How to Get Rid of Squirrels? | Tested Methods to Eliminate Squirrels Faster | Science Based How-to Guide [UPDATED 2020]

Author : Reviewed by Updated : April 18, 2020

Squirrels are funny animals; however, despite the cute looks they have gained a reputation of the well-known pests. The pair of jittery squirrels can grow into an entire army of invasive pests and inhabit your property for a long time. This guide explains how to get rid of squirrels fast. Here you’ll find two best ways of controlling squirrels approved by scientists and 10 best products to help you succeed in eliminating your scurry nuisance.

The squirrels literally damage everything they can reach and repairs can get pricey. These curious and naturally inquisitive animals feel fine on your territory all year long. They feed on bird seeds, damage vegetables, and fruits, destroy your favorite flowers, and turn everything upside down in the attic. So why suffer and live with it? Read 7 steps further on to help you get rid of squirrels faster and without unnecessary drama.

7 steps to help you get rid of squirrels now!

Well, first off, make up a plan of action so that your pest control strategy is consistent and effective. We suggest that you should take the following steps:

1. Start with the area outside your house. It is easier to chase squirrels away from your backyard rather than from the attic or any other space indoors, where rodents usually nest. Remove foodstuff: all fallen fruits, nuts, and other debris from the backyard to reduce food availability for squirrels. Tightly seal garbage cans. Trim the trees and shrubs adjacent to the house and avoid planting new ones, otherwise, their branches will turn into a perfect bridge to your house.

2. Inspect your house for any openings and cracks in the structure. Seal them with foam insulation or use metal mesh. If squirrels have already established their nests in your house, wait until they leave for hunting and only then block all access points. When applicable, build a fence extended 12 inches below the ground level, so that squirrels can’t get underneath.

3. Since the attic is a prime target for squirrels, clean it up: remove any garbage and foodstuff if you store it there.

4. Drive squirrels away using natural repellents. It is safe and relatively cheap, so try this method first. Place dog or cat hairs where squirrel activity is detected, they can scare rodents away. Garlic, peppermint, and castor oils affect the senses of smell and taste.

There are some ready-to-use sprays, like Havahart Critter Ridder. Spray plants, fruits, and trees that can be preferred by squirrels. There are also other repellents, like Shake-Away granules, that are made of urine of squirrels’ natural enemies —foxes and coyotes.

Read more about Repellent Sprays: A Review of Squirrel, Rat, Rabbit, Raccoon and other Small Animal and Rodent Deterrents and Repellent Sprays

5. Well, if that does not work, drive squirrels away using chemical repellents. The most simple and cheap way is soaking cotton balls in ammonia or distributing mothballs. The latter is mostly effective indoors only as the foul smell will evaporate quickly in the open air.

6. To ensure 24-hour protection, place electronic frightening devices. Some of them might look funny and spooky, like Garden Scarecrow Owl, others are more sophisticated, like motion-activated sprinklers which drive squirrels out with a sudden spurt of water. Ultrasonic repellents, like Victor Heavy Sonic PestChaser, are better for indoors. The latter emits ultrasound waves that are unbearable for rodents.

Motion-activated deterrent sprinkler Orbit 62100 combines sound, water and motion. Learn more in our article TOP-3 Best Motion Activated Sprinklers.

7. Trapping is an effective way to control rodents. Purchase a Tube Squirrel Trap and place it near the squirrels’ entry points. Simultaneously, block all other entrances they use to get into the house.

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If you want to learn how to get it right, what products are recommended by scientists and other helpful tips, read our detailed guide below.

Now, let’s look at some of the key areas, where squirrels usually hide or nest inside and outside the house and describe how to get rid of them in these particular areas.

To learn more about ground squirrels, read our article on How to Get Rid of Ground Squirrels.

