How to Identify and Get Rid of Squirrels

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A squirrel enjoys a snack. 

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Here are tips how to identify and get rid of squirrels, as they can cause many problems in your garden.

Why Worry About Squirrels in the Garden?

With a fondness for fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers, the common gray squirrel has long spelled trouble for home gardeners. From Maine to Montana, these wily creatures yank geraniums from window boxes, pluck cherry tomatoes from their vines, and strip apple trees like professional pickers. Though their foraging forays can happen at any time of year, a squirrel’s raid in autumn can drive a gardener nuts.

Squirrels are especially active in autumn as they stock up for winter. They do not hibernate (although they may “lie low” during cold spells), so their underground pantries are vitally important winter warehouses. They have a major instinct for hoarding food, which helps them to survive. Gray squirrels stash food by burying it in a scattered fashion around their territory.

Although America is home to several species of squirrels, it is the suburb-savvy gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, that gives gardeners (and people who feed birds) the most grief. How do these clever critters find bulbs, anyway? Why do they ransack some borders and leave others alone? What do squirrels like to eat?

The average squirrel gathers acorns, pinecones, nuts, bark, fruit, berries, fungi, and insects, but is not above stealing bird eggs and bulbs. Sometimes they will even ruin your flowers just for the fun of it! Keep an eye out for these pesky visitors and try some of our tips below for getting rid of them.



    How to Identify Squirrels in your Garden

    Weighing an average of 16 to 24 ounces, the type of squirrel that is probably causing damage in your garden is the common gray squirrel. Its color varies from gray, tan, or light brown to dark brown and black. Its belly is light, from white to gray. Its body is 8 to 11 inches in length, and its tail measures 8 to 10 inches. Its vocal call is a rapid CRRK CRRK or QUACK QUACK, similar to a duck. The famous feature of the gray squirrel is its bushy tail, a luxurious puff of fur used for warmth, communication, and balance.

    Squirrels have a very keen sense of smell, which most gardeners blame for their bulb pilfering. The nose of these expert foragers is a tiny but powerful tool in the search for hidden nuts and berries. Gardeners aren’t sure whether the squirrels do actively seek out the spring bulbs or not, but the problem of bulb snatching is real and widespread.

    Squirrel Damage

    • Spring bulbs snacked on? You’re probably dealing with squirrels or chipmunks. Squirrels love to dig up spring bulbs during their autumn foraging—both to eat the bulbs and to use the ready-made holes to store their nuts.
    • Squirrels will not only attack your gardens, but your bird feeders as well. If you notice your bird food disappearing rather quickly, you may have a squirrel problem.


    Control and Prevention

    How to Get Rid of Squirrels

    • Try saving orange and lemon rinds and storing them in the freezer during the winter. When you start your garden in the spring, bury the rinds just under the surface of the soil. The rinds will discourage squirrels from digging.
    • You can also scatter dog or human hair around your garden. One readers shares, “I used to have a problem with squirrels digging up my bulbs. Now, once in the spring and once in the fall, I ask my hairdresser to save a big bag of hair for me. I lightly dig this into the soil. Squirrels can not stand the smell of humans, so they leave the gardens alone.”
    • You can sprinkle blood meal around your garden as well.
    • Sprinkle coffee grounds on the soil to keep squirrels from tunneling.
    • Don’t trap and relocate squirrels. This is a losing battle since the population of squirrels is extremely high. Also, if the animal is a female there is a high likelihood that you will remove her from babies that depend on her for survival.

