Most people regard squirrels as cute, furry, little creatures, but when the 50 or even more squirrels that look so adorable from a park bench invade a yard or attic, squirrels go from pet to pest. It can be tempting to consider the use of snap traps, poisons, firearms, or possibly even nuclear weapons to get rid of pestiferous packs of squirrels, but it’s possible to deal with squirrels humanely, keeping them alive and well, while getting rid of squirrels naturally.
Think like a Squirrel
When considering how to get rid of squirrels without using violent methods that can cause collateral damage to pets, other wild animals, or people, it helps to understand how the squirrel views the world.
Female squirrels that survive to maturity will spend almost their entire lives nursing or pregnant. After mating with multiple males, a female squirrel of reproductive age will bear two to ten young after a pregnancy lasting about 30 days. Born pink, hairless, blind, and helpless, the female’s pups will have to be nursed until they can leave the nest at the age of about 42 days, and then they will continue to be nursed for approximately another 28 days.
While she is pregnant or nursing, a female squirrel seeks to have her nest in an especially secure location. The gray squirrels that do the most damage will typically have multiple nests, the mother squirrel carrying her babies in her mouth from tree to tree to protect them from danger and to move closer to sources of food and water. If the opportunity to nest in a single location indoors presents itself, however, she will prefer to nest in the comforts of a human home.
Male squirrels spend about 70% of their time looking for food. Male gray squirrels will share their food with other male squirrels and with pregnant or nursing females. Gray squirrels will bury caches of food in the ground, remembering where they put the food by triangulating each location from landmarks. (Red squirrels, which typically live in smaller ranges with especially abundant food supplies, do not have this ability.) Male squirrels will also band together to fight predators. They will dart around snakes, forcing the snake to reveal its location. They will throw down nuts and twigs on dogs, cats, and people.
Simply knowing these basic facts about squirrels provides two simple ways of getting rid of squirrels naturally. If you don’t want your attic to be invaded by squirrels, be sure to repair any holes in the eaves or siding at the beginning of the squirrel’s mating season. Gray squirrels have two mating seasons every year, usually in December and May.
And if you don’t want squirrels returning to your yard to dig up nuts, change their landmarks. Changing color schemes can confuse squirrels, except they cannot distinguish green and red. Putting up a light background where there was a dark background or putting up a bright background where there was a dark background can deter squirrels. You can do this by hanging a shiny, reflective surface in your yard after nuts are buried. Or you can put up a statue or a bird feeder to change the landmarks squirrels use for digging. If you are concerned that your furry little friends may not have enough to eat, put out food, but only on the edges of your property. There are lots of pest control products available on the market.
Using Scent to Deter Squirrels
Another way to get rid of squirrels naturally is to make their “scentsual” environment unappealing. Squirrels are small animals that have many larger predators. They avoid fights they can’t win, and they conserve energy by staying in environments where they don’t have to be constantly on the run. This is particularly true of female squirrels that spend up to 3/4 of their lives tending helpless young.
The odors of the urine of predator animals scare away squirrel. Some over-the-counter repellent sprays use the actual urine of foxes and bobcats. The scent is put out at the edges of a property or of a plant bed that is to be protected. Some homeowners use kitty litter to exclude squirrels from their property, but aesthetic and sanitary considerations make this impractical for small spaces.
Many homeowners also enjoy a measure of success using mothballs to keep squirrels out of confined spaces. It is important to remember that mothballs and other odor deterrents only work if the squirrel is not in the protected space. The fumes from mothballs will make squirrels woozy and even less likely to leave an attic if added when the squirrels are already inside. And constant exposure to fox or bobcat scent without actual predators will make squirrels complacent about both predators and their scents.
Using Sound to Deter Squirrels
Another tool for getting rid of squirrels naturally is ultrasound. While ground squirrels usually have about the same range of hearing as people, tree squirrels usually can hear the high pitches that can be heard by dogs. The sonic squirrel repellent operates in the 50,000 Hz range and can make squirrels stay out of an attic or off a property.
These sound generators are designed to work inside properties, including attics, basements and outhouses. People tend not to use them outside because they are electronic and if it rains then obviously they will get damaged because they are not waterproof.
For humanely getting rid of squirrels, which are in your backyard, then using a cage to trap them is the best way to go, see below.
Trapping and Relocating Squirrels
Another method for getting rid of squirrels humanely and naturally is trap and release with a device such as a Havahart Two-Door Squirrel Trap. In most locations, trapping and releasing squirrels is a lawful method of getting rid of squirrels. (In Canada, authorities usually advise against transferring a squirrel problem to another property, and in Ontario, trapping and releasing squirrels is illegal.)
Squirrel traps have to be the right size. A trap that is large enough for a mouse or a rat will not be large enough for a squirrel. Squirrel traps should have two doors. Gray squirrels will cooperate with each other in raiding a trap, one squirrel holding the door open while the other squirrel devours the bait. A two-door trap may catch two squirrels at once, holding them without discomfort until they can be released.
Other Exclusionary Methods
It’s not humane to baby squirrels, however, to trap and release their mother in another location, leaving them to die of thirst, starvation, or predators. During early spring and early summer, when female squirrels are raising their young, it is more appropriate to reduce the squirrel presence on your property by simple hardware changes.
Rollers can be put on lines leading from utility poles to the house. Devices like the Critter Line Preserver take advantage of the fact that squirrels move across lines with their front paws gripping the top of the line and their back paws gripping the bottom of the line. When a squirrel encounters the roller, it moves backward on the line.
At the end of the squirrels’ nesting season, homeowners can install one-way doors and check valves over entrances squirrels use to enter and exit enclosed spaces. This lets newly weaned baby squirrels out but does not let them back in. When squirrels have left on their own, their entry point can be permanently blocked with steel, you can read more about how to get rid of squirrels here.
Every squirrel problem has a natural solution. It’s possible to have a heart while dealing with squirrels, without letting them destroy property and plants unchecked.
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