How To Effectively Keep Squirrels Out Of The Yard and Garden

repell squirrels humanely

The first time I lived in an apartment where I could watch the squirrels climb the trees, I felt like I lived in an enchanted land.

However, squirrels can become very big nuisances and cause a lot of problems in the yard and garden. Many homeowners fight squirrel overpopulation and have to take steps to keep squirrels out of their yards.

  • Kill them and completely eradicate them?
  • Or keep them away from certain areas?

1. Identify The Type Of Squirrel

There are two main types of squirrels: ground squirrels and tree squirrels.

Ground squirrels are by far the most destructive. They burrow under fences, into lawns, and can get into the property. They bother utility lines, dig under sidewalks, and cause roadway issues. They will also destroy a garden rapidly.

Ground squirrels are usually the type of squirrel that bothers lawns, yards, and landscaping. They are also often confused with gophers, chipmunks, voles, and other ground animals.

In the United States, many states classify ground squirrels as non-game animals and protect them from senseless killings. There are often exceptions if they cause damage to property.

Tree squirrels usually bother bird feeders, fruit, and nuts, but seldom do additional damage. They can occasionally get into your attic or other areas. The best way to control tree squirrels is to exclude them from target areas.

Tree squirrels usually bother garden areas, fruit trees, bird feeders, and other higher areas.

The grey squirrel is one tree squirrel that is considered an endangered species and is protected by law.

The type of squirrel bothering you will determine which techniques are the most effective.

squirrels can climb trees

2. Use A Combination Approach For The Greatest Effectiveness

The most effective approach is a multi-faceted approach against squirrels. They are very persistent animals. They are also easily adaptable to people. As a result, many methods that worked in the past are no longer effective against squirrels.

This is especially true of single approaches. Squirrels can become accustomed to sounds, smells, light, and water. Their persistence can help them to find holes in perimeters.

Using multiple approaches helps to keep them more guarded and is the most effective at keeping squirrels away from the yard and garden.

3. Identify Food Sources And Eliminate Them

One of the biggest attraction for squirrels is food. This can be in the form of food or water. Squirrels love birdbaths, bird feeders, fruits vegetables, nuts, and other seeds.

If tree squirrels are eating fruit or nuts still on the tree, you can cover it with netting. This makes it harder (not impossible) for squirrels to get at the fruit. It often encourages them to find other sources. Netting can be difficult to set up if you have large trees and a lot of fruit.

Identify what is attracting the squirrels to the problem area. Fallen fruit and nuts on the ground almost always attract squirrels. Rake up fruit and nuts before mowing to keep the lawn clean.

Bring pet dishes inside the house after the dog or cat is finished eating. Squirrels are often attracted to pet food and love to hide away the dog or cat food.

  • Netting around fruit and nut trees to discourage squirrels from eating it
  • Rake up all fallen fruits and nuts before mowing the lawn
  • Keep pet dishes indoors except for when the animals are eating

how to keep squirrels out of the garden

4. Stop Squirrels From Raiding Bird Feeders

If you have bird feeders, the actual feeders may be attracting tree squirrels. You can solve that problem by installing special bird feeders that keep squirrels and larger birds away from the food. These feeders close the seed when a heavier animal stops to eat.

Ground squirrels are often attracted to the birdseed scattered on the area below the feeder. Keep the area clean so they can’t gather seeds and nuts.

Another step you can take is to replace sunflower seeds with safflower seeds in bird feeders. Most birds love safflower seeds, but squirrels will not eat them. Do not mix other seeds with the safflower seeds or the squirrels will sift through the seeds and gather the other types.

If neither of those options is doable, then you can move the bird feeders away from your house or garden. Provide the food in a farther location to lure the squirrels elsewhere on your property.

  1. Eliminate bird feeders
  2. Replace them with squirrel-proof feeders
  3. Use safflower seeds instead of other seeds
  4. If none of those are good options, then move the bird feeders away from the trouble areas.

How to keep squirrels away

5. Keep Decks and Dining Areas Clean

If you dine outside, make sure to keep those areas clean. Keep the deck swept off. Small food crumbs and particles can attract not only squirrels but birds, mice, and raccoons to the area.

Don’t keep open food containers outside.

Squirrels eat plants, leaves, and other green plants. They also eat nuts, seed, and grains. Keep all types of foods put up and away from places the squirrels can access. This will give you the added benefit of keeping things out of the way of mice as well!

