Squirrels are awfully cute and their antics can be quite entertaining. But squirrel problems arise when these bushy-tailed rodents make a mess of potted plants or dig up small plants in the garden. Squirrels tend to get themselves into a lot of trouble with gardeners, but they can’t help themselves. They’re just doing what squirrels do best.
Squirrel problems cannot be permanently resolved by trapping and relocating the furry critters. Many squirrels breed and produce a litter twice a year. Because they can so quickly replace any missing family members, killing or relocating a pesky squirrel isn’t usually the best way to deal with squirrel problems. If there is a large squirrel population locally, more squirrels will quickly move in to fill the void.
In many cases, the best way to deal with squirrel problems is to learn about squirrel habits and understand how to outsmart these tree-dwelling rodents.
A squirrel’s teeth grow continuously thoughout its life, so squirrels need to do a lot of chewing to keep their teeth from growing too long. They will chew on tree bark and twigs, and they’ll gnaw on wires or chew holes in building so they can get inside and have a look around. If a squirrel gets into an attic and cannot find a way to get out, it will simply make its own exit by chewing a hole to freedom.
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However, squirrels will avoid chewing on something that tastes bad to them. Taste repellents are one way to avoid squirrel problems. Hot pepper sauce can be sprayed on plants or birdfeeders to put a halt to squirrel damage. If squirrels have been gnawing on wires, a mixture of petroleum jelly and hot pepper sauce or cayenne powder can be smeared on the wires to prevent further chewing.
Squirrel problems in the garden can be prevented by installing a tall fence around the garden. However, a fence won’t deter a determined squirrel unless the fence is electrified. Freshly-planted seeds or ripening strawberries are so tempting to squirrels that they won’t mind hopping the fence to reach them, but if that fence is electrified the squirrels won’t go near it. A wire mesh fence topped with an electrified strand will teach squirrels that your garden is off limits.
If there are trees near or overhanging the garden, squirrels will soon learn to reach the garden via the trees. These acrobats will make tremendous leaps to reach a free meal, so trim back any tree branches that overhang the garden. If squirrels are using a nearby tree as a launching pad to access the garden, then you must prevent the squirrels from climbing the tree.
Place a strip of metal sheeting at least two feet wide around the tree trunk. Squirrels will not be able to reach across the metal strip, and if they try to climb it they’ll just slide off. The metal strip should be about six feet from the ground and can be held together with springs that will stretch as the tree grows.
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Potted plants can be the victims of squirrel problems also. Squirrels love to dig in potting soil, and in the process they can uproot or tear apart the potted plants. The squirrels may be looking for a place to bury nuts for the winter, or perhaps they’re just hoping to find buried treasure.
This squirrel problem can be prevented by creating a barrier over the soil in the pot. Sections of wire mesh can be secured over the top of the pot and around the plant so the squirrels can’t reach the soil through the wire. You can also try placing several decorative stones in the pot to make it more difficult for the squirrels to dig.
If the local squirrel population is sparse, relocating problem squirrels can be a solution. Live traps for small animals can be purchased, and in some areas they can also be borrowed or rented from the County Agricultural Extension Agent. Squirrels are naturally curious, but they are also cautious and it can be difficult to entice a squirrel into a live trap.
It can be helpful to cover the trap with an old blanket or tarp to make the trap less obvious. Place a favored food for squirrels in the trap, such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, popcorn, apples or berries, and position the trap in a spot where the squirrels are known to travel. Check the trap daily, and replace the bait regularly to make sure it remains fresh and enticing.
Once a squirrel is trapped, it can be relocated, but always be sure to get permission from the landowner before releasing squirrels onto another property. Always remember that the farmer down the road may not want squirrel problems either.