Cayenne Pepper to Repel Squirrels, Rabbits & Deer

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Deer can be dissuaded from entering your garden by using cayenne pepper spray.
Image Credit: L Feddes/iStock/GettyImages

As flowers bloom and vegetables arrive in summer, they attract wildlife like squirrels, rabbits and deer that can eat or trample all of your hard work. Luckily it is possible to humanely repel all of these animals by using preparations of a popular spice rack staple -- cayenne pepper wildlife repellent.


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Benefits of Cayenne Wildlife Repellent

Cayenne pepper spray is a taste repellent. It is applied to the plant and when an animal tries to taste it, it is repelled by the hot pepper taste. Spraying cayenne pepper on plants will keep deer, rabbits and squirrels as well as stray animals from eating them. It can also work if sprayed on surfaces in the area that these animals may try to eat, lick or smell.


Dried Cayenne Recipe

There are different ways of preparing cayenne pepper repellents and you may have to try different formulas to discover which is most effective. For a basic recipe using cayenne powder from your spice rack, combine 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper in a pot. Boil the mixture for 20 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool and strain it through cheesecloth. Put it in a spray bottle and spray plants and other surfaces in the area you want to protect, avoiding spraying plants you will eat. Spray each day for two weeks to keep animals at bay.


Fresh Cayenne Recipe

Place three fresh cayenne, jalapeno or habanero peppers in a blender or food processer. Add water slowly until you are able to blend a liquid mixture. Place a piece of cheesecloth over a glass jar and pour the mixture through the cheesecloth. Next, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil along with a squirt of white glue and two drops of dishwashing liquid. Dilute the mixture at a ratio of one part pepper repellent to 10 parts water. Pour it into a spray bottle and spray it on plants and throughout the area you want to control, avoiding plants you will eat.


Cayenne Pepper Spray Limitations

Repellents will not work indefinitely and have to be reapplied often, especially in hot weather and after rain. Also, since taste repellents such as cayenne peppers cannot be applied to plants you will eat without those plants absorbing their taste, they may be less effective. Some animals will even disregard the taste and eat anyway if they are hungry. Another downside of using pepper spray is that it will also repel desirable beneficial predators and pollinators.


Improving Pepper Spray Results

To improve your results with cayenne pepper sprays in edible gardens, place non-edible plants around the perimeter of the garden and edible plants in the middle. Spraying the perimeter may be enough to keep squirrels, deer and rabbits from eating edible plants. If the recipes above are ineffective, you can modify them by increasing the concentration of cayenne. Try a 30 percent concentration in either recipe, or add additional peppers such as jalapenos or habaneros to increase heat. Don't forget to apply the spray after rain.


Beware the Cruelty Considerations

It's important to remember that the capsaicin in cayenne pepper is quite capable of causing grievous harm to vulnerable wildlife.

Should an animal or bird manage to get even a tiny speck of this product in its eyes, the pepper can irritate the eyes severely. It's possible that the capsaicin can even cause corneal lesions. Most notably, pepper can cause temporary blindness, which can be a deadly condition for wildlife.


Too big a bite of treated plant material may cause irritation to the mouth, throat, or respiratory mucous membranes. Inhalation of pepper spray can damage and cause inflammation in nasal, tracheal, bronchial and alveolar tissues.


Wear gloves when preparing or using cayenne pepper spray. Always take care to scrub your hands well after exposing yourself to this chemical.