Squirrels can be frequent visitors to any yard or garden, but they aren’t always welcome guests. When squirrels become disruptive and destructive, it may be best to take steps to discourage their visits and keep them out of the yard.
About Squirrels – And the Problems They Can Cause
There are more than 275 species of squirrels found around the world, and they’re found on every continent except Antarctica. All squirrels are members of the animal family Sciurida, closely related to chipmunks and groundhogs. Because they are rodents, their strong front teeth are constantly growing and need to be kept in shape with gnawing, chewing, nibbling, chomping, munching, and crunching. It is that constant chewing that can be one of the biggest problems in the yard and garden. Depending on the type of squirrel, the location, and what they can access, squirrels may…
Chew through all types of wires, including electrical wires, internet cables, extension cords, holiday light strands, and power cords.
Chew on garden tool handles, patio furniture, roofing shingles, fence pickets, and other materials throughout the yard and garden.
Eat garden crops or agricultural harvests, including digging up seedlings or edible bulbs in flowerbeds and landscaping.
Destroy bird feeders in order to access birdseed, suet, or other foods, including knocking feeders down or chewing on them.
Gnaw on tree bark, causing damage to the tree that could stunt growth, disrupt harvests, or eventually kill the tree.
Nest in attics, sheds, or garages, disrupting insulation or chewing on wires inside the structure, as well as leaving messes.
With so many potential problems from squirrels, many homeowners and gardeners prefer not to welcome these furry neighbors.
Getting Rid of Squirrels
It can be challenging to keep squirrels out of the yard and garden. These acrobatic rodents easily run through trees and across wires, climb fences, or dig underneath barriers. Making it more difficult for squirrels to access the property can be effective to keep them out, however, and limiting or removing the food, water, and shelter squirrels need will encourage them to move elsewhere. To keep squirrels away…
Trim tree branches at least 6-8 feet away from roofs, fences, and structures. Squirrels can leap shorter distances, so more aggressive trimming can keep them from accessing the property.
Close all access points with sturdy, small-gauge metal mesh, including vents and chimneys. Inspect soffit regularly to be sure there are no holes or cracks where squirrels can get in.
Use squirrel-proof baffles on bird feeders, or choose squirrel-resistant feeder designs that keep squirrels from getting to seed and other foods.
Switch to bird foods that squirrels don’t like, such as hummingbird nectar, Nyjer seed, safflower seed, or foods treated with hot pepper to discourage squirrels.
Do not leave pet food and water bowls outside, and keep trash cans securely covered so squirrels cannot forage for scraps.
Trim hedges and shrubbery so it does not provide thick shelter and squirrels will not feel as secure. Especially trim plants at the base so there is no ground shelter for squirrels.
Clean up windfall fruits and dropped veggies right away so there are no leftovers to feed hungry squirrels.
Use plastic netting, floating row covers, or thin metal fencing to protect garden areas, or opt for sturdy metal cloches around individual plants to keep squirrels away.
Bury fencing at least 5-6 inches deep to keep squirrels from digging under the barrier to access the garden.
Choose plants that squirrels don’t like and use them as a natural barrier for these pests. Daffodils, peppermint, garlic, allium, marigolds, mustard, and hyacinth are effective choices.
Remove open bird baths and replace them with hanging waterers instead so birds can still drink but the water won’t be as easy for squirrels to reach.
Add squirrel repellents around the garden or property line, including predator urine sprays, pepper sprays, or sprinkles of cut human hair.
If it is legal in your area, consider trapping and relocating squirrels to a more suitable home. This is best handled by professionals, who can also advise on other steps to keep squirrels and related pests out of the yard and garden.
For the greatest effectiveness, use as many techniques as possible to deter squirrels. The more barriers and obstacles squirrels encounter, the more likely it is that they will seek out easier food and shelter in a different location.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em
Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to completely keep squirrels away. In areas where there are strong squirrel populations and even multiple deterrents aren’t entirely effective, it can be easier to provide some squirrel-friendly options in the yard. A dedicated squirrel feeding area with an inexpensive critter mix of corn, nuts, and a few sunflower seeds, for example, can keep squirrels occupied and less interested in bird feeders or protected gardens. Similarly, adding a convenient nesting box can allow squirrels to make a comfortable home in an appropriate location instead of digging into an attic.
While keep-away methods should still be in place to ensure the squirrels don’t take over, working with squirrels can be less aggravation and stress than trying to eliminate them entirely. In time, many people even enjoy squirrels’ antics and accept them as part of a diverse and active backyard ecosystem.