Pest of the Week
More than one gardener has declared war on squirrels.
Despite the cute furry tails and dexterous little hands, these animals can be infuriating pests. They have a large menu, and many of your favorite plants are on it.
They’re also great diggers, climbers, and jumpers, which makes it hard to devise barriers to keep them out. Squirrels are almost everywhere, too—they live in urban and rural settings, in the North and the South, on the ground and in trees.
Where to look for damage: Squirrels are notorious for emptying out the bird feeder before the birds get there and then, for dessert, feasting on your newly planted flower bulbs.
They can also rob your apple tree of apples, nibble on your almost-ripe strawberries (and other fruits and vegetables), dig up the transplants in your flower pots, and gnaw the heads from your prize sunflowers. In late winter, you may even find the tips of your favorite shrubs chewed off. In other words, most plant materials are fair game for a squirrel.
Controlling squirrels: It’s hard to come out ahead in a squirrel skirmish. Physical barriers work in some cases. Put wire mesh flat on top of the flower bed after you plant bulbs, plant root vegetables in cages, and seal openings in your attic and foundation before the squirrels move in.
Cayenne pepper flakes or products containing capsaicin (the chemical that makes peppers hot) make bird seed unpalatable to squirrels. You can try to trap the squirrel, but be aware that other squirrels will probably move in once the first one is gone.
Whatever you do, don’t scatter mothballs, which are poisonous to other critters, including pets.
Top photo courtesy of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Sunday, June 27, 2010 7:54 AM
A cone or funnel hung (/l\) on the pole of the bird feeder will also stop the squirrels from climbing the pole to get to the seed. This does not help, though if there is a tree close by that it can jump from, lol.
Roy N Barlow
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:37 PM
Roy N Barlow
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:37 PM
Roy N Barlow
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:43 PM
When you trap a squirrel , and its young , then you are most likely to find out that you have a number of squirrels
Roy N Barlow
Thursday, August 05, 2010 9:57 AM
Yes , a cone on the pole will help keep squirrels off the bird feeder . Also smear a lot of petroliem jelly from the cone to three feet down . The squirrels will never get to the feeder , because each time they try to climb up , they will slide right back down . Then there is red pepper . Put red pepper in the bird seed . Squirrels cannot stand the heat , but birds will not care about it one bit . If your bid feeder is away from any point that a squirrel could jump off of , and all these preventative measures are in efect , then squirrels will never have a chance of eating your bird seed .
Saturday, September 04, 2010 4:44 PM
my family raising pecans,allways had this prob.some said the best defence was an abondant harvest yet, even that would encrease the population for the nxt yr.my grandmother the wisest of all said. "I just use a 4.10 shotgun,a pot of boiling water with potatoes,sage and onions."
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 1:55 PM
plant corn for the squirles, God made them for a reason besides to drive up bonkers. My best control-I have stray cats outside in the country that keeps them and rabbits away from gardens, birds, etc.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 2:09 PM
I might just pop some corks here but I live with huge oak trees and lots of squirrels, including 1 in my home that has siezures (4 yrs old) and I have found very little damage from the squirrels because I feed them whole corn.....Birds eat the pieces,squirrels eat the hearts and might I say laying mash too, everybody eats...it is cheaper than bird seed and my fat little wood peckers and bluejays are happy too. Oh, the chichens eat their fill too. The squirrels will stand at my feet when the food arrives without hiding and I really enjoy the little rascals.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 2:12 PM
just a note: squirrels will hoard mothballs to rub on their fur to rid themselves of fleas ect. fun to watch.
