What are Squirrels?
Squirrels are a group of rodents that belong to the Sciuridae family. They are found all over the world, except for Antarctica. They are small to medium-sized animals with bushy tails, large eyes, and sharp claws. They come in various colors, including gray, brown, red, and black, and they have soft, dense fur.
Squirrels are known for their agility and acrobatics, and they are often seen climbing trees, leaping from branch to branch, and running along telephone wires. They are not great swimmers but can swim if needed. Squirrels feed on various foods, including nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat whatever is available to them.
There are several species of squirrels, including gray squirrels, fox squirrels, red squirrels, and ground squirrels. Some species, such as gray squirrels, are common in urban areas, where they often come into conflict with humans. They are known for their ability to get into bird feeders and cause damage to gardens and other outdoor areas. Despite this, many people find squirrels to be cute and entertaining, and they enjoy watching them in their natural habitats.
What Do Squirrels Eat?
Squirrels are omnivores and feed on a variety of foods, including
- Nuts: They are known for their love of nuts, and they will store large quantities of acorns, walnuts, and other types of nuts for the winter.
- Seeds: They feed on various seeds, including sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and corn.
- Fruits: They will eat a variety of fruits, including berries, apples, and pears.
- Insects: They will eat insects, such as caterpillars and beetles, when other food sources are scarce.
- Bark: They will occasionally strip the bark from trees to access the sap underneath.
- Eggs: In the wild, they may eat bird eggs when they can find them.
- Vegetables: They will nibble off the tender tops of your vegetables and devour seedlings whole.
- Funghi: Squirrels will also eat various types of fungi, such as mushrooms.
It’s important to note that the specific diet of squirrels can vary depending on the species and the local environment. For example, some species are more specialized feeders, while others are more opportunistic. Additionally, food availability can influence what squirrels eat, and they may switch to different foods depending on the time of year and the local conditions.
Do Squirrels Bite?
Yes, squirrels can bite. While they are generally not aggressive, they will bite if they feel threatened or frightened. They have sharp teeth and strong jaws, and a bite can be painful.
Squirrel bites are usually not serious, but they can become infected if not properly cleaned and treated. If you are bitten by a squirrel, it’s important to wash the bite wound with soap and water and to seek medical attention if the bite shows signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge.
It’s also important to remember that squirrels can carry diseases, such as rabies, so it’s best to avoid handling them, especially if they appear sick or injured. If you need to remove a squirrel from your home or yard, it’s best to contact a wildlife expert for assistance.
How to Identify Squirrel Damage?
Squirrels can cause damage to trees, homes, gardens, and other outdoor areas. Here are some common signs of their damage:
- Chewed Bark: They will often chew on the bark of trees, especially young trees, which can kill the tree or stunt its growth.
- Gnawed Wood: They will gnaw on wooden structures, such as buildings, decks, and fences, to sharpen their teeth.
- Damaged Crops: They can cause damage to garden beds and crops, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, by eating them or by digging up the roots.
- Uprooted Plants: They sometimes dig up flower bulbs and other plants, causing damage to gardens and landscaping.
- Empty Bird Feeders: They are known for getting into bird feeders and eating the food, which can be frustrating for bird lovers.
- Scattered Debris: They will often scatter debris, such as leaves, twigs, and nuts, as they forage for food.
It’s important to note that other animals, such as rabbits, chipmunks, and rats, can also cause similar types of damage. To determine if squirrels cause the damage, it can be helpful to look for signs of their activity, such as tracks, gnaw marks, and droppings. If you are unsure, a wildlife expert can help identify the cause of the damage and recommend appropriate control measures.
How to Prevent Squirrel Damage?
Here are some steps you can take to prevent squirrel damage:
1 – Remove Attractants
Removing attractants is an important step in preventing squirrel damage. Here are some ways to remove attractants:
- Remove Fallen Fruit: Pick up fallen nuts, acorns, and berries from the ground and dispose of them properly to prevent them from eating them.
- Store Pet Food: Store pet food in a secure, squirrel-proof container to prevent them from accessing it.
- Clean Up Debris: Remove any leaves, twigs, and other debris from around the yard, as they can provide cover and attract them.
- Trim Vegetation: Trim back any vegetation that is near buildings, decks, or other structures to prevent squirrels from using it as a bridge to reach other food sources.
- Remove Bird Houses: Remove any birdhouses or nesting boxes that are no longer being used, as they can provide shelter for squirrels.
By removing attractants, you can reduce the incentive for squirrels to come into your yard and cause damage.
2 – Use Repellents
Several types of repellents can be used to deter squirrels, including
- Hot Pepper Sprays: Hot pepper sprays contain capsaicin, the compound that makes chili peppers hot, which is unpleasant to squirrels and will deter them from feeding on plants and other garden features.
