How to Get Rid of Squirrels


If your problem is with squirrels in your attic, then click the link and read this post How to Get Rid of Squirrels in the Attic.

Cute little squirrels are among the most beloved brown furry creatures of the natural world—until they devour a flower bed, empty a bird feeder, burrow under a foundation and cause a floor to slant or a door to stick, chew through wiring in the car, or start a fire in the attic, this is when you need to know how to get rid of squirrels. Squirrels who take up residence in human dwelling places can be a major nuisance. And in the United States squirrels sometimes even transmit typhus (in the south-eastern states) or Lyme disease (in California).

How to Get Rid of Squirrels in Your Backyard

Every squirrel problem begins in the yard. Millions of ambitious home gardeners plant strawberries and tomatoes. Millions of hungry squirrels seem to wait for weeks to devour the fruit. Millions of homeowners decorate their grounds with flower beds. Millions of hungry squirrels gobble up expensive bulbs even before they have a chance to sprout.

Squirrels in the yard nibble at seeds, bulbs, and young transplants. Fruit and berries of any kind are at their mercy. They urinate and poop all over the yard, and they scarf down the seed you leave out for birds. From your yard, they may enter your attic or burrow under your home’s foundation. The very ground on which your house or flat rests can collapse years after squirrels have left the scene of the crime.

There are at least ten simple and lawful ways homeowners can banish squirrels from the yard. Killing squirrels usually isn’t legal and usually doesn’t work, but these ten humane approaches and pest control products may do the trick:

1. Put up mesh netting over flower beds until they are established, and over berries and tomatoes when they begin to bear fruit

Polyethylene mesh netting is a simple and affordable solution for both squirrel and bird control. Squirrels can’t gnaw through polyethylene, and squirrels that are old enough to forage on their own cannot wiggle through openings less than 20 mm (about 3/4 of an inch) wide. (“Chicken wire” is not tight enough to keep squirrels out.) Netting allows plants to benefit from sunshine and rain while keeping the area free of rodents .

The caveat for using polyethylene mesh netting is that it must extend over the entire plant bed and there must be no gaps at the edges. The net must be secured so that it is not lifted by wind or passing animals. Depending on weather conditions, a ring of stones or pebbles may not be enough to keep the mesh in place. The net should extend all the way to the edging materials used to mark off the bed or, if there are no edging stones, to nearby grass. Squirrels will dig through open soil to get under a net, but they will not dig through grass and cannot dig through metal flashing or stone sunk into the ground.

2. Install a protective barrier around the trunks of individual trees

Squirrels don’t eat fruit and nuts from trees they cannot climb. Trees trunks can be protected with a cylinder made from a plastic called Vexar to keep squirrels on the ground. The protective cylinder is dug about 5 cm (2-3 inches) into the ground to prevent squirrels from digging under the cylinder to climb the tree. Or if your tree is sufficiently mature that screws into its bark will not cause damage, it is possible to place metal flashing around the tree, starting at a height of about 60 cm (2 feet).

Protective barriers around tree trunks only work when every tree from which a squirrel could leap into your garden is fitted with a trunk guard. Squirrels can jump up to 5 meters (about 16 feet) from tree to tree, and they can land on the ground safely from branches up to 8 meters (about 27 feet) off the ground. Drooping branches must be pruned so squirrels can not come up from the ground. If you live in a location that gets deep or drifting snow, it is important that the trunk guard extend above the snow line.

Protective barriers are not a permanent barrier to squirrels. Trees have to have room to grow. Cylinders may have to be taken off and replaced every 2 to 4 years. And any crack in the cylinder has to be repaired to keep squirrels away.

Tar paper, newspaper, cardboard, rags, and burlap are aesthetically unappealing, but they offer a small protection against squirrels and other climbing rodents. The horticultural problem with using these materials is that the trunk of the tree will scald if it is exposed to summer sun when they are removed. PVC pipe also protects young trees, but it must be cut away from the tree to allow the trunk to grow.

These methods work for protecting bird feeders. If a feeder is placed underneath a tree, of course, protection from the base of the feeder will not be effective.