    Squirrel Prevention

    • Don’t advertise your newly dug bulbs by leaving papery bits of bulb debris in or on the soil. Clean up your act, or better still, try not to lay your bulbs on the ground while you dig the holes to plant them—squirrels will smell their favorite and scamper over.
    • Want to keep squirrels off your birdfeeders? Place birdfeeders at least 5 to 6 feet off the ground and 8 to 10 feet away from trees or structures. (Squirrels can leap that far and even farther.) Some folks use a pulley system. Add baffles below new birdfeeders. (If squirrels have already used a birdfeeder, they’ll find a way around the baffle.)
    • Plant one or two cloves of garlic near your spring bulbs. You can also try sprinkling garlic powder or cayenne pepper on the soil when plants are ready to bloom. The smells should keep the squirrels away.
    • Loose soil tempts foraging squirrels, so pack the ground down after planting.
    • To protect spring bulbs, line your planting bed with one inch chicken wire and place more wire on top of the bulbs. The plants can grow through the wires, but the squirrels can’t get to the bulbs. Also, consider planting bulbs that squirrels don’t like such as daffodils, ornamental onions (Allium), snowdrops (Galanthus), and grape hyacinths (Muscari). Plus, check out our list of rodent-proof bulbs.
    • Squirrels are especially fond of tulips and crocuses, so you might want to avoid them if you have squirrels around.


    Reader Suggestions

    Here are a couple of suggestions that readers sent in:

    • A newly developed motion-activated sprinkler, primarily designed to keep cats and rabbits out of gardens, may help scare away squirrels, especially in small yards or at corners of front yards where damage is most likely to occur. However, the presence of numerous squirrels, stray animals, or children may result in overwatering and high water bills if they continually trigger this device.
    • Get some mousetraps. Anchor them solidly to the ground in the area where the squirrels have been digging. Cover them with newspaper, and sprinkle a little dirt on top. When a squirrel comes to dig, it will set off the traps. As the mechanism snaps, it will scare and throw dirt at the squirrel. Once it’s scared enough times, it will find another digging area. Be sure to anchor the traps just in case the wind blows the newspaper off of them. If the trap is anchored, the squirrel will not get hurt.

    Do you have any tips for keeping squirrels away? Let us know below!

    Plants Affected


    Reader Comments

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    eat what you shoot

    Please honor the native fauna and find out how to clean, eat, and use the pelt of it. PA Farm Show coming January can connect you. Enjoy!

    squirrel resistance

    i use 1/3 +/- C neutral food oil to 1/3 C cayenne fine ground on bulk 2-3 Gallon bucket oil sunflower seeds. Blend carefully and put in squirrel resistant feeders. Birds get used to the spice but squirrels don't. Save on seeds.

    I would just like to say that

    I would just like to say that squirrels dug up more than half of the muscari bulbs I planted only one day after I planted them. I know it was squirrels and I know they were grape hyacinth bulbs cause I just planted them. So obviously muscari bulbs are NOT squirrel resistant.


    I noticed you use the word humane in your article, as far as I am concerned these little bastards just need to die, they destroyed my garden last year despite live trapping and relocating 11 of them several miles away. I am now using several traps in an attempt to get rid of the infestation. Any other Ideas besides what is said above?


    Dennis Jonas

    Read our tips at the top of

    Read our tips at the top of this page and also scan some of the Q&As. There are some repellents available and some people use netting and chicken wire.

    The squirrels ate all the

    The squirrels ate all the unripe peaches out of my two peach trees last spring. Is there any way to keep them out of the fruit trees?

    I had this same problem!

    Two weeks before they would have been ripe those buggers stole them, took a few bites, and left them on the ground as if to taunt me. My solution, constant trapping and execution of them. You can relocate them should you wish...but last year I killed almost 50 of them and they are still around.

    Shy of imploying landmines, I understand spearmint will help deter them. I'm working on getting some established but had some germination issues... Be careful though as I understand once established, spearmint grows like a weed!


    Live in Southern California and have a few tomato plants that produce fabulous tomatoes! Started seeing ripe & green disappear during night! Set test with 2 big ripe tomatoes on flat surface! They were half eaten, cleanly, then carried remainder about 30 feet and departed! Set trap with new tomatoes surrounded with white flour smoothed over and sure enough, looks like squirrel prints!! They do not like the flour on their paws do they are not taking tomatoes after they get flour on feet!! Pretty sure rats would naw at fruit and not carry carefully so far!! We have a few squirrels in neighborhood so I am assuming I
    Have identified thief!! I moved other pots of tomatoes up on deck! So far, so good!

