is that mulch helps your plants grow better and squirrels hate it. Lawn Love has a detailed story on the benefits of mulch that you can learn more from.  

Use inorganic mulch such as pebbles, gravel, rubber chips, plastic sheeting, or chicken wire when laying it primarily as a squirrel deterrent. Squirrels easily get through organic mulch like hay, leaves, shredded grass, and straw. Inorganic mulch has a stubborn texture that squirrels detest digging. 

Apply at least 12 inches of mulch on all sides of your yard or plant beds. A proven squirrel repellent in terms of mulch is layering gravel over chicken wire. 

Install motion-activated sprinklers

Squirrels are small, fast, and love to jump around stuff. They are not natural fighters and prefer to run away rather than stay and fight when they sense danger. The easiest way of scaring squirrels away from your yard is to cause sudden movement or sudden sounds around them. Motion-activated sprinklers are great for that. 

The high-tech sensors can distinguish movement caused by animals from movement caused by wind. All you need to do is adjust the sensor’s angle according to a squirrel’s height, and let it spray water at different intervals to deter these furry invaders. Just like every furry animal, squirrels aren’t so fond of getting wet and will run away. 

Use squirrel-proof bird feeders

Bird feeders are practically squirrel magnets – free buffets of tasty grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits. Their small frames allow them to easily climb trees and poles and steal the food from these feeders, eventually leaving your yard bird-less.

Squirrel-proof bird feeders will frustrate thieving squirrels. It’s best to suspend them at least 5 feet from the ground on a wire instead of putting it down. Make sure there aren’t any nearby objects that the squirrel can use to launch itself onto the feeder. 

You can also place a baffle on your bird feeder if it’s mounted on a stake. A baffle will widen the pole or act as a barrier to the feeder so that squirrels cannot grip it. 

Close all entrances to the house

For curious creatures like squirrels, human homes are very attractive, full of adventure, and cozy. It’s a nice spot close to tons of food sources and offers protection from predators and the elements. 

Look around the house for any possible entry points. An entry point could be a big crack in the foundation, water-damaged eaves, or a hole in the screen door. Close them with an appropriate sealant. 

Some determined squirrels try to bite through screen doors. Your best bet to save your home from their powerful jaws and strong teeth is to use a combination of copper mesh and expandable foam. You can also stuff these thin mesh sheets into openings and close small gaps around with the foam. 

Also, remove anything that a squirrel can use to climb up your walls. Prune tree branches and vines away from the house, and remove any firewood or items like ladders leaning against the side of your house.

Plant flowers that squirrels hate

Squirrels aren’t fond of certain plants, like garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, and mint. The taste and smell of all of these might be pleasant to humans, but squirrels hate them. 

To further squirrel-proof your yard, plant flowers that emit a strong odor or have a bright color. Squirrels hate hyacinth, allium, geraniums, fritillaries, Galanthus, daffodils, and lily-of-the-valley. However, daffodils can be dangerous as they contain calcium oxalate crystals and lycorine that are toxic when ingested. 

Grow these plants around the entry points of your yard and the house to stop squirrels from coming in altogether. Or strategically place them around trees to deter these furry climbers from getting to the fruits. 

Don’t feed them

As cute as they may look nibbling on and stuffing their faces with food, feeding squirrels is an open invitation for them to keep visiting your yard. You’ll create an opportunity for easy meals for a ton of other roaming creatures too. 

Also, counsel your children not to feed squirrels in or around the yard to make sure nothing you’re doing is attracting them. 

Install live squirrel traps

Squirrel traps are designed to remove squirrels from your house or yard without contact. If they’ve found a way to your attic or squatting in a crack or hole in the wall, setting up a live squirrel trap with a tempting bait will help you get rid of them. 

You may buy your bait from a store or make it on your own using fruits, bird seed, nuts, and grains. Opting for the former is better because commercial squirrel baits are specially designed with strong aromas and peanut butter-like consistency that easily attract squirrels. 

Place this bait inside the trap and wait for the hungry, nuisance animals to be lured in. Make sure you choose a humane squirrel trap that is equally effective and durable. Double check that the door on the live trap shuts securely and the spring mechanism is working properly to trap squirrels most safely and quickly.

Keep the attic clean

If squirrels have made their way into your attic, they’ll drive you crazy with their annoying sounds. Worse is the possibility that they may chew on electrical wires that could start a fire or trigger short circuits. 

This is why homeowners with squirrel-prone yards should keep their attics clear of squirrels by eliminating food attractions and entry points. Make sure you clean the attic during the daytime when squirrels are out. You may leave bright lights and loud music or radio for a couple of days before you plan to clean to make sure all of them get out. 

Use peppermint-based squirrel repellents before you come into the attic to clean so there are no chances of encountering one. Once you’re done cleaning, cover up and fill in all the entry points to stop them from entering again. 

Need a hand?

If you need help with executing any of these squirrel-repelling strategies, reach out to a lawn love pro any time to lend you a hand.

Main photo credit: Pixabay | Pexels

Farah Nauman

Farah Nauman is a freelance writer and accountant who traded in her spreadsheet for a garden trowel to pursue her love of gardening. She spends her free time being mom to her three fluffy cats and a dozen little Aloe Veras.