3. Deter squirrels with odors they don’t like

Natural deterrents can be part of solving squirrel problems. They are not especially useful for getting rid of squirrels but they can be very useful in keeping squirrels from coming back.

Many homeowners scatter mothballs around young growing plants to get shot of squirrels. Mothballs are deadly to moths, but merely annoying to squirrels. Since mothballs contain 1,4-dichlorobenzene, a suspected carcinogen in people, they should not be used in berry or vegetable beds. Be aware that some teenagers use mothballs as inhalants.

Even better, mark trees and garden beds with red pepper or garlic. Just as red pepper stings the eyes and ears of people, it also stings the eyes and ears of squirrels. Products like Scoot Squirrel and Squirrel Away provide red pepper in a spray-on form. There are no commercial products that contain garlic, but all you have to do is to peel and smash a few cloves of garlic and place one clove every 30 cm (1 foot) in beds you want to protect. The sulfur compounds in garlic mimic the sulfur compounds in the breath of rats about to swarm.

Squirrels steer clear of the scent of predators. Products like Squirrel B Gone and Squirrel Away deter squirrels from entering your property with the scent of actual bobcat and fox urine. Either fox or bobcat urine will send squirrels scurrying away. Some homeowners spread out used kitty litter for the same purpose, although this should not be done in areas that will need to be worked by hand, such as flower beds. Predator urine products have to put out again after rain and snow, and it won’t purge the very hungriest squirrels.

4. Provide squirrels with food and drink at the edge of your property

Sometimes squirrels are really thirsty rather than hungry. When they do not have access to fresh water, they will eat berries, tomatoes, and fruit. Simply putting out a pan of fresh water may be enough to keep the squirrels out of your fruit and vegetable beds. Depending on where you live, however, putting out water may also attract larger animals that feed on both squirrels and pets.

And sometimes squirrels will eat nuts and seeds you place out in a pan rather than your garden bulbs and seeds. A mixture of peanuts and birdseed works especially well. This method only works, however, if you have only a small number of trees on and near your property so you are dealing only with a small number of squirrels.

5. Place barriers on lines and wires leading to your property

Squirrels don’t just climb trees. They also run along wires. Squirrels have to place their front paws over their bodies while the place their hind paws under their body, and vice versa. Any barrier that requires the squirrel to move both sets of paws the same way at the same time stops the movement of the squirrel. Free-moving circular barriers can be placed on guide wires and television cable connections to keep squirrels at bay.

The Critter Line Guard is a set of plastic rollers that can be placed on utility lines to prevent squirrels from causing power and service outages. Whenever a squirrel jumps onto the roller, the roller spins and sends it back to its starting point or off the line entirely.

6. Hang bird feeders at least 130 cm (4 feet) off the ground and at least 4 meters (12 to 13 feet) away from any tree branch

Bird feeders have to be hung far enough off the ground that squirrels can’t jump up to them and far enough away from trees that squirrels can’t jump to over to them. Flying squirrels are undeterred by these measures but most flying squirrels do not live in habitats populated by humans.

7. Put up an electric fence around your yard

Electrified fences are a tried and trusted way to exclude animals from your property. Designed to give any animal (or person) bumping into the fence an unpleasant but harmless shock, electric fences keep your property free of not just squirrels but also other rodents from entering your grounds, if you use the right kind of fence placed at the correct height with a barrier fence.

A two-fence system including a barrier fence inside the electric fence surrounding the area you wish to protect is essential to the success of the fence. Squirrels are insulated from electrical shock by fur. They can leap past an electrified fence quickly enough that they escape being shocked. Putting up a barrier fence to slow them down as the pass over the electric fence, however, ensures that they get a shock to the nose that makes them turn around and molest another property owner.

Electric fences will keep your garden free of not just squirrels but also a variety of critters, including raccoons, skunks, opossums, cats, and most dogs. The barrier fence protects pets and children inside your property from getting shocked, although many older children will test out the fence in various ways at least once to see if it really shocks them. It really does, and they typically won’t try the fence twice. Even small children, however, are not injured by an electrical fence connected to an appropriate charging unit. Never connect an electric fence directly to household current.

