How to Repel Squirrels from a Yard

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When it comes to acrobatics and comical antics, high-wire artists and circus clowns have nothing on tree squirrels. For each smile they bring, however, the bushy-tailed rodents exact a price. Raided bird feeders and bulb beds and hole-riddled lawns follow when squirrels move in, and keeping them out is the only way to stop the damage.

Fight Them with Flowers

Many fall-planted flower bulbs are sure-fire squirrel attractants. They include crocuses (Crocus spp.) and hybrid tulips (Tulipa x hybrida), perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8 and 5 through 7, respectively, depending on the variety. Outsmart the animals by planting their favorites among bulbs they absolutely loathe:

Daffodils (Narcissus spp., USDA zones 4 through 8) contain a toxin lethal to squirrels; the animals move on after a single nibble.

Delicate, blue-flowered Siberian squill (Scilla siberica, USDA zones 2 through 8) also poisons squirrels. If Siberian squill is invasive in your area, then consider using Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica, USDA zones 3 through 8) and grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum, USDA zones 4 through 8) to repel squirrels. They aren't toxic; the animals just don't like their taste.

Crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis, USDA zones 5 through 8) keeps squirrels out of gardens by scaring them with a musky, skunk fragrance, Skunks prey on squirrels.

Tip

    • Squirrels collect and bury acorns, nuts and seeds in fall. Signs of digging in a flowerbed don't necessarily mean squirrels pilfered bulbs, but torn bulb "paper" and chewed bits of bulbs do.
    • Burying tulip bulbs 1 to 2 inches deeper than their package's suggested depth makes it more difficult for squirrels to unearth them.
    • Protect your lawn from squirrels' annual food-caching frenzy by collecting acorns and nuts as they fall. 

Bounce Them from the Bird Feeder

A squirrel may never have met a bird feeder it didn't try to invade. Reserving your bird feeder for the birds may require modifying it.

Baffle Them

A squirrel baffle sits above or below a bird feeder. It's designed to swivel and tilt when a squirrel jumps down from above, or to block the animal's ascent from below. An inexpensive alternative is to make a bottle baffle that stops squirrels from gripping the feeder's wire or pole as they try to reach the feeder.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean, empty, 1- or 2-liter plastic bottle
  • Sharp knife or hole-puncturing tool
  • Waterproof duct tape (optional)

Step 1: Prepare the Bottle

Cut a hole in the base of a clean, empty, 1- or 2-liter plastic bottle by using a sharp knife, or use a hole-puncturing tool to make a hole in the bottle's cap. The hole should be large enough for the bottle to slide over the bird feeder pole from below or down the feeder's support wire from above.

Step 2: Position the Bottle

Remove the bird feeder from its support. If it's a pole feeder, slide the bottle -- with its base side pointing toward the ground -- down the pole to the midway point, and secure the bottle's neck to the pole well with waterproof duct tape. Reattach the feeder to the pole.

If it is a wired feeder, slide the bottle -- with its cap pointing toward the ground -- down the wire support. When you reattach and hang the wired feeder, the bottle baffle will rest on its top.

Turn Up the Heat

Nothing seems to help a squirrel notice a chilly reception better than a mouthful of heat. One potent squirrel repellent is capsaicin, the fiery chemical in chili powder. It has no known effect on birds, but a few encounters with chili-treated birdseed are usually enough for a squirrel to associate its scent with pain and look elsewhere for food.

Prepare the seed by putting it in a paper bag and sprinkling a small portion of chili powder over the seed. Shake the bag to distribute the powder, stopping as needed to add chili powder until the seed is coated well but still visible. Coating it evenly prevents loose chili powder from irritating birds' skin and eyes.

Warning

  • Use chili powder only as a last resort; baffles are more humane, and the long-term effects of chili powder-treated seed on birds haven't been studied. Also, capsaicin is toxic to bees and other beneficial insects.

Tip

  • The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds also recommends curry powder as a squirrel deterrent.

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