Whether you want to learn how to get rid of squirrels because they are in your attic, scaring the birds away from birdbaths and feeders, or just want to ensure your children aren’t at risk when they play in the yard, squirrel control can be achieved in a number of different ways. Below are some simple tips on getting rid of squirrels based on the leading research in squirrel removal and control.
How to get rid of squirrels outside
Most of the squirrels you see outside your home are not going to present a problem. It’s when they invade your living space that the real nuisance starts. But as the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection notes, outdoor squirrels can be problematic as well:
‟Another major complaint about squirrels is the disruption they may cause at bird feeders. Feeders should be placed in an area where squirrels cannot gain access to them, far away from shrubs and overhanging tree branches. Mounting the feeder on a metal pole at least six feet high and attaching a metal, cone-shaped baffle to the pole will help prevent squirrels from reaching it. Hanging feeders are not recommended, since squirrels will climb down the hanger wire or will shake the wire until the food falls to the ground.”
If the outdoor population becomes unmanageable and squirrel removal is necessary, the site goes on to say:
‟Live-trapping gray squirrels, using metal box traps at least two feet long is often the most effective way to remove them. Place traps, baited with apple chunks, peanut butter, or various nuts, in heavily travelled [sic] routes or on rooftops, along porch railings, or within the attic. Once trapped, squirrels should be quickly removed from cages and released.”
Of course, it’s much easier to call a pest management professional so you don’t have to deal with a caged squirrel, dead or alive.
How to get rid of ground squirrels in your home
If you need help getting rid of squirrels in your home, a pest management professional is going to be your safest bet as well. The Environmental Protection Agency summarizes the options for squirrel control, starting with a word of caution:
‟Be warned, if someone recommends using mothballs, forget it; it’s illegal. The EPA allows moth balls for moths and caterpillars only. This is because moth balls are toxic to humans and pets. You can try trapping them [squirrels], locking them out, or quickly sealing up holes if you know they are out to get lunch and water.”
If you decide to trap the wild animal yourself, Pennsylvania State University advises:
‟Wire-cage traps and box traps can be used to capture squirrels alive. Prebait the traps by tying the doors open for two to three days to get squirrels accustomed to feeding in the traps. This practice will make it easier to capture a large number of squirrels in one area. Good baits are orange and apple slices, walnuts or pecans removed from the shell, and peanut butter. Other foods familiar to squirrels also may work well, such as corn or sunflower seeds. After prebaiting, set the traps and check them twice daily. It is most efficient and humane to check the traps in the morning and evening. Once the animal has been trapped and removed from the house or other building and the entrance holes closed, it may be released in the yard. However, make sure to block or eliminate any access routes back to vulnerable areas of the building.”
Eliminating points of access is not only important when the squirrel is in your home, but also for squirrel prevention. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection points out:
‟When blocking holes to prevent squirrels and other animals from gaining access, be sure that none are trapped inside. Adults can cause severe damage by chewing to regain entrance to reach their young. If chewing persists, heavy, half-inch wire mesh can be temporarily placed over the problem area. Trimming shrubs and vines and pruning overhanging tree limbs may discourage squirrels from causing problems in the home.”
During the actual squirrel removal, the site warns that:
‟Gray squirrels are highly excitable and can cause severe damage if trapped inside a building. When frightened, they tend to run around a room with reckless abandon, knocking over anything in their way. By quickly and quietly opening a door or window to the outside and leaving the room, you will give the squirrel its best chance to get out.”
How to get rid of a squirrel in your chimney or wall
Most squirrels in the home are found in attics or crawl spaces. Unfortunately, they can sometimes fall into wall voids from inside, or even down your chimney from outside. In these cases, a pest management professional is preferred because if you can’t remove the squirrel and it dies, you have to deal with the smell from the rotting corpse. If you prefer to attempt squirrel removal on your own, the Connecticut site advises:
‟To free a squirrel trapped in a chimney, lower a heavy rope down the chimney to provide a means for the animal to climb out. Drop the other end of the rope to the ground to avoid another trip to the roof to retrieve it after the squirrel has left.”
Other things to take into consideration
Unfortunately, there’s more to take into account. The Statewide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program at the University of California’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources makes some great observations about getting rid of squirrels, including some alternative methods, pointing out:
- Trees that overhang roofs or are close to telephone lines should be cut back to slow the movement of squirrels about the yard. Anything that can be done to make a garden less attractive to squirrels is helpful.
- Although some chemical repellents are registered for use to keep tree squirrels out of an area, their effectiveness is questionable. There are also repellents that are added to birdseed that are supposed to prevent squirrels from feeding on the seeds, however, these, too, have shown little promise.
- Tree squirrels quickly become habituated to visual or sound frightening devices and pay little attention to them after a couple of days. A number of these devices are on the market, but none have proven very effective.
- Where shooting is not prohibited, the Eastern fox tree squirrel can be taken at close range with a pellet gun. Check with local authorities to determine if this method is legal in your area.
- Tree squirrels are quick to escape when pursued by predators. Some dogs that have full run of the yard will keep squirrels at bay. Predators in urban and suburban areas generally have little effect on tree squirrel populations.
Why getting rid of squirrels might be even harder than you thought
Of course, other restrictions to squirrel control may apply by region. In certain states, gray squirrels and fox squirrels are classified as game animals, meaning you can only get rid of them if you have a license – unless they are physically damaging your property and you can prove it. Other states have gun regulations, both on shotguns and pellet guns, both of which can be used to get rid of squirrels if the law allows. Of course, that involves killing the squirrel, which isn’t always the most pleasant thing to do.
But as the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection points out, even humane removal can fail:
‟The trapping of squirrels can temporarily solve a persistent problem but will not help in the long run, since other squirrels will soon come into an area to replace the removed animals.”
In short, figuring out how to get rid of squirrels can drive you nuts. Avoid all the hassle and just call Terminix® for squirrel removal or any other wildlife control issues you might have.