How to Get Rid of Squirrels – Once and for All!

Edited by
Inga Cryton
Reading Time: 54 minutes.
Updated: .

Squirrels can be a significant nuisance both in and outside of homes and you need to know how to get rid of squirrels. They wreak havoc on wiring in attics, leaving behind foul-smelling feces, food debris, and nesting materials. Their scurrying can be heard at night while you try to get a peaceful sleep.

Outside, squirrels damage trees and vegetation and create holes in the yard. They steal food from birds and gardens and carry diseases from ticks. Whether squirrels have taken up residence in your attic or are destroying your yard, there are actions you can take.

These methods can effectively repel, remove, and prevent them from gaining access to your property. This is the ultimate guide on how to get rid of squirrels – permanently!

Top Locations Where Squirrels Invade

Squirrels are typically found invading attics and gardens, causing destruction and stress for homeowners.

Squirrels in the Attic

squirrel located in attic

Squirrels find their way into attics via holes in the fascia, attic fans, chimneys, vinyl soffit returns, exhaust ducts, ridge vents, and other openings.

They are agile jumpers and climbers and can squeeze through openings as small as 1 ½ inch in diameter. Squirrels can pull apart terracotta and push loose bricks to gain access inside.

They take up residence in attics because it is warm, dry, and secure from predator attacks. It is an ideal place to build nests, store food, and safely have offspring.

Once the squirrels have found a suitable territory, they then mark the area with their urine to claim it as their own.

Squirrels also have teeth that continuously grow, and gnawing on things such as wires helps them to control the length. They can aggressively chew through shingles, wood, and aluminum as well.

It is difficult to see squirrels actively chewing or trying to get into your home since they flee or hide when a person is nearby. Instead, they send warning signals to other squirrels to scurry away before danger can get near. Once the danger has passed, they resume their chewing, foraging, and nesting work.

Squirrels in the Garden

squirrel in flower pot garden

You will know a squirrel has invaded your yard or garden by seeing its presence and assessing the damage left behind.

Squirrels will dig golf-ball-sized holes in flower and garden beds, the yard, and potted plants. Typically they do this when they are burying or digging up food.

Trees will have missing bark, plants will be gone, and there will be nibble marks on garden vegetables.

Squirrels can be deterred from your garden using a variety of methods.

Methods on how to get rid of squirrels include but are not limited to the following:

  • Spray repellents (chemical and natural)
  • Electronic devices
  • Barriers
  • Noise and lights

Read on to learn about these strategies and more below.

17 Methods on How to Get Rid of Squirrels

Prevention is the best method for how to get rid of squirrels. However, squirrels are determined creatures that may return despite your best efforts.

By having and using a variety of strategies, you can deter or eliminate squirrels from damaging your property.

Before you choose any strategies that involve trapping or harming a squirrel, check with your local fish and game department about what you can and cannot do.

Some states require trapping permits, while others prohibit or regulate rodenticides (poison).

Opt for nontoxic and nonlethal methods before using more drastic measures—contact pest control professionals for assistance when in doubt or for stubborn squirrels.

1. Repellents

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Many excellent repellent options can be used for how to get rid of squirrels from your attic or garden. These create an offensive odor or taste that tells squirrels to stay away.

Spray or sprinkle commercial or natural repellents near entry holes, nesting sites, by their feces, and anywhere near evidence of squirrel activity.

Commercial Products

Refer to the label and usage instructions on commercial repellents. Make sure it is for repelling rodents, such as squirrels.

Repellents are usually liquid or granular, often with ingredients such as naphthalene (found in mothballs), capsaicin, mint, or castor oil.

If you opt for mothballs, keep in mind that these are toxic to animals, pets, and people. The use of mothballs for use in pest control, beyond the label’s instructional use, is illegal in many states.

Natural Options

While commercial repellents often have natural ingredients, there are other natural options you can try as well.

Predator Urine: You can spray purchased predator urine from wolves, coyotes, or tigers onto squirrel-inhabited areas.

  • Keep in mind that these urine sprays need to be reapplied after rainfall.
  • Pets may find these odors offensive as well.

Natural Ingredients: Cayenne pepper, white pepper, coffee grounds, peppermint oil, or garlic mixed with warm water to make a spray can create an offensive odor to squirrels.

  • Spray (or sprinkle) around the perimeter of areas and spray directly onto plants’ leaves or bulbs.
  • Consider testing an inconspicuous spot first to ensure it doesn’t cause leaf damage or staining on buildings.
  • Sprays can be used inside and outside, with reapplication after rain outside.
  • Mint mouthwash is a good substitute for peppermint oil.

Odiferous Plants: Alternatively, you could plant offensive plants such as mint, marigolds, daffodils, cleome, or alliums to offend squirrels’ noses and taste buds.