How to get rid of squirrels

6. Seal Cracks And Holes Around Your Yard and House.

Squirrels are often an issue in the yard because they then get into the house, garage, or sheds. They can bother the garden and hide under the deck. Keep them out of important areas by checking for cracks and holes around your house.

Watch for torn screens, gaps by windows, and spaces in the siding. Ground squirrels like to hide under decks and burrow into the ground.

You should also watch for gaps in fences, holes under the ground and other areas where squirrels may be entering your property. Check the areas where pipes enter the house for additional holes.

Tree squirrels usually cause problems to homeowners when they enter the attic. You can prevent tree squirrels from gaining access to your attic by sealing all gaps and holes around the roof and upper parts of your house. Trim trees so that squirrels can’t access the home vía tree branches. Cover attic vents with screens and ensure that they remain in working order.

  • Calk holes, gaps and cracks around the house, shed, and garage
  • Trim trees back from the house to limit access
  • Cover windows and attic vents with screens
  • Check places where pipes enter the house for gaps.
Ground squirrels can cause damage to plants and trees
Photo Credit: Don DeBold

7. Keep Squirrels Out With Proper Fencing

One of the best ways to keep squirrels away is to have the right borders to prevent them from coming into your property. Ground squirrels are more likely to burrow and gain access to your property while tree squirrels are more likely to climb over barriers.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep them out. You can choose to exclude them from specific areas or from your entire yard. Tree squirrels are the easiest squirrel to exclude. Ground squirrels can often dig into the area they want.

The simplest way to keep squirrels away from your garden is to use netting. It prevents squirrels from accessing the fruit and keeps your plants safe. Chicken wire can be used to cover the areas around flower beds and plants to discourage digging.

To build a squirrel secure fence, you will need to secure it from the bottom and the top. To keep squirrels from digging underneath the fence, bury hardware cloth 2 feet deep below the fence line. Hardware cloth is strong and won’t cut from squirrel digging.

The top of the fence can be secured by installing a shock wire above the fenceline. A shock wife is different than an electrical fence. It delivers a mild shock that keeps squirrels from climbing over. Birds are still able to perch on the wire without getting hurt.

I haven’t tried this particular fix, but an oscillating fence attachment might also keep squirrels out as well as it keeps cats out.

You will also want to limit access to any utility lines that cross over the fence. Squirrels can access the utility lines and bypass the fence. If the lines are not electrical, cut a slit in a PVC pipe. Open the slit enough to pass the wire through the hole and cover the wire with PVC. It will make it harder for squirrels to scale.

  • Use netting around garden plants to protect them from squirrel scavenging
  • Use wire mesh to protect climbing up tree trunks. Mesh should be out from the tree trunk
  • Bury hardware cloth at least 2 feet deep to prevent ground squirrels from burrowing into your yard from another area
  • Use shock fences above regular fencing to keep squirrels from climbing over the fences.
  • Use PVC pipe around non-electrical wires that cross into your property close to the fence
  • Trim trees to limit access
ground squirrels dig holes in yards
Photo credit: Kurt Bauschardt

8. Use Coyote Urine To Deter Them

Coyote urine can help to keep squirrels from coming into an area, but it won’t help scare them away. If the squirrels are already established then use coyote urine once you have gotten control over the population.

This method is only effective if you don’t have more enticing things to bring squirrels into the area such as nuts or food. It is also effective as a deterrent, not as a means to scare them away.

9. Plant Stinky Plants

Certain plants such as daffodils, mint, snowdrops, allium, and hyacinth smell bitter to squirrels. They usually try to avoid these plants. Plant them around your yard or garden where you want to keep squirrels out.

Planting these types of plants works best as part of an overall approach.

Thirteened lined ground squirrel is common
Photo Credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

10. Use Motion Activated Sprinklers

If you have sensitive areas, you may be able to keep squirrels out with a motion activated sprinkler. The sprinklers usually hook up to a hose and are activated when an animal crosses a laser beam. Some motion sprinklers are made specifically for large animals so make sure that you get one specifically designed for smaller animals if you try this approach.

11. Till The Ground

Ground squirrels burrow underground. Tilling the soil disrupts the tunnels and burrows. It helps to force the squirrels out.

Tilling isn’t always an option, especially when you have established landscaping or grass in your yard.