How to get rid squirrels in the attic

The following recommendations combine advice, rules, and tips to hasten the elimination of squirrels from the attic:

  • Take away foodstuff, the smell is likely to attract squirrels. Clean the attic from everything that can be used for nesting: paper, old wallpaper, wool things, etc.
  • Place your pets’ hairs around the attic. The permanent feeling of an enemy will frighten the pests.
  • Dampen cotton cloths in ammonia and place them wherever squirrels can gather.   The sharp smell will drive the animals away. After your tattle tails disappear, switch on a ventilator or air ionizer (purifier) to clean the air.
  • Place around the attic small cotton balls or pieces of fabric dampened in naphthalene: near boxes, in corners, wherever else you’ve seen rodent activity. To increase the repelling impact, combine it with other types of rodent-repelling substances or essential oils.  But be careful: naphthalene is highly flammable and classified as a dangerous fire hazard.

9 steps to get rid of squirrels in the yard

The simplest way of controlling rodents is preventing them from getting into your property. It is easier to control squirrels outdoors, rather than oust them directly from your house. You should do everything possible to drive squirrels away from your house before they get in. Begin with simple steps:

1. Eliminate everything that can attract squirrels: bird seeds, pet foodstuff, etc. Pick up fallen nuts, fruits, acorns, etc.

2. Do not feed squirrels. First, they can get accustomed to it; second, they can “communicate” food availability to others and you’ll have a bunch of johnny-come-latelies.

3. Cut branches off the trees to prevent pests from climbing to the roof.

4. Purchase metal garbage cans with tightly-fitted leads and always keep them closed.

5. Find special feeders for birds that can’t be accessed by squirrels, otherwise – stop feeding birds altogether.

6. Plant bushes and decorative plants away from your house and put plastic netting over your flower-beds.  Though this doesn’t add an aesthetic appeal to your garden, at least you’ll be able to save your favorite flowers.

7. Use natural rodent repellents with pepper, like All Natural Rodent Defense Spray, spray it on plants, trees, or wherever else you see rodent activity.

8. Use motion activated sprinklers, like Orbit Yard Enforcer, that will scare rodents away with water.

9. Plant mint throughout your garden, it’s a natural rodent repeller.

Now let’s discuss the ways and practices that are used to control the squirrel population.

How to trap squirrels

Trapping is considered effective for low to moderate population of squirrels. There are several basic traps that you should be aware of to make an educated buying decision.

Live-catch traps, like Havahart 2-Door Live Cage, are NOT recommended by scientists because of the disposal problems that you face after a rodent is caught. Check your state’s catch-and-release laws before buying it.

The most effective traps are tubes, like Tube Squirrel Trap. They are built as natural attractants to rodents. Squirrels are inquisitive creatures and when they see something resembling a hole or a circular opening, they instinctively want to check it out.

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Another popular option among classic squirrel traps is Conibear 110, like Duke 110 Magnum Trap, they are considered effective by scientists, but might be difficult to set up, as they require brute psychical strength.

Overall, trapping cannot eliminate rodents completely, but rather control them. Dead, killed, trapped, released in the wild animals can be easily replaced by the new ones, who will be just as happy to munch on the fallen nuts in your garden.

A squirrel eating nuts. Charming video

To learn more about trapping, read our review of TOP-8 Best Squirrel Traps.

How to repel squirrels

There are various ways and methods to control squirrels from your property without killing or trapping them.

We’ll cover the basic repelling methods that do not involve any chemical substances or hardware devices, and then we’ll cover the gadgets and chemicals as well. So it’s a pretty much complete repelling guide further on.

First, try these simple tactics to keep squirrels away from your property:

  • Frighten them with sound: leave the radio on or a CD playing on the roof. If the squirrels hear human voices, they get frightened.
  • Try to affect them with light – leave blinking small lamps in your yard, garden, or attic. Lights will drive animals away.
  • Squirrels like to travel along cables, climb roofs and get into attics. Put electrical conductors and visible cables into the plastic pipe: when a squirrel begins its climbing, the pipe will rotate and throw the rodent off on the ground

Frightening devices – are they for real?