- Repellent Granules: Repellent granules contain natural ingredients, such as cinnamon or cloves, that are unpleasant to squirrels and will discourage them from feeding in the area. Consider spreading cayenne pepper, ground chili peppers, or pepper flakes around your blooming plants to deter these critters.
- Peppermint Oil: The idea behind using peppermint oil is that the scent will be unpleasant to squirrels and will discourage them from coming into the area. To use peppermint oil as a repellent, you can soak cotton balls in the oil and place them in the area where they are causing damage. You can also mix a few drops of peppermint oil with water in a spray bottle and apply it to plants, bird feeders, and other areas that squirrels are attracted to.
- Motion-Activated Sprinklers: Motion-activated sprinklers are designed to startle squirrels and other pests with sudden bursts of water, which will discourage them from coming into the area.
- Predator urine: Predator urine, such as coyote urine, is sometimes used as a squirrel repellent. The idea behind using predator urine is that it will mimic the scent of a predator, which will cause squirrels to feel threatened and avoid the area. You can purchase predator urine from hunting supply stores or online. However, the effectiveness of predator urine as a squirrel repellent is questionable. Squirrels are adaptable animals and may quickly become used to the scent of predator urine, especially if they do not associate it with actual danger. Additionally, the scent of predator urine can fade quickly, and it may need to be reapplied frequently to be effective.
- Plant squirrel-repelling flowers: Several types of flowers are said to be effective at repelling these pests, including
- Daffodils: Daffodils contain lycorine, a toxic chemical to rodents. Planting daffodils near your plants and garden can help deter squirrels from feeding on them.
- Alliums: Alliums, such as garlic and onions, have a strong odor that is unpleasant to squirrels and other pests. Planting alliums near your plants and garden can help deter them from feeding on them.
- Marigolds: Marigolds have a strong, pungent odor that is unpleasant to many pests, including squirrels. Planting marigolds near your plants and garden can help deter these garden pests from feeding on them.
- Nasturtiums: Nasturtiums are sometimes touted as squirrel-repelling flowers. Nasturtiums have a strong, pungent odor that is unpleasant to many pests, including squirrels. Planting nasturtiums near your plants and garden can help deter squirrels from feeding on them.
- Mint: Mint is often used as a squirrel repellent due to its strong, minty scent. The idea behind using mint as a repellent is that the scent will be unpleasant to squirrels and discourage them from coming into the area. Mint plants, such as peppermint and spearmint, can be planted near your plants and garden to help deter squirrels.
- Fritillaries: The bulbs of fritillarias contain alkaloids that squirrels find distasteful, so planting these flowers may help deter them.
3 – Cover your Garden
Here are some steps you can take to protect your vegetable garden from squirrels and other rodents:
- Use Bird Netting: Cover crops with bird netting or other types of protective coverings to prevent them from accessing the plants. The netting should be tightly woven and should have holes small enough to prevent squirrels from getting through.
- Build Fences: Build a physical barrier, such as a fence, around the garden or crop area to prevent them from getting inside. The fence should be at least three feet tall and should extend several inches into the ground to prevent squirrels from digging under it.
- Use Repellents: Apply squirrel repellents, such as hot pepper sprays or granules, to the crops to deter them from feeding on them.
- Provide Alternatives: Provide squirrels with alternative food sources, such as bird feeders or seed-filled feeders, to discourage them from feeding on crops.
4- Keep Squirrels away from your Flower Bulbs
Squirrels can be a major problem for gardeners, as they are known to dig up and eat flower bulbs. Here are several methods for protecting your flower bulbs:
- Use bulb protectors: Bulb protectors are wire cages that fit over the bulbs and prevent these pests from digging them up.
- Plant bulbs deeply: Planting bulbs deeply, at least 8 inches below the soil surface, can make it more difficult for squirrels to dig them up.
- Cover the soil with a deterrent: Covering the soil with a deterrent, such as chicken wire or hardware cloth, can prevent squirrels from digging in the soil and reaching the bulbs.
- Use repellents: Repellents, such as cayenne pepper, ground chili peppers, or pepper flakes, can be sprayed on the soil or placed around the bulbs to deter these pests from digging in the area.
- Plant bulbs in raised beds: Planting bulbs in raised beds, such as wooden boxes or containers, can make it more difficult for squirrels to access the bulbs.
5 – Protect your Trees
Here are some steps you can take to protect trees from squirrels:
- Wrap Tree Trunks: Wrap the tree trunk with metal mesh or hardware cloth to prevent squirrels from chewing on the bark. The mesh should be at least two feet tall and should extend several inches into the ground to prevent them from digging under it.