12. Raise Woodpiles Above The Ground

If you have wood piles, raise them above the ground. Raising them a foot or two off the ground will help to eliminate the protection and cozy home for squirrels. This helps in keeping snakes and other animals away also

13. Get A Dog Or Cat To Scare Squirrels Away

Dogs and cats are great at scaring away squirrels. Cats are master hunters and will do a good job of hunting them and killing them. Outdoor animals are able to patrol your property fairly consistently. 

how to keep squirrels out of the yard

14. Trap Squirrels

There are two types of traps, live traps and kill traps. Certain areas have specific guidelines around which traps are allowed. Some areas prohibit the killing of squirrels without a permit. Other areas allow the killing of squirrels but prohibit handling live squirrels.

That’s because squirrels can carry disease and pose a danger to people who don’t know how to properly handle them. It’s also because inhumane killings of squirrels are often prohibited.

In most areas, it is illegal to relocate a squirrel to another area. This can cause major issues to micro-ecosystems. Squirrels can bring diseases into other squirrel populations or affect other animals.  

15. Poison Squirrels

When other methods fail, poisoning may be an option. Make sure you check your local laws. Also, check to see if the squirrels in question are protected by law.

If you choose to poison squirrels, take steps to make sure that you don’t accidentally poison other wildlife. Squirrels are eaten by birds of prey and poisoned squirrels can kill endangered birds of prey. They can also be eaten by cats and other predatory animals.

So, you must put poison inside of ground squirrel burrows. Scattering it on the ground will not attract them and will poison other animals. Make sure you use acceptable poisons for your area.

Fumigating is another way to eliminate squirrels. In some states, agriculture offices sell gas canisters for fumigating squirrel burrows. Other states require a licensed professional to fumigate. It often depends on the poison as some poisons are only allowed with a permit.

  • Check local laws before poisoning squirrels
  • Verify that the squirrels are not protected by law or endangered
  • Don’t spread poison on the ground where other animals can find it
  • Put the poison just inside the den.

Are Ground Squirrels Bad For Your Yard?

Ground squirrels can cause significant damage to a yard. They burrow into lawn creating elaborate tunnels that create tripping hazards and make yards uneven. They eat tree roots.

Squirrels also eat extensive vegetation during the early summer before they start collecting nuts and seeds. They can do a lot of damage to vegetation, trees, and gardens. They can kill flowers, bushes, and other plants. They often eat the bark off of trees, which hurts the trees long term.

They burrow under sidewalks, driveways and other areas. This can cause the cement to crack or cave in. It can cause holes in driveways. They can cause expensive structural issues to decks, patios, and stairs.

  • Eat tree bark, leaves, and other vegetation
  • Devore garden plants and flower beds
  • Create burrows in the grass and other landscaped areas
  • Burrow under patios, stairs, and decks, causing structural damage
  • Eat the roots of plants and trees
  • Burrow under driveways and sidewalks, causing them to crack or collapse

Can Squirrels Climb Fences?

Both ground squirrels and tree squirrels can climb. Red squirrels are a widespread tree squirrel that climbs very well. Ground squirrels can usually climb up to 2 or 3 feet, but don’t climb as well as tree squirrels. They are able to climb trees but will retreat to a burrow when scared instead of climbing.  

If you are only struggling with ground squirrels, a shorter fence will help to contain them. If you have tree squirrels, then you will need a taller fence and a short wire to keep them from scaling your fence.

Why Are Squirrels Digging Up My Lawn

Ground squirrels live underground in a burrow. They use burrows for protection from predators and for food supply. Ground squirrels eat leaves, roots, grass, bark, stems, nuts, seeds, and other organic material. They burrow to find more food, but will often forage above ground. The purpose of their burrowing is mainly for protection and as a home.

What Is The Best Bait For Squirrels?

The best bait for squirrels is usually peanut butter, nuts, seeds, or fruit. In the springtime squirrels usually dine on fruit, leaves, and other vegetation. As summer wanes and fall approaches, they start to gather nuts, seeds and other food they can store for the winter. Peanut butter is usually a great bait because it has a strong odor that squirrels can smell and is also a food they enjoy eating.

What Is A Natural Squirrel Deterrent?

Squirrels can be repelled by hot peppers such as cayenne pepper or black pepper. They can also be deterred with mint plants, daffodils, snowdrops, and hyacinths.

Vinegar is bitter to squirrels and can be sprayed on plants that are getting munched on by squirrels.

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