How to get rid of squirrels

Squirrel Sitting on Home Roof

© leekris / Adobe Stock

If your home, yard or garden has been invaded by squirrels, you might feel a bit helpless. Squirrels are small, fast and elusive. They aren’t easy to catch and they can cause serious damage to your property. Some will eat your garden’s vegetables. Others will chew through your attic walls. The possible problems that can result from squirrels are seemingly endless. Don’t succumb to the annoyances of squirrels. You can be proactive and eliminate these nuisances so that you can return to your customary peace and quiet.

Follow the advice outlined below to get rid of those pesky squirrels once and for all.

An Overview of Squirrels


Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn

Squirrels belong to the Sciuridae family. This family consists of medium to small sized rodents. There are all sorts of squirrel types including tree squirrels, ground squirrels, red squirrels and flying squirrels. Most have very slender bodies with large eyes and furry tails. While they are cute to look at, they can wreak havoc on your home, yard, and garden. They make an incredible amount of noise and they chew and claw through just about anything. Their paws are so sharp and precise that they are often used to descend trees head-first.

Squirrels live in every type of habitat but for the most frigid polar regions and the arid deserts. While they prefer to eat nuts and seeds, they’ll also eat insects in order to survive while living in your attic. They’ll chomp away at your garden’s vegetables as well. Their teeth are quite large and can penetrate the toughest nuts found in nature. This means that they will chew right through your home’s walls and electrical wire.

Unfortunately, squirrels breed rather rapidly. They can breed up to two times per year and it only takes three to six weeks for them to give birth to numerous babies. While the majority of squirrels die in the first year of their lives, older squirrels can live upwards of 5 to 10 years. There have even been instances of squirrels surviving for 20 years in captivity.

If you hear noises coming from your attic, there’s a good chance that you have a squirrel or another type of rodent living up there. Some squirrels make noise by rolling nuts around. Others will create very annoying sounds as they scurry around the attic searching for insects, nesting materials or a warm spot. Some squirrels will chew away at your attic to create large entry holes.

They are especially active during the day while other attic dwellers like mice, opossums, rats, and bats are nocturnal. So if you only hear the scurrying and scratching sounds at night, you probably don’t have a squirrel problem. While flying squirrels are a nocturnal type of squirrel, chances are your active nighttime pests are not squirrels.

Since squirrels are quite small, they can find their way into attics more easily than most homeowners would imagine. They are superior climbers thanks to their light bodies and incredibly strong paws. They typically choose to live in an attic because it is convenient or because of its location in relation to their typical home space. Some squirrels will chew right through your home’s fascia boards to enter the attic.

Don’t live with this problem. Squirrels will produce annoying noises until you eliminate them. Don’t assume that they’ll eventually starve to death up there. They can survive on insects and some will be savvy enough to enter and exit the home through tiny openings.

However, if they do end up starving to death in your attic, you’ll eventually have to remove them as their decomposing bodies will produce an awfully dreadful smell.

Removing squirrels from your home’s attic is not mission impossible. Begin by inspecting your home. Look for possible entryways that squirrels might be using to access the attic. Perhaps you have a small entry hole that you had not noticed before. Oftentimes, there are opening in roof vents or eave gaps that are just large enough for a squirrel to fit through.

Eventually, you’ll have to set your own traps or contact a professional pest removal service.

Why you Shouldn’t Kill Squirrels

Photo Credit: Kai Schreiber

Photo Credit: Kai Schreiber

While trapping squirrels is illegal in most states, it is legal to kill a squirrel with a snap trap in almost every state. The states that permit trapping typically require that you kill and dispose of the squirrel on your property when it is captured. Consider whether you want to do this.

Every jurisdiction lets you place steel over your home’s holes to prevent squirrels from entering. However, you should inject a dose of common sense into your squirrel fighting tactics. You aren’t being watched by the law in an Orwellian manner. Nobody is going to call the authorities on you if they see you relocating squirrels that you’ve trapped. Still, it is worthwhile to check out the specific regulations of your state’s department of wildlife to find out the exact details of your local laws.

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So, after you’ve trapped your attic’s squirrels, don’t kill them. Some types of squirrels are actually endangered. For example, in Olney, Illinois, those who trap or kill an albino squirrel might face criminal charges. Those who run over this type of squirrel in Olney can be fined up to $500.

Besides, squirrels are cute and they are just trying to survive. While their scratching and scurrying is surely annoying, they don’t deserve to die. Be nice and let your squirrels loose far away from your home. Take a drive to an open area at least five miles away and let the squirrels out there.

However, it is worth noting that there are plenty of states that have classified red and grey squirrels as “game animals” that you can legally kill for food consumption. But the hunting of game animals requires a hunting license that must be acquired before the actual killing of the squirrels.

No jurisdiction in North America allows for the poisoning of tree squirrels. There are actually no poisons registered for the killing of squirrels. When homeowners use rat poison to kill squirrels in their attics or other parts of the home, these squirrels usually crawl into very tight spaces before dying. Their corpses rot in these tough to reach areas and they are nearly impossible to remove without investing in a significant repair job.