  • Cleome plants smell like skunks and can deter squirrels, but you may not like the smell either.

Ammonia-Soaked Rags: Use caution when using ammonia. It is not recommended for use inside, such as in the attic. Keep out of reach of pets and children.

Ammonia should be used in a well-ventilated area and should not be mixed with other chemicals. Wear a mask and gloves when handling.

For use outside, hang ammonia-soaked rags on the branches of trees or fences or near nesting sites where squirrels like to hang out.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Alternatively to ammonia-soaked rags, try apple cider vinegar which is also offensive to squirrels but doesn’t release toxic fumes.

Electronic Devices

Electronic indoor and outdoor ultrasonic devices can be used to deter squirrels. There are options for wired-connected, solar-powered (outside), and wall plug-in (inside) devices to best fit your needs.

Remember that even though you cannot hear the sound emitted, your pets likely will. Electronic devices often work best in conjunction with other methods in this article.

2. Traps

Squirrel's live traps

Trapping squirrels can be utilized if permitted in your area.

Various styles offer trap-and-kill or trap-and-release specifically designed for squirrels. These are used with desirable bait, such as peanuts, bits of fruits or crackers, or bird seed.

The trap is placed near nesting or frequently visited sites in your attic or garden. Most traps can only catch one squirrel at a time, so you may need to repeat the process to eliminate them all.

Killed squirrels should be handled with gloves (that can be discarded) and according to your local regulations. Deceased squirrels should not be left out for other wildlife or pets to consume.

Catching squirrel with traps

Live trapped squirrels should be relocated and released at least 3 miles away. Again wear gloves and long sleeves, and pants to prevent bites or scratches.

Consider traveling over a major highway or large body of water they are unlikely to recross. Never release a squirrel onto another person’s property. Refer to local guidelines for the best place to relocate a trapped squirrel.

Keep in mind that trapping is a temporary solution since killing or relocating a squirrel eliminates that particular animal, but other squirrels can take up residence in its place.

Other measures to deter or prevent squirrels from accessing your attic and garden will also need to be utilized.

3. Poison

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Using poison to kill nuisance squirrels can be illegal, ineffective if permitted, or pose other risks. Opt to use this method if permissible in your area and if all other deterrents are ineffective.

The following are significant issues when using poison to get rid of squirrels:

  • Wasted Money: Depending upon the product used, squirrels may not find the poison desirable and, therefore, will not eat it.
  • Inhumane: Some may feel that killing a squirrel with poison is inhumane. Squirrels that ingest poison will start to drool, have tremors or seizures, and painfully die.
  • Deceased And Stinky: If a squirrel dies in your attic, or worse, in between the walls, you are left with a rotting corpse that may be difficult to get out.
  • Risk To Other Animals: If a beloved pet or other wildlife eats a poisoned and deceased squirrel, they also eat the poison and can die.
  • Exposure To Harmful Chemicals: Poison comes with warning labels since it is dangerous to animals and people. It has to be stored out of reach of pets and small children, as well as handled properly to avoid harm to the user of the product.

4. Do Not Feed Squirrels

how to get rid of squirrels
Eliminate accessible meal opportunities by taking down bird feeders and covering your trash.

If you feed your pets outside, remove the food bowls as soon as they are done eating.

If you are a bird-watcher and desire to keep your feeders, install baffles or use squirrel-proof feeders. Keep in mind that birds often kick seeds out of feeders onto the ground for squirrels to enjoy.

Consider putting a chicken wire-covered bucket under the feeder to collect stray seeds and keep the squirrels from eating them.

You can also sprinkle some cayenne pepper into the birdseed mix; the birds will not mind, but the squirrels will!

If you want to have a vegetable garden, squirrels will want to enjoy the fresh produce as well. However, you will need to use other methods to keep them out (more on that below).

5. Tidy the Yard

In addition to keeping food sources out of your yard, it is crucial to keep the yard tidy too.

While decaying fallen leaves can provide nutrition to the soil, they also hide fallen nuts, berries, and other snacks.

Tidying up the yard will uncover and eliminate these readily-available food sources.

6. Install Physical Barriers

Fencing, netting, and pole baffles can help keep squirrels out of gardens and bird feeders.

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Electric fencing is an option, but it also poses a risk to humans and other animals. Fences, in general, should be buried at least 12 inches deep underground to keep pests from digging underneath.

Keep in mind that squirrels can effectively climb textured surfaces. Therefore, they can still get over fencing that does not extend over the top of a garden.

A greenhouse offers an enclosed structure for keeping squirrels out of a vegetable garden.

Thin aluminum flashing can be wrapped around tree trunks with stainless steel nails to keep squirrels from chewing the bark.

