How to get rid of squirrels

Had enough of squirrels invading your garden? Here's how to get rid of squirrels – without harming them

(Image credit: Yuriy Mayatnikov/Unsplash)

While it’s always a treat to see mischievous bushy-tailed squirrels romping in parks and forest glades, they’re a real nuisance in the garden, happily ordering appetizers of growing vegetables and fruit, followed by your prized bulbs for dessert. 

Nuts and berries make for delicious squirrel ready-meals, and they will strip the bark from trees, too, interfering with your most prized garden ideas.

Getting rid of squirrels in the attic and squirrel-proofing a home is vital as they can wreak havoc if they get inside your home and here are the best natural ways to get rid of squirrels from the backyard – try a combination for best results.

How to get rid of squirrels – naturally

There are many ways to get rid of squirrels in the garden naturally – from using odors they hate to water sprays to ultrasound. None of these methods will kill or harm squirrels but a combination of the methods will deter them. The best way to get rid of squirrels naturally? Get a dog or a big, lively cat.

What is the best way to repel squirrels?

Strong smells are a great way to repel squirrels (just as they can be handy to get rid of raccoons and deter pigeons) – certain odors make squirrels wrinkle their noses. They’re said to dislike the scent of coffee grounds and peppermint, or you could make up your own recipe with vinegar, garlic and onions or peppermint oil to spray in the garden. 

Chilli flakes and pepper might put them off, so try a sprinkling of these – it's often used to keep squirrels off bird feeders. When you come to plant up your borders, consider the scented plants squirrels dislike, such as oniony-smelling members of the allium family, strongly-scented hyacinths and lily of the valley.

Can you buy squirrel repellent?

Yes, you can purchase a squirrel repellent spray, which are made of (often natural) ingredients that squirrels hate. Some of these repellent sprays work on deterring other rodents, too.

What do squirrels hate the most?

Squirrels hate their natural predators – or perceived predators – the most, so if you can encourage owls to your yard, get a dog or a cat that loves hunting, they are much less likely to come in. 

Failing that, a decoy predator, such as a decoy owl, can be effective, although be aware that these will scare off some birds, too. You will have to move it around the garden now and then since once squirrels get used to it, they won’t be fooled. 

Get rid of squirrels with motion-detector water sprays

If you spot a squirrel up to no good while you’re out watering the plants, direct the nozzle of the garden hose in its direction and watch it scarper. The children’s water blaster toy can be put to the same use. 

But the best way to catch squirrels unawares is with a motion-activated sprinkler. The sensor unit will detect when an animal – including cats, yours or the neighbors – is near and can be angled to the correct height to give an unsuspecting squirrel a drenching.

Get rid of squirrels with ultrasound 

Rock concerts are testament to the pain-inducing power of sound for humans, but how about ultrasound as a squirrel deterrent?  Squirrels are also susceptible to noise, particularly to high-pitched frequencies, so it’s worth checking out a sonic squirrel repellent that’s designed to ward them off. 

These devices emit a sound at a higher frequency than humans can hear when the motion sensor detects a squirrel or other animal. Be aware that your pets may be affected by the sound, too.

What's the best way to keep fruit and vegetables safe from squirrels?

The best way to protect fruit and vegetables from squirrels is to invest in a fruit cage. These can be purchased in varying sizes or if you’re handy, you can construct your own. 

You’ll need to cover it with metal mesh or chicken wire rather than the usual plastic mesh, which squirrels can bite their way through. For lower-growing vegetables and young plants, invest in cloches and tunnels.

How do to protect container plants from squirrels

Think of these creatures as canny investors, collecting a bank of nuts that they can retrieve when hunger calls. Always on the lookout for a safe place to stash their store of nuts, they spy a container and discover it’s already prepared with nice, soft compost. Even better from their point of view, they might come across a few prize bulbs, just right for a tasty snack. 

To stop them digging, arrange large pebbles around the topsoil, which has the bonus of preventing moisture evaporating from the pot, so you might thankfully have to water less often, too.

How to get rid of squirrels in the roof

If scampering sounds are coming from bedroom ceilings, it could be that squirrels have got into the roof above, where they can chomp their way through wiring cables, chew on wood, build themselves a nest and cause no end of damage.

Squirrels will be looking for an easy leg-up into the roof, so it makes sense to cut down any overhanging branches. Climbing plants growing up the wall of the house can also provide a framework for squirrels to climb. Inspect the roof both from inside and out, to check whether any gaps under the eaves might be giving squirrels an easy way in. Fix metal mesh firmly in place to seal them up.

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past five years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including recipe articles, reviewing products, writing ‘how to’ and ‘when to’ articles. Lola now writes about everything from organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate student, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.