Friday, June 10, 2011 3:15 PM
try WD-40, spray a perimeter around your garden,just don't spray on plant's you wan't! this is a good weed killer!!! squirrels hate the smell!!! other than that, try fox urine, from a sporting good store. this will get rid of them too,this is there worst enemy! fox eat squirrels,n rabbits!!! look in hunting section!!! let me know how this works for youyou!!! MARKY MARK
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 3:12 PM
I recently moved to NC and have a big pecan tree in the back yard. My neighbors say that it hadn't beared in about 2 years. I purchased something to treat it this spring. I have noticed squirrels running around in the back, up & down, and jumping the fence onto my tree. I really love pecans (the fact that there was a pecan tree in the back yard was a real selling factor). I do not want to hurt the small animals, but would like for my tree to bear - A LOT of - pecans this fall/winter. l tried soaking a cloth w/ammonia and hanging it on the tree. I though it was working, but they just jump from the fence to the tree; plus when it rain, that's a wash-out; and I have to keep resoaking the cloth. I will have to try the fox urine.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 7:06 PM
you didn't say what kind of fence you have and how far away the tree is from the fence. If the limbs don't overhang the fence real low you can place a piece of bent tin from post to post to keep them from getting a good footing. I have a peach tree and they can go from the top of the sow pen to the tree so I simply sprayed 2 times this year with hot pepper water and no squirrels in the peaches so far and that was 2 monts ago., just spray the lower limbs and see what it does it burns their mouth and they will stay away for it. I also feed them dry corn in the chicken pen and water them and the birds there .
Friday, July 01, 2011 2:52 PM
flrgrl2 how do you make the pepper water? I'd like to try it on my fig tree as the squirrels will try to get them when they're still green. I love figs and really would like to get as many of them as I can before the squirrels ruin them. We also have chipmunks and now a mole. I'd sure like to discourage them, too.
Friday, July 01, 2011 10:49 PM
to make the spray gardeningsince2000.....I just take a fairly good sized handful of hottest pepper you can find bring it to a boil in water only mix about 2 cups with gal water add a dash of dish soap to stick and spray with pump up sprayer or Hose en make it about l/4 cup to gal of water .....you want it to burn their mouth and that is what makes them leave it alone. I don't have much trouble with my figs because they are next to the peach tree and they like the peaches better.
My big problem is that it hangs over my sows pen and she likes them to knock them off and she eats them. I have a very old type of white peach(cling free) and doesn't need the freeze as up north does....This year we have a bumper crop......
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 5:03 PM
I have a garden in the city and have kept squirels off my tomato plants by covering them with berry netting. Use stakes to keep the netting tight to the ground. Otherwise, I can get them in a live trap and lt them go about 9 miles away. Usually there is just one or two per year that find my garden, although some years, it's a bumper squirel crop that gets relocated.
Monday, January 30, 2012 11:59 AM
I had squirrels in the roof of my add-on play room. There was noise in there when the children were at school and no one was in there. The cooperative extension told me to throw mothballs in the opening. They said the mother will move her kits out by herself. When they were gone, I sealed the opening they had used.
My sister gave mom a Squirrel-Proof feeder. It works! The Cardinals and Blue Jays enjoy their meal and the squirrels get pinched when they try to steal a meal.
Friday, September 07, 2012 8:41 PM
I will have try some of these suggestions. I am so frustrated, the squirrels in my yard get into and eat everything! I'm not sure what to try short of putting a cage over everything and that's not possible or just giving up trying to grow anything. Any other suggestions would be much appreciated.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 7:23 PM
These are good suggestions for the food part but I have a huge Stagghorn fern that the squirrles are destroying.I could not put fencing around it, it is hanging and it is quite large. Any ideas on keeping them out?
Monday, May 13, 2013 8:27 PM
I have recently planted some flower bulbs yet I found that those squirrels are eating my flower bulbs what can i do to get rid of them?? I heard of putting garlic bulbs in the garden keeps them away but not sure is that true??
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 8:44 AM
You can put down chicken wire over the bulbs at planting time, using garden staples and/or rocks to hold it down along with some soil to cover it up to make it look pretty. They LOVE tulips! I also use bird netting and garden staples temporarily on seeds that I've just planted to keep out birds, squirrels and cats. It works!
Sunday, May 19, 2013 2:44 PM
The squirrels here in Joshua Tree, love the yellow rose buds! I will try the pepper spray on them next time some buds grow. Thank you for the suggestions. :-)
Thursday, December 05, 2013 7:31 AM
I have had a Squirrel-Proof bird feeder for several years now ( the tall square one with leaves on the sides) and it does a great job of fending off the squirrels! It was quite entertaining to watch them try to get the seed out for a while, now they don't try any more. You do need to keep it away from where they can jump on it and knock the seed out and onto the ground because they will do that over and over until they're full. But it is funny to watch!