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How to Catch a Squirrel (Traps and Baits)

Do you have invaders in your attic? Is the sound of paws clattering across your roof driving you insane?

Can you not put a bird feeder outside without feeding every critter in the neighborhood? Is your yard is destroyed?

It sounds like you have a squirrel problem.

how to catch a squirrel

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What Is a Squirrel?

Squirrels are a type of rodent and mammal, which means they have long, powerful incisors on their upper and lower jaws and are covered in hair.

Tree squirrels are the fluffy kind that you see running around in trees. They're typically red or grey. Ground squirrels can stand up on their hind legs for extended amounts of time and include chipmunks and prairie dogs.​​

Read more: What are the differences between chipmunks and squirrels?

Tree squirrels, which are the kind of squirrels this article focuses on, vary from 18 to 24 inches long. They typically weight about 1.5 pounds.

Squirrels normally don't survive longer than a year in the wild, but can live to be 6-8 years old once they pass that one year marker.

Squirrels reproduce quickly and produce multiple young at once, so it's easy for a squirrel population to get out of control. To prevent this scenario, it's important to trap and release the animals far away from your yard.

Learn more interesting facts about squirrels in this video.

What Do Squirrels Eat?

The standard North American tree squirrel eats a steady diet of fruits, nuts, fungi, and seeds. This can include items like:

  • Apples 
  • Acorns
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Harmless fungus that grows on trees

Squirrels are omnivores, which means they won't hesitate to also consume small animals, young snakes, eggs, and insects.

Where Do Squirrels Live?

Squirrels tend to avoid humans and keep to themselves, as they are wild animals. They might live between the branches of trees, in burrows dug in the ground, or in trees that have holes in the trunk.

Unfortunately, they can also roost in unused human attics, chimneys, garages, and the upper floors of houses.

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Why Are Squirrels a Problem?

Squirrels can cause lots of damage to a yard or in a house if they become trapped inside. Many species of squirrels are highly excitable and will run around, knocking everything down. 

Read more: Getting rid of squirrels in your house

how to catch a squirrel

Squirrels also like to chew, and it's not uncommon to discover that a squirrel has eaten through wires or made off with all of the bird food. Some will even gnaw on decks and other wooden furniture.

These rodents might also chew up the plants in a garden or destroy young saplings. They frequently dig holes around the yard to bury their food stores, and they have no problem stealing freshly planted flower bulbs or the fruit from trees.

For homeowners, squirrels can be a real nuisance. This is where trapping them comes in handy.

How to Catch a Squirrel with Live Squirrel Traps

The most effective way to catch a squirrel is with a live trap. Unlike traps for other rodents like mice or rats, it's uncommon to find a squirrel trap that actually harms the squirrel. This type of animal trap is known as a humane trap. A common brand is the Havahart trap, which is a cage trap with either one or two trap doors.

So, the idea is to capture the live animal and release it in a safe location away from your yard.

How to Pick a Good Trap

There are numerous squirrel traps on the market, which can make it difficult to find the right one. The best thing to do before selecting a trap is to think about your needs. Ask yourself these questions first:

  • How many squirrels do you want to trap?
  • Will you need to reuse the cage?
  • How big is the squirrel?
  • What is your budget?
  • Would you prefer one door or two?

With these questions, you can determine how strong the cage should be, what size to get, and figure out what is in your price range.

Most traps are inexpensive and made from reinforced wire so a squirrel can't escape. They also only hold one animal. However, reusable cages tend to be worth their weight in gold since squirrels are everywhere and can be a constant nuisance.

Squirrel traps with a single door are the favorite among professionals. These traps only have an opening on one end and a pressure plate so the squirrel is locked inside. These are recommended since the squirrel bait can be placed beyond the pressure plate.

Ultimately, a good squirrel trap is one you can use again and again without it breaking down. This will allow you to catch squirrels for as long as is necessary.

If you're more of a DIY person, this video shows you how to make a sturdy, effective squirrel trap.

What Kind of Bait to Use to Catch a Squirrel

There are tons of different foods that attract squirrels. Bait can be anything from corn to peanut butter to apple slices. If you have a squirrel that likes to steal food from your yard, use it's favorite prize as the bait.

So, if the squirrel likes to take bulbs from the flower garden, put some of those in the trap.

Peanut butter is popular because the squirrel can't pick it up and run away from the trap. It also can't maneuver it out of the bars. 

It's important not to touch bait with your bare hands. Squirrels have sensitive senses of smell and can tell when a human touched its food. Some animals will become wary and then avoid the bait because it doesn't smell right.

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What to Do with a Captured Squirrel

Once a squirrel is in the trap, it's time to release it. Most wildlife places recommend that the squirrel be released a couple of miles away from your home, preferably in a wooded environment.

Check your local laws before releasing a squirrel, as it is illegal in some states.

When releasing a squirrel, be sure to wear thick gloves. Squirrels are rodents, which means their incisors give a nasty bite. Nobody wants to be bitten by an angry rodent.

Once the squirrel is gone, disinfect the cage. Squirrels carry multiple diseases that can affect humans, so it's important to be safe and keep everything clean.

Goodbye to Pesky Squirrels

Now you know how to catch that nutty nuisance: The squirrel.

If they continue to be a problem, consider calling a professional pest control company for assistance. They might have access to other baits and traps which are more effective for the squirrels in your area, and they may be able to recommend professional trappers who can assist you in humanely trapping squirrels.

Other Squirrel Guides

Looking for more info about squirrels? Check out these guides and product recommendations to learn more.​​

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