If we go a little bit into “frightening” method, consider this artsy repellent by Dalen: it may look as somewhat occult and quixotic at first, but, in fact, can turn out to be a practical device. Well, for at least a couple of days. Unfortunately, though, scientists disagree with the effectiveness of such devices that is oftentimes claimed by the manufacturers: frightening rarely has any prolonged effects on rodents, they quickly adapt to it.

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Natural repellents – what’s the deal and how they work?

First of all, once you start looking for a ready-made natural animal deterrent or a repellent spray, you are going to discover that there are no special products for repelling each individual species, such as squirrels, rats, rabbits, raccoons or other small animals/rodents. As a rule of thumb, these items are marketed as universal, considering they contain multi-action active ingredients.

“Most of these deterrents operate through one of several mechanisms: odor aversion, taste aversion, or fear inducement”, say scientists from the University of Florida.

Pepper, peppermint, tarragon, garlic, various essential oils, castor oil, diatomaceous earth, capsaicin, and putrescent egg solids are natural repellents that operate through odor and taste aversion, one of these is Havahart Critter Ridder.

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The last type contains the ingredients of animal origin, such enemy urine (from coyotes or foxes), dried blood or the smell of enemy hair, making animals panic and flee. One of these products is Shake-Away Fox Urine Granules.

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Theoretically, the above-mentioned ingredients should be effective. However, only a systematic approach will work, holistically speaking, inasmuch as squirrels can quickly get accustomed to any repellent. However, we think, it’s worth trying.

To learn more about repellents, read our review of TOP-7 Best Squirrel Repellents.

Another rather humorous approach to repelling squirrels (or eliminating them for that matter) is using the infamously funny squirrel catapults. A picture says a thousand words; a video says a dozen thousands more:

Why poisoning squirrels is never a good idea

First of all, poisoning squirrels is illegal in most states of the United States. Your best bet is trapping and killing allowed species.

There is no legally registered or approved squirrel poison on the market, but you can still purchase it.  Squirrel poison baits that are put on bait stations, like JT Eaton Top Loader Bait Station, contain active chemical compounds that cause internal bleeding or intoxication.

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Poison is never a good idea since it entails a risk of secondary poisoning. Suppose the poisoned squirrel is eaten by other animals or even your dog for that matter; they, your dog included, are going to die the same awful death. I don’t think you want that.

We strongly advise you to stick to legal and humane ways of controlling squirrels. However, if you can’t stand them or would like to get rid of the squirrels asap, contact wildlife exterminators in your area. They never use poison, but advise you on the most effective ways to get rid of all the rodents possible. They also inspect your property and fix things that attract nuisance species and pesky pests.

Summary of the best two ways to get rid of squirrels

While it may seem a rather complicated endeavor to get rid of squirrels, don’t be discouraged. You can still use traps and repellents. The most important thing here is to ensure that your state allows you to control the particular species that have invaded your property.

FAQs

Will mothballs get rid of squirrels?

Yes, squirrels dislike the smell of mothballs. However, some people may feel unwell whenever mothballs are placed, so you have to be careful. Replace the mothballs over time, every few weeks, to ensure the smell is still there.

Will vinegar get rid of squirrels?

Indeed, cider vinegar can be effective for controlling squirrels: it is one of the natural repellents that squirrels object to. Immerse cotton cloths in cider vinegar and place them where squirrels will most likely appear or nest, like the attic, for example. You have to replace the cloth with a fresh one after a while since the vinegar (just like any other substance) evaporates over time.

How to get rid of squirrels without killing them?

Resort to using repellents. We wouldn’t recommend live cages, though, since this method can become problematic: you will have to euthanize the rodent or release it following the laws, which are different for every state.

How to get rid of squirrels without harming pets?

Always cover your traps, so that the pets won’t get inadvertently injured, otherwise level the traps off the ground to protect other species. You may also place two sticks vertically in front of the entrance to the trap to prevent pets and other animals from getting into it.