Electric fences are operated by batteries, solar powered chargers, or by step-down transformers connecting the fence to household current. These fences have to be regularly monitored for debris on the wire that can short out the fence. Plants that grow into the fence may develop irregularly shaped leaves or burned foliage, but a 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inch) gap between plants and fence is usually enough.

8. Get an outdoor dog or cat

Both dogs and cats sometimes eat squirrels. For that reason, squirrels will avoid scampering across the ground where dogs and cats frequent. However, if you have trees, a dog or cat probably won’t do a lot to purge your squirrel population, especially if you have multiple trees permitting squirrels to jump from limb to limb. Squirrels may even gang up and pelt your pet with nuts or fruit to drive the guard animal away—although when the squirrel is forced to travel across the ground, your pet may get revenge.

9. Use an ultrasonic repellent

Use an electronic squirrel repellent (click the link to read more) such as the T3-R ultrasonic unit which aggravates squirrels by generating various ultrasonic frequencies in much the same way as a strobe light generates various wavelengths of visible light. You can get weatherproof units for outdoor use. You can also use them for indoor spaces like your attic, garage and outbuildings.

10. Trap squirrels for removal at a distance from your property.

Traps that kill squirrels often are not permitted by city, county, state, provincial, or national laws. The legal distinction between squirrels that can be killed and squirrels that have to be relocated is usually a concept called comensality. Comensal squirrels depend on humans for survival. Laws permit killing them. Non-comensal squirrels can survive without human intervention. They are often protected by law. Traps that capture squirrels for relocation to the wild, however, are generally permissible (with a few exceptions to be covered in a moment).

The best trap for catch and release of squirrels is the Havahart Two-Door Squirrel Trap. When a trap has just one door, squirrels may team up to raid the trap by allowing one squirrel to go inside to get the bait while the other squirrel holds the door open. A two-door trap increases the chances that more than one squirrel will enter the trap to get the bait at the same time. A great bait for thirsty squirrels is an apple or an orange hung from the top of the trap. When baiting the trap with peanut butter, it is best to place the peanut butter both over and under the bait pan to make sure that the squirrel enters the trap completely and does not get its tail caught in the door. To learn more read this post on How to Bait a Squirrel Trap – Eight Simple Rules.

It’s usually best to release squirrels at least 2 km (about 1.2 miles) from your home, in an environment where they can find food. Releasing them at the neighbor’s will just bring them right back to your yard. If you are concerned about the welfare of baby squirrels (especially if they are living in a nest in your attic), however, don’t use traps during late spring or late summer, when pups are still dependent on their mothers.

Trapping squirrels is usually legal unless your trap can also catch a protected species. In the UK, it is best not to trap red squirrels (although trapping and killing the invasive grey squirrel is encouraged). In the western USA, many species of squirrels and pack rats are protected by federal law. And in any case, it is usually not a good idea to set out traps where they are publicly visible to neighbors who might report their suspicions to the authorities.

11. Handling Squirrels, Dead or Alive

Squirrels are far less dangerous to human health than rats, but it’s still necessary to handle them with gloves. Squirrels can catch rabies, and bite. There are no recorded cases of squirrel-to-human rabies transmission, but you don’t want to be the first. You can read more about rabies at the The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Pet squirrels, because of their propensity for biting, are not appropriate for children.

Certain species of squirrels can carry fleas that transmit a parasitic infection called typhus to humans, you can read about the symptoms at MedlinePlus. Cases of typhus acquired from squirrels have been reported up and down the Atlantic coast of the USA and the Maritime Provinces of Canada (except Newfoundland).

And in California, western gray squirrels (as well as lizards) can carry Lyme disease (you can find more info about it at the Mayo Clinic). Lyme disease has also been found in red squirrels in Quebec. Getting bitten by a tick that lived on a Lyme-infected squirrel can cause years of hard-to-treat chronic infection. If you are bitten by a tick, be sure to remove it with a lighted match, not tweezers, as tweezers can force the infection into your bloodstream. If you later notice a bulls-eye-shaped rash, see your doctor immediately for treatment.