Chicken wire or hardware cloth (mesh) can be installed under topsoil to line the surface. The mesh allows the roots to grow but prevents squirrels from digging.

Wire mesh can also cover holes that access roofs yet allow moisture and air to flow while denying entrance to rodents.

Plastic bird netting can be wrapped around fruit and vegetable plants, which allows moisture and sunlight in, but keeps squirrels out.

7. Block Attic Entry Points

Remember that squirrels can chew through a variety of materials. However, ensuring all holes and gaps are filled makes them less likely to find your tempting attic space.

Inspect the exterior of your home, including the roof, eaves, and exterior wall, for any damage or holes. Repair them immediately with appropriate repair materials such as plaster.

Seal any openings and seams with waterproof caulk.

Apply caulk around electrical wiring and plumbing fixtures that go into the home. This will help to reduce the chance that a squirrel will gnaw at the spot of the entrance to make it bigger.

If a squirrel is gaining access through a vent or air intake, cover it with secured mesh screens or purchase a commercially-made one that fits your vent. This can keep out other pests as well.

Chimneys should have a chimney cap or mesh screen that is bigger than the flue but smaller than the crown.

Ensure the chimney area is regularly cleaned and free from buildup or debris to prevent carbon monoxide buildup or fire hazards. A professional chimney sweep can take care of this for you.

8. Install A One-Way Exit From The Attic

Some trap-like devices are one-way only and can be used in attics. This is where the squirrel leaves the attic through an opening to the outside but then cannot get back in.

9. Make A Noisy Environment

Play loud music in the attic, bang on the ceiling and walls, bang on pots and pans, and talk loudly.

In the garden, hang several windchimes, along with some ultrasonic devices.

These noisy disturbances make a squirrel’s potential habitat undesirable.

10. Light It Up With Lights

Like noise, you can flood the attic with bright lights or a strobe light.

For the garden, use motion-activated bright lights to make the area less desirable for squirrels.

11. Get A Pet Dog Or Cat

Dogs and cats will chase many animals in the yard, including squirrels.

If they spend a lot of time in the yard, they will likely scare the squirrels away. Instead, the squirrels will hopefully move on and find another place to nest, store food, and eat.

Remember to avoid using poison and make sure pets are updated on vaccinations to keep them safe in the yard.

12. Use An Owl Decoy

Place a fake owl in your yard, in trees, on fence posts, or even on the roof.

Owls are predators of squirrels, and their presence will help keep squirrels away. So make sure you move the decoy around often, or else the squirrel will get used to it.

13. Put Down Gravel Mulch In The Garden

If squirrels are going after your bulbs, use gravel mulch to make a heavier top layer for the squirrels to dig through.

Use this in conjunction with other methods for the best results.

14. Use Motion-Activated Sprinklers

Motion-activated sprinklers can scare away squirrels, and other animals, such as deer, when they get too close to gardens.

As a bonus, you can water the plants without using chemicals or offensive odors near your vegetation.

15. Trim Trees And Remove Climbing Vines

If you have tree branches hanging over your roof or vines that climb the exterior, remove them altogether. These plants give your squirrel easy access to your roof and, potentially the attic.

Tree branches should be trimmed with caution or professionally to avoid causing personal injury or damage to your home.

If planting a new tree, keep it far away from your roof to avoid this problem in the future.

16. Place Down Spiky Mats On Topsoil

Spiky mesh mats allow plants to grow but are often placed around bushes and plants to keep cats away. These may work for squirrels as well.

The spikes do not cause injury since they are typically plastic or rubber, yet they make an uncomfortable surface to stand upon.

These may work for squirrels, but some may be motivated to look past the spikes to get to a tasty treat.

17. Hire Exterminators

Exterminators can be costly but helpful if you’ve exhausted all other options.

Similar to the potential results of other methods, an exterminator may be needed repeatedly when new squirrels come to your property.

Exterminators can also help identify and remedy issues attracting squirrels to your property, allowing you to take action against future infestations.

Wildlife experts and rehabilitators may be able to help you with your squirrel problem as well.

Chipmunks vs. Squirrels – How to Get Rid of Them

Chipmunks can climb and chew like squirrels and burrow underneath the ground. They also tend to live in attics for a safe, warm area to live and store food sources.

Many of the methods above can also effectively repel or prevent chipmunks from entering your garden or attic.

Conclusion

The presence of squirrels in your attic or yard can cause frustrating and persistent damage.

Repellents, traps, and poison (where permitted) are commonly used to get squirrels out.

Other methods, such as using noisy and bright objects, installing physical barriers, and repairing and sealing entry holes, are effective at preventing squirrels from settling in at all.

When in doubt, contact wildlife rescue or professional exterminators to assess and handle the situation safely and adequately.

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