How to get rid of squirrels in the roof?

Seal all the openings to your attic first, and then spray a good amount of repellent both in the attic and the roof to prevent further interest in your property. You may just as well use an ultrasonic pest repellent (suitable for outdoors). Other repelling methods that were described earlier in the article included putting a radio or a CD on to scare the squirrels away.

How to get rid of squirrels in walls?

Whenever you think squirrels might occupy or get into your walls, it’s always best to hire a professional to find out where exactly they entered the walls and built their nests. Wildlife Exterminator may come to your rescue. Otherwise, if you decided to DIY, then our advice is to try and use repellents first, both natural and chemical ones, and if that doesn’t work then you will have to go around your house looking for possible entry points, like holes and cracks in the wall. And wherever you see a possible hole, cut it even further for the squirrels to get out easily, and put a mothball or a piece of fabric soaked in ammonia to repel the remained squirrels.

How to get rid of squirrels in trees?

First, take any prevention steps necessary, like taking down bird feeders or replacing them with the ones that cannot be reached by squirrels (which is almost impossible). Try spraying repellents and place a metal band or sheet around the tree to prevent squirrels from climbing. If nothing else worked, then resort to trapping.

How to get rid of squirrels in a car engine?

We advise trying ultrasonic repellents first. There are some repellers that can be installed into the car electric circuit. They usually work against the rats, but most often than not they can work for squirrels just as well.

How to get rid of squirrels in my shed?

Squirrels prefer living in the open air, so if they occupy the shed, garage, or even attic, they won’t do that for a prolonged amount of time. Usually, they wait till spring or until the baby squirrels are grown up enough to go into the “wild”. Anyway, if you still think that you’d rather live alone than with a bunch of newborn squirrels, then try using natural and then chemical repellents. After squirrels leave, seal all the holes to prevent them from getting in again.

Expert Opinion: Professor Julian Evans, Institute of Chartered Foresters

Professor Julian Evans, Institute of Chartered Foresters

Julian Evans is a Professor and former President of the Institute of Chartered Foresters in the UK. He also chaired the Expert Committee on Forest Science of the Forestry Commission. Dr. Evans has published numerous books devoted to forestry and was the editor of the Encyclopedia of Forest Science.

How can they be controlled? There are three ways. Certainly, in wintertime, you can poke the nests that squirrels build high up in a tree. The squirrels will come out and if you have got a shotgun, they can be shot. But really that is not very helpful because you are controlling them at the wrong time of the year. It is not when they are doing damage to the trees and clearly you do not want to be shooting wildlife simply for the sake of it. So what about controlling squirrels during their damage period of May, June, and July? Well, you can trap them on the ground with a cage trap. You set a bait, the squirrel comes into the trap and then you have to kill the animal once it is trapped. The other main way of controlling squirrels is a poison we are allowed to use in the countryside. It is Warfarin that is put on wheat and the squirrel feeds from special hoppers that dispense the Warfarin, which no other animal or bird can gain access to.

Squirrel Repellents & Traps Comparison Chart

How Dangerous Are Squirrels?

Under the mask of this touching and lovely animal is a real monster that is capable of changing your careless life into an inferno.

Squirrels are dangerous because:

  1. They gnaw the cortex of fruit-trees and young sprouts.
  2. They ruin birds’ feeding troughs and deter nests.
  3. They root up flower-beds.
  4. They make noise when settling down in attics, air pipes, and walls of the house.
  5. They defecate and make everything dirty with their excreta.
  6. They gnaw conductors and may cause short circuits and fires.
  7. They transfer various diseases and parasites.

Type of squirrels: legal issues to consider

It is important to distinguish between various species in order to follow the law.

The squirrels that you can control are primarily ground squirrels. They have grey fur, and always retreat to their burrows, where they live when frightened. Ground squirrels are non-game animals, thus can be controlled without a permit throughout the year. However, if you want to use a live cage trap, you will still have to obtain a permit to release the squirrel. If you decide to kill the trapped rodent, no permit is necessary.

