Squirrels are one of the most common animals inhabiting most of North America. They come in a multitude of colors from brown to black, red, white and almost every color in between. When observing a squirrel one of its most distinct features is its long bushy tail, which plays an important role in movement, warmth and communication.
Squirrels (including their tails) are typically about 40-55 cm (15-22 in) long and weigh about 350-700 grams (12 to 24 ounces). Squirrels are mainly active during the day and sleep in the evenings. Contrary to popular belief, squirrels do not hibernate, but will spend a significant amount of time in their nesting dens during the cold and snowy winter months.
Squirrels are a very vocal animal and can often be heard barking, chattering, purring and screaming.
Squirrels are primarily vegetarian and eat a variety of fruits, berries, nuts and sometimes insects. Many backyards offer these tasty treats, as well as the added bonus of birdseed.
Keeping Squirrels Out of the Garden
Homeowners have several options to repel or discourage squirrels.
Q. How can I discourage squirrels from eating my flowers?
A. You can directly defend certain plants from squirrels by spraying them with plant-protective products like Deer Away and Plantskydd. Deer Away works to discourage a number of different animals including deer, rabbits and squirrels by tricking the animal into thinking that the food in the area is rancid. Deer Away gives off a slight smell that animals can sense but humans do not. It is not harmful for the animals, but just discourages feeding on the plants and trees that have been spayed. Deer Away is unique because it binds directly to the plant and does not get washed off in the rain. It is sprayed directly on the plant’s foliage, as well as on any mulch or flower pots in the area. It should not be sprayed directly on the blossoms, as it can cause wilting of the flowers. Normally it lasts about 2 months, before it needs to be replenished.
The other product that can be used is called PlantSkydd. It was developed by the Swedish forestry service and is based on the use of both taste and smell repellency. Plantskydd tricks the animal into thinking that there is a predator in the area and encourages them to leave the area and find another area to forage for food. Plantskydd comes in a spray version as well as a new granular format that can be sprinkled on the ground around plants that are being eaten by rabbits and squirrels. For smaller flowers and plants and those in pots, the granular version is recommended.
Q: Do water sprayers discourage squirrels?
A. Yes, a motion activated water repeller is one way to protect vegetable gardens and shrubs from squirrels. The ScareCrow Outdoor Animal Deterrent is easy to use and convenient. It is a motion-activated sprinkler which instantly releases a short but startling burst of water when it detects an animal in the area. The burst of water instantly scares the squirrel and other animals away. The motion sensor range extends about 35 feet out from the ScareCrow spray unit. In addition to scaring squirrels away, the ScareCrow sprayer can be used to discourage domestic dogs and cats, deer, raccoons and predatory birds attacking fishponds.
Q. Squirrels are constantly digging up my flowerbeds and flower posts and burying peanuts there. What can I do to stop them?
A. Treating the area with Plantskydd will discourage squirrels from burying their food in the area, as they do not want to bury food in an area where they think a predator is active.
Q. Can you trap squirrels?
A. In certain situations, it may be possible to trap and relocate a squirrel in a safe and humane manner, but there are many concerns. Relocated squirrels may not be able to find food effectively in their new environment and may have to contend with existing wildlife defending their territory. Many young are also orphaned in the process. As a result, it is no longer recommended or indeed permitted by many local governments. It is always a good idea to contact your local municipal government to confirm if they have any rules about trapping wild animals.
Q. How should I go about trapping them?
A. If you are trapping squirrels there are a number of food baits that work well as an attractant to entice the squirrel to enter the trap. It is best to place the food on a small plate at the inside end of the trap. Some of the most effective food baits to attract squirrels include cereal, nuts (especially peanuts), sunflower seed and apples.
Q. How far away should I take a live-trapped squirrel so that it does not return to my house?
A. It is recommended that you take a squirrel at least 5km away to ensure it does return to your home. Some municipalities have regulations regarding the distance a wild animal can be moved, so please check with your local bylaws.