Mark has a strong background in Engineering and a huge interest in Pest Control as a way of getting rid of rodents and other unwanted pests who can cause a nuisance in your home and garden. You can subscribe to his free daily paper on Pest Control Solutions and follow him on Facebook or Twitter

View Comments

  • I have owned home 29 years and in past week a squirrel keeps attacking the window screen in my bedroom window on the second floor of a tall colonial. I open window and yell and it jumps off the porch Roof. Why is it doing this ? Is it rabid ?

    • No, it probably just wants a warm place to build a nest. However you do need to dissuade it. Have you thought about trapping and relocating the squirrel.

  • You suggest using Vexar Where can I buy this that is able to go around full grown apple tree please? Also tall enough?
    Thank you?

  • Hi Mark, we live in Ontario Canada. We have red squirrels in our backyard which backs onto a creek. These red squirrels gave been here for the add two years. We have never had any problems with other types of squirrels . The red squirrels have stored pine cones in the engine compartment of our car. They have also tried to build anest last September under the hood and tore the insulation underneath the hood of the car. This is getting to be too costly for us. Yesterday the car heated over and the coolant came out while I was on the road coming home. The mechanic at the dealership said that he found 2 pine cones in the fan which made the car overheat. This is the third time that our car had to be taken to a mechanic because of damages done by the red squirrels. Is there some kind of deterrent that we can use before the squirrels kill our car. Please we need help!

  • Do not use peanut butter for bait. After a few minutes, it will be flooded with ants!!!
    Evidently, you never tried this!

    • Fred

      That is a very good point. If you come across this problem, stop using peanut butter.


  • Hey Mark, love the post and these are absolutely great tips and strategies to help get rid of squirrels. A lot of times people don't even know how to tell if it's squirrels or other rodents in their house, here are some tips to identify squirrels in your house:
    Are there noises in the ceilings or walls?
    Are these noises scratching/scurrying noises? Do these noises occur early in the morning?
    Are there chewed holes around the building? In siding, gutters, construction gaps or trim?
    Are there more squirrels than usual surrounding the building?
    Mark, great post and keep up the good work! These are great tips.

  • Mark,I have a softshell pecan tree that was damaged when just a sprig.It now has several large limbs near the ground (less than 2 feet) how can I put a cone on the tree to stop the critters.Ive got a real good crop of pecans this year I'd hate to lose them also will sulfar deter squirrels

    • Hi Willis, there will be little point in putting a cone around the tree if the branches are so close to the ground. The sulfur in garlic is a deterrent. I recommend using more than one deterrent. Your best solution is to apply as many deterrents on this page as you possibly can.

  • Not so fast with the garlic, my pet squirrel LOVES to eat garlic cloves so that won’t work! So save your time and smelly fingers and just add garlic to your salad.

  • hi Mark - I need help with SCENT issues - - first of all, how to eradicate the scent of a squirrel kingdom in my attic (which attracts yet more squirrels from what I gather) - - there are patches of attic floor that are literally saturated with squirrel urine and feces.
    secondly, how do I remove the scent of a human from the traps I have been using ?- both Havaheart and rodent traps (I have not been using gloves prior to this and now see they have wised up)
    does apple cider work?
    and finally, what's the strongest chemical I can use to deter squirrels from entering our attic once we get the clean up handled properly?
    THANK you SO MUCH - in advance, for your assistance !

    • Hi Stacey

      To get rid of squirrel scent, I would start with very hot water and a strong floor cleaner. Then use a bleach and if you still have a problem with the smell, try "Urine Off".

      For getting rid of human scent on the trap, soak it in hot water for one minute. Use gloves while washing and then handle the trap using three sheets of newspaper, or if you are using gloves - remember to only touch the glove at the wrist end.

      Just to state the obvious, block all holes so the squirrels can't get back in.

      Finally, to keep your attic free of squirrels, I wouldn't use a chemical. Sprinkle some red pepper around your attic and invest in the Rodar unit which You can read about it in the review section.

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