Tree squirrels are game animals and have their hunting season. However, there is an exception to the rule: you can still control two types of tree squirrels. These species are eastern fox squirrels and grey squirrels. You don’t have to obtain a permit for the former, but you do for the latter.

Whenever in doubt, please, check with the Wildlife Management Control in your area.

All you need to know about squirrels

Squirrels eat and gnaw on everything they can reach. Chisel-shaped incisors and strong muscles in the lower jaw help them to crack and grind hard surfaces. Front and back teeth constantly grow, making squirrels gnaw on anything just to wear them down, and here everything goes – even electrical conductors.

The squirrels are relatively smart, which makes them harder to trick. High intelligence and acquired skills allow them to get any food they want. Birds’ nests are highly attractive to squirrels. The squirrels destroy them, settle in and begin to multiply. Their high resistance explains their dynamic assimilation and the aggressive reproduction in any climate. Over the year, the number of animals may double several times.

Squirrels eat nuts, seeds, fruits, even frogs and nestlings, however, they don’t digest cellulose. They eat vegetables and food rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Remember these facts whenever else you decide to bait and trap the squirrels.

Need to hire an exterminator? Find the best licensed professionals in your area.

View Comments

  • People, what can scare the squirrels out of the yard? Previously, somehow not so bored, but now completely lost their conscience! All my cherry tomatoes were eaten! I used traps, but they are ineffective. Do you think the repeller will cope with this task?

  • I have solar panels and the squirrels built nests under the solar panels. Had to hire a solar contractor to install "squirrel guards" made of heavy gauge wire around the solar array. The vermin had also eaten through the wiring under two of the panels and destroyed them. Replacing the panels and paying for the squirrel guards was a very hefty hit financially. Now I see that a new occupant has somehow bent the wiring for easy entry and built a new even grander nest for the fam. Its war!

  • I'm for humane ways of getting rid of squirrels! I think Havahart Trap or repellers are the best option for this.

  • Had them in my attic, used a solution given to me by my Grandfather. Small bowls filled with green (traditional) antifreeze. Didn't want to kill them but they kept coming back and tearing up and defecating all over the Christmas decorations I had up there. Several small bowls full of green antifreeze left by active areas, the edges rimmed with peanut butter, and no more squirrels. Have to add, make sure your pets DO NOT have access, they're attracted to it also.

  • well I hated to but I had no other way to get rid of them, I filled their hole they chewed in my garage, So I used a can of expand insulation , Didn't they look cool running for their lives ,Being full of that sticky expand foam. Yep froze them in their tracks in the yard in front of me, It was sad but, they refused to leave. Use this as ONLY a LAST EFFORT!!!!!!! It works rather good.

  • I use a two pronged approach to get rid of unwanted vermin. I lure them with deer feed corn around the base of a convenient tree, then I sit back and pick them off with a pellet gun as they come to feed. The second method I use is to use a deer feeder filled with sunflower seeds and corn. Then I throw chunks of Just One Bite onto the ground under the deer feeder. Even more effective than the pellet gun and it works 24/7, but not as much fun. Vermin are gone.

  • rent or get a live hawk or owl along with it's handler. that's a good business idea for anyone that's interested. Get the handler to put the live hawk or owl in the attic and that should take care of the problem.

  • Squirrels have a habit of always chewing on trees. Constant chewing is not good for trees. Though big ones might be able to handle it but small ones will eventually die. Chewed barks and branches also aren’t very good to look at either. They are also responsible for complete destruction of plants. As the squirrels have a bit of constantly chewing and digging searching for food, they can rip the plant from roots. There goes your dream of seeing a plant grow in front of your eyes in your yard.

  • Bird can be a cause of a lot of trouble, and it isn’t limited to the annoying sounds they make while you are getting comfortable at home. Many birds are hosts to dangerous viruses and pass on to other creatures including humans.

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