If you're trying to get rid of squirrels, you've come to the right place.
In this Pest Strategies guide you'll learn:
- How to identify characteristics that signal the presence of squirrels
- About squirrel biology and dietary requirements
- About the six methods of controlling squirrel populations
- Which methods yield the best results and which ones are ineffective
Squirrels have biological determinants (food, mating, etc.) that dictate their behavior.
Once you understand those biological determinants you'll be able to target the little critters more effectively. You'll learn when is the best time to catch or kill them, and their most probable hiding spots.
Let's get started!
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Can Squirrels Be Defeated?
We're bigger, smarter, and more creative than squirrels. So of course they can be defeated, although “controlled” is perhaps the more appropriate term to use.
Here's the catch though; you're fighting for your yard, they're fighting for their lives. What does that mean?
It means they're coming into your yard, house, garage, etc., because they're hungry and looking for food. Think back to a time when you were “starving” and felt like you were going to die if you didn't get something to eat right then. You were so desperate you'd have done anything to get some food.
In the Book of Genesis, we have the story of Esau who was so hungry he sold his birthright to Jacob for some bread and a pot of lentils. That decision destroyed his whole life. The point is, you'll do anything if you're hungry enough.
That's how squirrels feel . . . (literally) all the time. But squirrels don't have human intelligence to guide them or temper their actions. They're operating solely on emotion (hunger) and instinct (foraging).
As a result, they become very persistent. They don't give up until they get what they want.
- and willing to do anything
How Can You Identify Squirrels and their Trails?
Squirrels are easy to identify. And if you're reading this you already know you have them and you're eager to get rid of them, so we won't bother going into detail about how to identify them.
Instead, we'll focus on some of the signs they leave behind that tip you off to their presence and where they're moving around.
Read Also: Differences between squirrels and chipmunks
Gnawing and Chewing
Squirrels are vegetarians, but like all rodents, they will gnaw or chew on virtually anything. The reason is actually quite simple.
Their teeth never stop growing. In order to sharpen their teeth, and control the rate at which they grow, squirrels will chew on anything suitably hard.
Chewing on wires is a primary characteristic of squirrels. They'll chew on wires in the attic, under the hood of your car, along the outside of your house where connect from the power lines, just about anywhere actually.
People who live near parks will tell you about squirrels chewing into the wires on a transformer. They'll hear an explosion as the squirrel bites through into a live wire and blows up, then their power will go off. There are some estimates that squirrels account for nearly two-thirds of all power outages.
Been there. Done that.
Because the growth rate of their teeth is an inherent biological fact, there is no way to stop them from chewing on things. Instead, you should try diverting them with “chew toys”. More on that later.
Squirrels mate twice a year on average, as often as three times during years with abundant food supplies. They breed from December to March, and from May to August.
In the northern latitudes, there may be a slight delay due to temperature variations. Each litter will have between one to four pups, with a maximum of eight.
Females are reproductively active by the time they're five months old, although generally, they wait longer than that before bearing their first litter. Males become sexually active when they're ten to eleven months old.
Squirrels are most active during early and later parts of the day. They are however, seldom seen at noon. The males will mark their territory, usually in trees rather than on the ground.
And of course, squirrels are gatherers and hoarders, storing a variety of nuts, seeds, buds, and grains (corn, wheat, etc.) for use during the winter. They can also eat tree bark, bird eggs, insects, fungi, and frogs.
Despite being hoarders they don't hibernate. They're active year round.
They are subject to predation by wolves, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, dogs, cats, owls, hawks, and rattlesnakes. They're excellent swimmers.
Can we Use their Biology Against them?
Squirrels are naturally curious and will investigate anything new that crops up in their habitat. They may be afraid of it at first, but eventually, their curiosity will get the best of them and they'll come poking around to see what this new thing is.
If you put something out during the middle of the day when they're not as active, they'll soon notice it when they begin stirring again and won't be able to resist.
This makes the middle of the day the best time to put out traps or bait. Put it at the base of trees where they normally go up and down. Once they see it, it's just a matter of time until they go poking around where they shouldn't, i.e., right where we want them to.
Where should we target squirrels?
We need to target the areas where squirrels like to run, play, and forage. Squirrels love the top of any fence. They'll use it as a highway for moving to-and-fro between your house and the surrounding trees, bushes, and poles.
Bird feeders quite naturally catch the squirrels' attention due to the seeds in them. The base of the feeders is a good place to attack the critters. Birdbaths are also a nice hunting spot.
Poles and trees are irresistible to squirrels. They love to climb up and down them. This makes their bases and their branches a perfect location for placing baits, traps, and other devices.
Here's a short video that will tell you more about squirrels.
What Methods are Available to Get Rid of Squirrels?
There are several methods available and all of them work to a certain degree. However, none are perfect and some do work better than others. They are traps, baits, repellents, deterrents, shooting, and predators.
Traps have a fairly high success rate with an impressive track record going back thousands of years from various corners of the world.
Modern traps that are often made of steel with metal springs are faster and much more lethal than their primitive forebearers. Even animals with reflexes as good as squirrels often can't react in time to avoid being caught and killed.
Traps can be rather gruesome though, usually with blood and bodily fluids all over them after a successful kill.