Squirrels and Bird Feeders
Q. How can I combat squirrels in my birdfeeder?
A. The main factor in discouraging squirrels form bothering your birdfeeder is to make it challenging for the squirrel to get at it. One option is to use a tall (about 8 to 10 feet) free standing pole which is more than 8 feet away from a jumping location such as a fence or roof top from which a squirrel can launch themselves. Squirrels are able to jump about 4 feet vertically. The use of a pole baffle can also significantly increase the difficulty for a squirrel to access a pole-mounted feeder.
Hanging a birdfeeder on a rope under a hanging squirrel baffle can also be very effective at inhibiting and frustrating a squirrel.
But likely the best solution is a properly positioned, good quality squirrel-proof bird feeder.
Q. Is there a type of seed that squirrels do not like?
A. Squirrels do not like the taste of safflower seed and normally will leave it alone. Unfortunately, not all birds will eat safflower. Cardinals love it, but many smaller birds cannot penetrate the seed shell.
Using Squirrel Proof Wild Bird Seed that is treated with concentrated chili oil will discourage squirrels and will be eaten by all varieties of wild birds. Squirrels, like all mammals, taste the hot sensation of the spicy chili flavor, but birds do not have that neural receptor and instead benefit from vitamin-enriched birdseed. When initially starting to use Squirrel Proof Wild Bird Seed you will notice the squirrels tasting the seed, but after trying it a few times and each time realizing that it is unpalatable, they soon learn to stay away from it based on the smell. There is also a Squirrel Proof Treat Your Own Oil which you can apply to you own favourite birdseed mix to make it squirrel proof.
Q. Are there any birdfeeders that are truly squirrel proof?
A. There are many different types and styles of squirrel-proof feeders available, with both unique designs and functionality. The two squirrel-proof feeders that seem to be the most popular are the Squirrel Buster Plus and the Droll Yankees Yankee Flipper. The Squirrel Buster Plus is a manual mechanism-based feeder that simply closes when a squirrel gets on it. The weight sensitivity can be increased or decreased to even exclude large birds such as grackles. The Yankee Flipper is powered by a rechargeable battery and flips the squirrel off the feeder. Both come with lifetime warranties, attesting to the quality of these feeders.
Q. What else can be done to prevent squirrels from damaging my feeders and scaring away my birds?
A. Another way to help reduce the damage done by squirrels to bird feeders is to provide the squirrels with their own feeders. If there is an easy-to-access food source many squirrels will bypass the birdfeeder and stick with their own feeder.
Squirrels in my Attic
Q. I have squirrels in the attic, but I don’t know how they are getting in.
A. Squirrels can squeeze through very small openings - virtually any opening that they can get their head through. Many of the common points of entry by a squirrel are through attic vent louvers, attic fans and small openings in fascia boards.
Try to make sure that these openings are either closed or properly guarded with sturdy, well secured metal screening.
Q. I already have squirrels in my attic. How can I drive them out?
A. To discourage squirrels from living in your attic you can do one or both of the following methods. 1. Apply Plantskydd around the yard and near the entrance to the attic to trick the squirrels into thinking there is an active predator in the area. The natural reaction of a squirrel is to relocate. 2. Inside the attic you can use a sonic pest chaser such as the Victor Heavy Duty Sonic Pest Chaser to make the attic area an uncomfortable living area. The PestChaser puts out a high-pitched sound that the squirrel can hear but humans do not. It does not hurt the squirrels, but it aggravates them and encourages them to leave the area and find a new home.
Q. Can I use mothballs to drive a squirrel out of my attic?
A. Yes, mothballs can deter squirrels, but they are toxic if a squirrel tastes or touches them. It is better to use a non-toxic repellent such as Plantskydd or the Victor PestChaser Pro.
If you do use mothballs, it is best to put them in a sock that is tied tightly so the squirrels do not come into direct contact with them.