Deer are primarily a problem in rural areas or near forest preserves. Squirrels, on the other hand, can be a problem in the city, suburbs, or the country. They have adapted to city life very well, and can be a major annoyance in terms of grass and lawn care. They will dig up your bulbs, eat all the birdseed you put out, dig holes in your lawn, chew a hole into your attic, make a mess of your garden, harass your dog, and are generally a nuisance. They can also be very cute when they hold a piece of food in their little paws and delicately nibble at it.
Here are answers to some typical questions you may have when you’re trying to control squirrels:
What are the common squirrels species I should look out for?
The most common squirrels are the gray and black species. They mainly inhabit trees and build their ‘nests’ in the crotch of large trees. They may be cute to watch, but they can be annoying and destructive in their search for food and shelter. Since they can cause a variety of problems, it is difficult to give one yard control method that will work in every situation. As with deer problems, it is often best to implement several different approaches instead of relying on one.
How do I prevent squirrels from hurting my home and landscape?
The first thing to do is to try to prevent their access to the area they are disrupting. If they are getting into the attic or storage shed, try removing any over-hanging branches that may give them easy access to the structure. The same is true for any decorative trim that would also allow access. If they are gaining access across utility or phone lines, there are cone-shaped shields that can be attached to the wire. Some of the commercially-available squirrel repellent products leave a sticky residue on ledges to discourage their entry into an attic or other structure. Other products are placed inside the structure and aid in keeping the squirrels outside.
What do I do if squirrels are on the inside of my house or walls?
If squirrels do gain access to an attic or other structure, they can do a lot of damage. They will rip up furniture, gnaw at windowsills, rip apart curtains, and generally make a mess of everything. They are most active in the early morning (4a.m. to 7a.m.) and late afternoon (5p.m. to 8p.m.). They can be heard scurrying about at these times, causing mischief and mayhem. It may require the use of a live trap in these situations. There are many animal removal services and they can assist in the removal process. Live traps may be rented from many rental companies or villages. Relocation should occur at least five miles away from the point of capture to prevent them from coming back. Be sure to release them in an area where they will not become a problem for another homeowner. Pick a forest preserve or natural area and release them there.
How do I stop squirrels from eating birdseed from my birdfeeders?
Devouring all the birdseed that is put out for the birds is one of the biggest problems with squirrels. They are voracious eaters and will gorge themselves on the feed, especially if the mix contains sunflower seeds. There are many squirrel-proof feeders available, but they are expensive. Prices are more than $75, and are usually purchased by serious bird lovers. Mixing pepper-based additives into the seed mix will act as a deterrent and not affect the birds. Be careful when adding the product as it is very hot, and will cause a burning sensation in the eyes or mouth.
Is there a way to make squirrels stop digging up my landscape?
Another problem with squirrels is digging up grass and feeding on landscape or vegetable gardens plants. Pepper sprays can be used in these situations. Some other sprays have a foul odor or taste, which will act as a deterrent. Check the labels of these yard care products to make sure they can be used on edible plants. Visual repellents are usually not very effective. Squirrels normally ignore them. To prevent them from digging up garden bulbs in your yard, place chicken wire over the area. Bury the fence about an inch underground. The plants will grow through the holes in the fence, but the squirrels cannot get through the netting. Be sure the holes are at least an inch in size to allow the plants to grow through it.
Squirrels can be entertaining, but more often they are a nuisance. As was mentioned with deer, squirrels are part of the environment. It is impractical to attempt to eliminate them. Reducing the amount of the yard damage they cause and putting up with a certain amount of their lifestyle is the best scenario. And they are cute!
ARS Landscape Materials & Supply, Denver, Colorado