Yet homeowners can almost always legally kill a ground squirrel with poison. These are considered to be nuisances to the public as they often burrow right into water lines, gas lines, playground equipment, orchards and nut groves. A license for the poison is always required.


Photo Credit: Audrey

Photo Credit: Audrey

Instead of waiting for squirrels to find their way into your home once again in the future, be proactive and take preventative measures. Take some time out every month to thoroughly inspect your home. Look for damage and rot by the roof line. Pay particular attention to any holes that you spot. If you find any possible entryways for squirrels or other rodents, don’t put the repair project off until you have the time to address it. Fix the problem now to prevent another infestation.

Seal all of the holes. Consider using hardware cloth or chicken wire for these spaces as well as your home’s most vulnerable sections. Staple it right to the plywood and then apply an animal repellent to the area. Be sure to install heavy duty steel screens behind your home’s vents and large entry spaces. Always trim your trees so that squirrels can’t easily hop right onto your roof.

Take care to not leave trash outside of your home for long periods of time. Don’t let it accumulate inside your home either. Squirrels along with just about every other type of animal are attracted to trash, especially trash with food remnants. While the use of ammonia laden rags is cast off by many as a folk remedy, it actually works. Place these rags in strategic spaces along with commercial squirrel deterrents. Don’t forget to apply them to potential nesting spaces within your attic.

Consider repellents with predator urine. This non-toxic remedy repels squirrels quite effectively. However, no preventative measure listed above will be enough in and of itself. They must be used in combination with one another throughout the year.

Trying to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Yard?

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn

While it might seem impossible to remove squirrels from your backyard, it can be done. Squirrels are not only annoying, they can be dangerous and hurt your finances. Backyard squirrels will dig holes in your garden, eat the fruit from your trees and eventually gnaw at your home’s wood and wiring. They even carry diseases. There is no reason to accept squirrels as your backyard residents.

Unfortunately, squirrels can climb just about anything. They’ll climb your trees and home without a second thought. This makes it difficult to exclude them from a specific part of your property. Keep your tree limbs trimmed very short to prevent squirrels from jumping onto your roof. Eliminate all unnecessary outdoor food sources as well.

Certain states require homeowners to obtain a permit or license before removing specific types of tree squirrels. So check your local laws with your fish and game wildlife department before proceeding with squirrel elimination methods.  Traps will control tree squirrels of small populations. However, you’ll have to constantly position, check and empty your backyard’s traps. This requires considerable effort and time. You can resort to poison baits but they might end up harming other types of wildlife. Place tree squirrel traps in elevated spaces like tree branches, rooftops and fence tops.

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Place ground squirrel traps at ground entrances to capture them as they burrow into the dirt. Pick out burrow openings that don’t have debris. Areas with signs of recent dirt displacement around the openings are ideal for traps. Put the traps inside of boxes at openings that are at least 3 inches in diameter. This way, you’ll only catch squirrels and possibly other very small rodents.

It also helps to remove piles of leaves and brush from your yard as squirrels love areas that provide cover. Attack burrows with a rototiller or a shovel to constantly turn over the soil and deter squirrels. Don’t bother filling burrow holes as squirrels will likely come right back and re-open those old burrows.

Squirrels in the Garden

Any homeowner with a garden must go out of his way to fend off squirrels. Squirrels will eat your vegetables, fruits, berries and young seedlings. Some will even ruin your garden’s flowers and munch on your bird feeder’s seeds. Position your bird feeder at least 8 feet above the ground and away from trees so that squirrels can’t jump right onto it. Bury lemon or orange rinds beneath your garden’s soil. They act as natural squirrel repellents. You can also use garlic cloves next to your spring bulbs. Even garlic powder and cayenne pepper will suffice when placed on your garden’s soil just before its plants bloom.

Some have found that human hair and dog hair also act as squirrel repellents. Check out your local stores for motion activated sprinklers. While these are designed to keep cats and rabbits out of gardens, they’ll also help to scare away squirrels as well. Other solutions include peppermint oil, vinegar and the plants described below.

Crown Imperial Photo Credit: Andrea_44

Crown ImperialPhoto Credit: Andrea_44

Plants from the Narcissus genus like jonquils and daffodils have a distinct flavor that squirrels can’t stand. They also have poisonous components from bloom to bulb and require little care. The Fritillaria imperialis from the Liliaceae family, also called the Crown imperial or Kaiser’s Crown, acts as a fantastic squirrel repellent.

They grow beyond 3 feet in height and emit a musky smell that squirrels hate. Marigolds also have a very pungent smell that detracts squirrels. The crocus tommasinianus, or Snow crocus, will bloom from March through April and send squirrels on their way. Finally, allium, a perennial from the Liliaceae family has an aroma reminiscent of garlic and onions that repels squirrels.

Shooting Squirrels

get rid of squirrels by shooting themI used to have an aunt who decided to go all Rambo against the squirrels in her attic.

She went up there with a .22 and waited for a squirrel to show its face… then she’d shoot it.

Not recommended, but quite understandable.

Squirrels have a way of making one go mad and needing, on a visceral level, to kill.