    A band of baby Squirels

    A band of baby Squirels destroying my pecan, please help. What can I do to get rid of them. Tried sound but need more permanet measure. Thanks

    There seems to be no (easy)

    There seems to be no (easy) solution to the squirrels in your pecan trees. Here's what we heard...
    • You could try wrapping the tree in a two-foot wide metal barrier to prevent the squirrels from climbing up it. Note that squirrels will just from other trees into it, however.
    • Cut off any branches that hang low to the ground, esp nut bearing ones. Cut down any trees or the like that provide the squirrels a jumping off point into the tree.
    • Set live traps (to catch the squirrels) and transport the caught ones to a distant area. (Make sure that other squirrels see you do this; they should take it as a warning.)
    • Provide an alternative food source, such as corn cobs.
    • Finally, having the same problem with a peach tree, one Almanac editor was advised to hang sparkly Christmas ornaments in the tree. (Squirrels are spooked by sparkly things.) It worked ... until the tail end of season—but she still got more of the harvest then the squirrels did.
    We hope this helps!



    Hi, Linda: There are many

    Hi, Linda: There are many relatively easy and inexpensive deterrents that you could try. Please see the tips above as well as comments in the thread below. A lot depends on your own layout and circumstances, so it's tough to be specific. One thing we would suggest, though, is to try a lot of things at once and just really make it uncomfortable for the critters to be around. Most folks just try one thing at a time, if for no other reason than this allows them to figure out what works. But we really don't care what works, as long as something works -- so feel free to try multiple things at once. Good luck!

    I shoot and trap the

    I shoot and trap the squirrels- I want them dead. they dig up all seedlings, transplants and more. They try to dig through our roofing and siding all times of the year. we have 4.5 acres to contend with and I am sick and tired of keeping a 1/5 acre garden for our needs that the squirrels like to destroy.

    I have been using Hot Pepper

    I have been using Hot Pepper Suet blocks for yrs. birds will eat them, squirrels will not. Can be found in Home Depot or Walmart. NO MORE SQUIRRELS. Doesn't kill them but they won't be hanging around.

    I have dogs and cats. In the

    I have dogs and cats. In the garden I bury pet poop in mole tunnels, sprinkle used coffee grounds and crushed egg shells around young plants, and feed the squirrels up by my kitchen window, so I can enjoy their presence



    I have read all the books and

    I have read all the books and magazines and there are two standard squirrel deterrents. use a metal post and a tin barrier that prevents squirrels from getting into bird feeders. This is good but consider this.
    Squirrels are God's creatures also. I even had one for a pet when I was a tiny little girl, so small that I don't remember but have a video of the squirrel. Bird's need food and so do squirrels. So don't just deter the squirrels but put up a feeder for the squirrels as far away from the bird feeders as possible. That may not be possible in a very small yard but large backyards; parks that will give you permission, and wooded areas will work wonderfully for this mission of mercy.
    The only thing was a regular wooded area where other animal roam, is that the racoons, opossums and deer may also find the food and eat it. If a person has enough money they might set out bales of hay, corn stalks, and other deer food, pieces of fruit and peanut mixed with nuts and fruit, bird seed, and carrots; all chopped up and mixed into the peanut butter. If the birds and squirrels can not get to the food because of the other animals,plant berry shrubs, nut and seed trees, and wildflowers which help birds a great deal also. Elm trees have seeds, maple trees have seeds, hack-berry trees have little berries which I have seen Robins devour in the winter when migrating, and berry trees are also good. When you plant trees in a wooded area you need to surround the trunk with a flexible wire cage to protect the bark which deer will eat. Than expand the cage periodically so that the tree has room to grow. A wooded area like this along with extra help from human friends can be bird and animal friendly. I wish everyone who has money would consider doing this, for there is not a lot of land available for animals to survive on anymore.