- Install Tree Guards: Place metal or plastic tree guards around the tree’s trunk to prevent them from climbing up and chewing on the bark. The guards should be at least two feet tall and should be securely attached to the tree.
- Trim Branches: Trim back any branches that touch buildings, decks, or other structures to prevent squirrels from using them as bridges to reach the tree.
- Use Repellents: Apply squirrel repellents, such as hot pepper sprays or granules, to the trunk and branches of the tree to deter squirrels from chewing on the bark.
6 – Keep Squirrels out of Bird Feeders
There are several methods for keeping squirrels off bird feeders:
- Use a squirrel-proof feeder: These feeders are designed to prevent squirrels from accessing the bird seeds. They may have a weight-activated mechanism that closes the feeding ports when a squirrel lands on the feeder, or they may have a cage that surrounds the feeder and prevents them from reaching the food.
- Hang the feeder away from trees and other structures: Squirrels are excellent climbers, so hanging the feeder away from trees and other structures will make it more difficult for them to access food.
- Place the feeder on a pole with a squirrel baffle: This baffle is a device that fits onto the pole and prevents squirrels from climbing up to the feeder.
- Use Safflower seeds: Safflower seeds are often used as a birdseed mix, as they are a favorite food of many types of birds, including cardinals and finches. However, safflower seeds are less attractive to squirrels than other types of birdseed, such as sunflower seeds, so using a birdseed mix that contains safflower seeds can help deter squirrels from eating from your bird feeder. It’s important to note that while safflower seeds can be an effective tool in deterring squirrels from bird feeders, they are not a guarantee.
7 – Prevent Squirrels from getting inside your home
Here are some steps you can take to prevent squirrels from getting inside:
- Seal Entry Points: Seal any holes or cracks in buildings, decks, and other structures with silicone caulk or steel wool. Pay special attention to areas near the roofline where squirrels are most likely to enter.
- Install Chimney Caps: Install chimney caps or screens to prevent squirrels from getting into chimneys and into the attic.
- Cover Vents: Cover vents, such as air conditioning ducts and dryer vents, with wire mesh to prevent squirrels from getting inside.
- Trim Vegetation: Trim back any vegetation that is near buildings, decks, or other structures to prevent squirrels from using it as a bridge to reach other entry points.
- Use Repellents: Consider using squirrel repellents, such as sprays or granules, around the perimeter of the building to deter squirrels from getting close.
It’s important to be thorough and persistent in sealing entry points, as squirrels are persistent animals and may continue to search for ways to get inside.
8 – Encourage Predators
Encouraging the presence of natural predators, such as owls and hawks, is one way to help control squirrel populations. Here are some ways to encourage the presence of these predators in your area:
- Provide Nesting Sites: Provide nesting sites for owls and hawks, such as birdhouses or nest boxes, to encourage them to live in your area.
- Create Perches: Create perches for owls and hawks by planting trees or installing poles in your yard.
- Provide Food Sources: Provide food sources for owls and hawks, such as bird feeders or small mammals, to encourage them to stay in your area.
9 – Get a Decoy
Several types of decoys can be used to deter squirrels, including
- Owl Decoys: Owl decoys mimic the appearance of a predator and can be used to scare squirrels away from gardens and other outdoor areas.
- Coyote Decoys: Coyote decoys mimic the appearance of another predator and can be used to scare squirrels away from gardens and other outdoor areas.
- Snakes: Snake decoys, such as rubber snakes or inflatable snakes, can be used to scare squirrels away from gardens and other outdoor areas.
10 – Get a Dog
Having a dog in your yard can help repel squirrels, as dogs are natural predators of squirrels. The presence of a dog in the yard can make squirrels feel threatened and discourage them from coming into the area.
However, it’s important to note that not all dogs are equally effective at deterring squirrels. Some dogs may be more interested in playing with these pests than chasing them, while others may not be interested in them at all. Additionally, it’s important to supervise dogs when they are outside to prevent them from causing harm to squirrels or other wildlife.
11 – Traps
Trapping is a common method used to control squirrel populations, but it’s important to approach trapping cautiously. While trapping can be effective in removing squirrels that are causing damage, it’s important to consider the following:
- Legal Restrictions: Trapping and relocating wildlife can be illegal in some areas, so it’s important to check with local wildlife agencies for regulations and guidelines.
- Humane Considerations: Trapping squirrels can cause stress and injury to the animals, so it’s important to use humane trapping methods and release squirrels in appropriate locations.
- Re-population: Trapping can only remove individual squirrels, and it will not prevent new squirrels from moving into the area.
- Other Methods: Trapping should be used in conjunction with other methods, such as exclusion and habitat modification, to effectively control squirrel damage.
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.