I’ve nailed squirrels with a BB gun, with a pellet gun, with a slingshot and with a shotgun.

In the city, you’re limited to BB guns or pellet guns, and even then you need to be careful you don’t get reported by nosey neighbors.

This rifle is a good choice:

A pellet gun is good for getting rid of squirrels

That’s the Ruger Blackhawk piston-driven .177. It shoots pellets at 1000 fps. That’ll punch through a lot. The only thing about that gun is that you need to shoot good pellets for accuracy. Mine didn’t like the cheapo pellets.

Still a lot cheaper than a real gun, plus it’s legal to buy right off Amazon.

If you don’t have time to shoot the squirrels yourself, have one of your sons do it for you. Good times.

If you live in the country, I’d get a Ruger 10/22, or, if you live further out in the country, just get a shotgun so you don’t need to be as accurate.

Now, here’s a good idea for getting rid of squirrels by shooting them: set up a squirrel feeder in your yard. Just an upright log with some peanuts or corn kernels on it is fine. Keep replenishing that spot with food and the squirrels will show up again and again.

Place the feeder in a good location so you can snipe with your gun. Every morning you should be able to nail at least one.

Using Nature To Get Rid of Squirrels

A hawk will get rid of squirrels

A hawk patrolling my gardens

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Nature does a lot of its own pest control.

The reason monocultures often don’t work well is because they’re an imbalanced ecosystem.

Squirrels become a dominant species in suburbia because the apex predators are usually gone. Homeowners remove dead trees that could house hawks and owls, kill snakes, and keep their lawns tidy so predators don’t have any hiding places.

They also feed the squirrels with feeders, whether intended for squirrels or birds.

This selects for hordes of squirrels and doesn’t allow the ecosystem to sort itself out.

Suburbia is squirrel paradise.

However, you can strike back by providing places for owls, snakes, hawks and other predators. Yeah, your neighbors might not like it, but I have found that my species-dense food forest has few problems with squirrels. They’ll rob a peach tree now and then, but they also get killed by snakes and snatched up by predatory birds. Hawks in particular are a great way to get rid of squirrels. Getting them to show up in suburbia isn’t easy, though. You’ll probably have better luck attracting rat snakes (who will happily eat squirrel babies).

Uses For Squirrels

Now since I’m not a fan of just killing without getting some extra use from my kills, let’s look at a few uses for the squirrels you knock out.

Eating Squirrels

First of all, you can eat them.

I find that squirrels aren’t all that great roasted without seasoning, but they do make good curries. Skinning a squirrel is pretty easy when you do it right.

Here’s how to skin a squirrel in one minute:

I’ve done that and it works.

Squirrels may also be a life-saving food if the entire grid collapses, so before you wipe out the entire population, you might want to think about gardening for squirrel meat instead of vegetables. What if you raised the population to horrifying levels by feeding them, then started culling meat for the freezer. Just a thought.

Turning Squirrels Into Eggs

feeding squirrels to chickens will get rid of squirrels

“What? Squirrel for dinner? Yes, please!”

Here’s another good use for dead squirrels: chicken feed.

One of the limiting factors when raising chickens is getting your birds enough protein. I’ve killed and chopped up squirrels for the birds and they’re very happy to eat ’em up.

Most people don’t realize that chickens will eat almost anything – including other chickens. Feed them squirrels and they’ll turn the squirrels into eggs. Good trade.

Composting Squirrels

In my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting I share one of my favorite composting methods: making melon pits. That’s basically just a method of burying waste that wouldn’t work on a regular compost pile, then planting on top of it.

Squirrel corpses contain a lot of potential nutrition for your garden, plus using them to feed it has a certain satisfying symmetry. Get rid of squirrels that are eating your garden by turning them into food FOR your garden. Perfect.

Steps for Getting Rid of Squirrels In Gutters

Use Predator Urine: You may not realize it, but predator urine deters pests from congregating around your home. You might consider soaking rags with the liquid and placing them around downspouts and in your landscaping. Since the animals do not like the smell, they’ll be less likely to cozy up in your gutters.

Trim back trees: Take a look at the tree branches that surround your homes. You’ll want to consider trimming back any trees or branches that may act as a path to get into your gutters.

Keep your deck or patio clean: Since squirrels are attracted to leftovers and food scraps, be sure to clean up your barbecue area or outdoor grill after cooking.

Keep your gutters clean: It’s important to ensure your gutters are clean. Squirrels will be attracted to dirty gutters as it can make a cozy home for them to take over. After climbing the ladder to clean your gutters, use a spray to hose down the gutters, flushing any dirt, grime or nests from the system.

Try mothballs: Squirrels do not like moth balls and might stay away if they are placed inside of your gutters, although it is important to note that moth balls are poisonous and should be kept away from children and pets.

Use a squirrel trap: Squirrel traps are available at more hardware stores. Most traps do not harm the squirrel, but simply trap him inside. If you catch a squirrel in a trap, contact animal control to come pick him up.

Contact a pest control specialist: If the situation becomes serious, you may need to contact a pest control specialist to get it under control. The specialist may set up custom traps to catch the squirrel.

Getting Rid of Squirrels in your Gutters

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