    What a fabulous artical you

    What a fabulous artical you have written! Good on you! I agree we need to be civilized and learn to live cooperatively with nature and not kill animals that are just going about their business of survival! I have a few things to add:
    1) Are people positive that squirrels are doing the damage? I had whole cucumber, tomato and pepper plants knawed away at the base and the plants eaten. After observing day and night, it turned out to be rats (I thought it was rabbits, racoons or squirrels). They were the type that burrow under large tree roots.
    2) I do feed my squirrels sunflower seeds and they are happy and have never touched anything in my yard or large vegetable garden. I dont feed peanuts because they will bury them and I want to avoid having them dig in my garden.
    3) To get rid of the rats, i set traps. After one was caught, the others avoided the traps. So, i leave unset traps all around my rows of tomatoes and cukes and the rats stay away. As an extra precaution, i wrapped the base (18") of all 40 plants with copper mesh or remay cloth. It took a few hours to do this but it was worth it as no more damage!
    4) I also put bunched up netting on the ground around the base of my tomato and cucumber plants and also around some raised beds. This will deter all small critters. I check daily as birds very occasionally get tangled.
    5) Finally, i found that rats, being nocturnal, dont like light. I put solar powered spotlights throughout the garden, shining directly on the 'at risk' plants! Works like a charm!!
    Note: My vegetable 'raised bed' gardens are also surrounded by 8' deer fencing.
    My only problem now are bugs that chew leaves, mostly earwigs and vine weevils here (Victoria, BC).
    Please stop killing the little wild creatures! When you kill rats or squirrels, new ones will simply move into the territory. Better to train the established ones as they will educate their babies.
    Good luck! Diane

    Squirrels are natural creatures but I need my food too

    It's lovely for you to be so pro-squirrel. I'm not one to kill them. However, what am I to eat when they stole every single green pepper and tomato I grew last year? Every - single - one. How do I know it was squirrels? I have a security camera (we live in a high crime area) which captured them dining on my dinner. I container garden as it's all I can afford to do. There are plenty of plants in the area to sustain squirrels - they just love to eat what I've spent all summer working on. I had an apple tree on the other side of the house with apples they loved too - they had PLENTY of food with just that tree. I had to forgo buying some foodstuffs in order to afford the plants and containers. When I get zero back, it's an issue. For those who garden just because they enjoy it that's one thing - but for those of us who have invested time and money as a way to be able to eat healthier in the long run, this is a serious problem. I am hopeful that the tips the Farmer's Almanac provided will help. I can buy an entire bag of hot peppers for less than $5, grind them myself, and hopefully have a summer free from squirrels eating my food.

    I don't have a garden. I'm

    I don't have a garden. I'm just contemplating the difficulties of starting a garden near a forest. My thoughts on this are to make several nut cashes. When the snow comes I'll take it away. At that point I'll set up traps to catch them as they will be desperate for food. After that you can insert whatever politically correct action that makes your day better.

    As for the cashe, I'm thinking of using pallets. I'll have it nice and air tight with multiple entrances. I'll find go to the dump and find some used pipes, longer the better. It will have full sun exposure along a southern edge of a forest. It will have a black chimney that will heat the air and move the air out, keeping the inside nice and dry.

    Err, northern edge of the

    Err, northern edge of the forest.

    We own a Wildlife Trapping &

    We own a Wildlife Trapping & Control company here in Georgia. You want to be careful about what measures you take to rid your yard of squirrels. First if you are trapping there are laws in each state about trapping what you can do and cannot do. Plus to release them in our state it is illegal without written permission where you are releasing them at. In Wisc there was a study and squirrels returned 11 miles to their home. Make sure you take them far enough or you are just exercising them. Again, every State is different.

    Been trapping, 48 last year,

    Been trapping, 48 last year, 17 so far this year. Take them to a large wooded area with lake. I guess it has slowed down. When I first started it was one every day some times two. New Year's day this year I had two. Is there any birth control for them? :-) Will caster oil keeps them away, sprayed on fence.

    Yup, I baptize mine too, but

    Yup, I baptize mine too, but in the bathtub. Once you've had them in you attic damaging wires you have no love left for them. Also trimmed tree limbs - they can jump an awfully long way. One tree I had t put a 2 foot section of flashing around the trunk. They jump to it and cant hang on, so they slide off. Was good entertainment watching them learn that lesson.

    I have a problem every Spring

    I have a problem every Spring with squirrels digging up my Lilies in search of their previously buried nuts. I have used cayenne pepper and black pepper sprinkled on top of the mulch near the flowers and this has discourage them. However, I will give the hair suggestion a try as well. Thanks for the advice.

    I have a terrible problem

    I have a terrible problem with squirrels eating my bell peppers. How can I stop them!