You should wear disposable latex gloves to avoid contact with those fluids as well as any parasites or fleas the squirrels might be carrying. We warn you, you have to be willing to do anything. Putting up with some blood and gore is part of it.
Read Also: What're the best traps for squirrels?
Poisons have been with us for nearly as long as traps.
Modern poisons are mainly anticoagulants, also known as blood thinners. They're found in a wide range of baits, usually in the form of blocks or pellets.
The danger with poisons is that they can easily kill the wrong animals, even pets and small children. They work, but you have to be very careful in setting them out where only squirrels can get to them.
Read Also: What're the best baits for squirrels?
Repellents usually consist of ultrasonic repellers or chemical sprays that produce unpleasant odors or the smell of predators the squirrels are afraid of.
Ultrasonic repellent devices produce alternating or warbling, high-pitched noises in the 25 kHz to 60 kHz range or higher, to drive the squirrels away. For squirrels, they produce the same kind of irritation and annoyance that people feel from police sirens.
Chemical sprays use natural ingredients squirrels have a natural aversion to and concentrate them in a spray to be applied to whatever surface you're trying to keep them away from. Others reproduce the scent of predators, such as fox urine, which is applied to create fear in the squirrels in order to drive them away from the target area.
Read Also: What're the top squirrel repellents?
Deterrents are usually barriers to prevent squirrels from entering an area. Chicken wire, metal baffles, and netting are a few of the more common methods used for deterrence.
The problem with deterrents like these is that they also keep you out of the area unless you create a door, movable flap, or some other method of entrance.
A not so popular but effective technique is putting out “chew toys” for the squirrels to nimble on. Small blocks of wood, strategically located and smeared with seeds or nuts to attract them, will give squirrels something to occupy their time while keeping them away from your house.
Another option that sometimes works, is to attach a UPS – Uninterruptible Power Supply – to a light or something strung in the trees or along a fence. The squirrels will be attracted to the extension cord going to the light and chew on it.
Once they get through sheathing it will electrocute them, while the UPS will prevent the resulting short from blowing a fuse in the breaker box in your house.
Read Also: What're the top squirrel deterrents?
Shooting squirrels, if you've got good aim, will settle their hash very quickly. But unless you live outside the city limits, the police will probably take a very dim view of you resorting to such method of solving the problem.
Most cities have strict laws and regulations concerning the discharge of weapons inside the city limits. Unless you're prepared to break the law, we'd suggest you stay away from this method.
However, if you live outside the city limits, go for it. A 12-gauge shotgun with birdshot is probably the most effective method that doesn't require you to be a crack shot. We've lost track of how many pest control customers we have advised half-jokingly to use this method for squirrels and snakes if they lived out on some country road.
The downside, of course, is obvious; it requires a huge investment of time because you'll be sitting on your porch with the shotgun on your knees waiting for those pesky varmints to show themselves. Unless you've got too much time on your hands, there are other, more effective ways to get rid of squirrels.
Cats and dogs are good for controlling squirrels. The breed doesn't really matter, they'll chase 'em, catch 'em, and kill 'em simple because it's in their nature to do so.
Cats have an unfortunate tendency to want to bring their kills to you. I once had a cat that would catch English sparrows and kill them in the bathtub. The mess can be a bit gory to clean up and there's no way to stop them from doing it.
Dogs will eat their prey for the most part, but then try to lick your face. Ugh! If you're lucky, they'll bury it - leaving a wasteland of holes in your lawn.
If you live inside the city limits you'll need a fenced in yard to let your dogs run loose. If you have cats and they get out, the animal control officer won't care if they have a collar on them or not. If they catch them outside your property you could be facing a steep fine for the pleasure of getting them back.
The following video will provide you with more tips to get rid of squirrels.
What Methods are the Most Effective?
Traps and poison occupy a bit of a seesaw, going back and forth depending on what state you live in, the time of year, the weather, and a thousand other variables.
Using them in conjunction with each other will normally yield the best result. Be aware, once you declare war on squirrels it's probably going to be a never-ending battle.
There's no such thing as final victory, which is why we prefer to talk about controlling the population rather than eliminating it. If the squirrels are kept out of the house and away from the power lines, we'll consider that a victory.
There's no such thing as final victory, which is why I prefer to talk about controlling the population rather than eliminating it. If the squirrels are kept out of the house and away from the power lines, we'll consider that a victory.
What Methods are Least Effective?
Cats and dogs are hit-and-miss at best. In some days their hunter's instinct will prompt them to turn into a holy terror among the squirrel population. But there will also be those lazy times when all they want to do is lay around under the sun.
Final Thoughts On Squirrel Removal
For the best results in controlling your squirrel population, use a combination of baits and traps, strategically placed around the base of poles and trees, and for the baits, up in the trees.
For added peace of mind, deterrents like chicken wire mesh can be used to keep them out of your house while “chew toys” along fence lines or dangling from strings can divert their attention by giving them something to chew and gnaw.
Repellent sprays are an effective addition to keep them away from windows and doors, as well as other entrances to your house.
Other combinations may be more or less effective depending on your particular situation. Start with the traps and bait, then add other methods as you see fit.
Don't be discouraged if you don't get sterling results on your very first try. You may have to experiment a little to find the combination that works best for you.
Other Squirrel Guides
Curious about other squirrel guides? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.