    Squirrels can be captured in

    Squirrels can be captured in live traps and released in another location. Or, see our tips on this page.

    Buy a pellet gun. Squirrels

    Buy a pellet gun. Squirrels are numerous and often over run areas with gardens destroying your goodies. I have a rabbit problem, well, not anymore. I clean the rabbit, freeze it for 3 days and my wolfdog gets the most nutritious meal he could ever ask for.

    I have a fisher eating my

    I have a fisher eating my lettuce off of my deck. Would these tips help for it?

    It may work; however, fishers

    It may work; however, fishers have very, very long claws that can slice through just about anything.

    It's surprising that a fisher would enjoy eating lettuce. In many instances, they would rather eat something warm-blooded.

    Thank you for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

    After planting vegtables in

    After planting vegtables in my present home here in Connecticut for over 10 years I now seem to have a problem with squirrels grabing my cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries and squash and who knows what else and leaving a few bites and then droping them on the ground. I have never had this problem ever before but it started last year and we actualy caught them red handed a number of times, this year so far they are into my strawberries, ( to early for the veggies ) HELP What can I do.

    We feel for you. You may want

    We feel for you. You may want to invest in some netting and put that over your plants. A dog or cat is a great squirrel chaser if that's an option. There are many repellents on the market, including natural ones with garlic. If you're really going crazy, explore the idea of a raptor perch and owl nest box for natural predators who will eat them in no time.

    Growing a small vegetable

    Growing a small vegetable garden for the first time and squirrels are stealing my tomatoes as fast as they ripen. Here's what I've tried and the results:
    - Used cat litter sprinkled about. works for about an hour til they figure it out. - wind chimes. No effect. - Inflatable predators. No effect, but to be fair I used an alligator and a killer whale from the pool, not really things the critters beware here in Ky. The squirrels laughed at me. -Animal-B-Gone pellets from Ortho. Worked for four days thru two waterings and one heavy rain. Expensive fix. I press one with various hot peppers and vinegar, rotten eggs, ect. I don't mind sharing my veggies, but the greedy little @#$%&@ want it all.

    I recommend a .22 short, if

    I recommend a .22 short, if you have a rifle that will shoot it. Cheap, effective on small game/pests. Bonus: I hear squirrel tastes like chicken, maybe better. :-)

    .22 short cb thats a

    .22 short cb thats a sub-sonic round if you have nosy neighbors.

    I recommend a .177 pellet

    I recommend a .177 pellet rifle. The new pellet rifles have whisper technology which cuts the loudness by about 50% if your neighbors have delicate ears. Bait the squirrels in a spot with apples and sit behind a comfortable cover and wait for you targets to show.

    veggie drop

    damages may be catipillars or snails. voles and chipmunks too. try some diatomaceous earth around seedlings
    for slugs/snails and masculine spray fragrance with predator urine feromone for herbivore prevention.

    Now that all the snow has

    Now that all the snow has melted I have trails in my yard I am told it is the work of voles what can I do to get the grass to grow back and what do I do about the voles?

    I had(past tense) these

    I had(past tense) these critters so bad in my yard a few years ago that I went to the extreme of building a sheet metal box 3 feet deep by 18 inches square & buried it in the yard. after one summer, the population of voles in my yard DROPPED by two thirds!! By the end of the second summer, I had not 1 vole left! Voles can dig through just about anything EXCEPT FOR sheet metal.

    Now I'm not saying this is the best way to handle them, but it worked for me.

    Can you elaborate on the

    Can you elaborate on the constuction of this box? Is it left open at the top? How do they get into the box? I have a huge problem with voles (I think). No matter where we walk around here there is these trails of mounds and walking in the yard (front or back) is like walking on a sponge of quicksand (one minute you're 5'9" and the next you are 5' 3")....I mean it's totally ridiculous to see the obvious trails some underground varmint is making around here.

    Also, if they are voles (moles?), can we catch them and are they edible? The County I am in has forced me to cease doing the work I've been doing most of my working life; they say I now have to rezone with a host of other profiteering stipulations and ordinances which I cannot afford...so if they are edible....well, it won't be much longer before I have to eat voles, moles, squirrels and if that codes inspector is caught unawares, him too!

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