How to Get Rid of Squirrels: 9 Humane Methods for Homeowners

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated October 6, 2022
Squirrel sits in a garden of flowers while feeding on seeds
Photo: Scott Cole / EyeEm / Getty Images

Squirrels don’t have to drive you nuts with these tips

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If you’ve spent weeks cultivating a thriving garden, the worst possible outcome is for a hungry squirrel to go on a feeding frenzy of your hard work. This means you’re probably wondering how to get rid of squirrels humanely before they can help themselves to your carrots and squash. 

Though seemingly harmless, squirrels can—and will—wreak havoc on your flower beds, walls, attic, and more if not otherwise deterred, causing even the most dedicated of gardeners to call it quits. But despite how quick and clever they are, they have their weaknesses too. 

Why Do You Have Squirrels on Your Property?

There are several reasons why you have squirrels on your property, but you can pinpoint the exact reason by narrowing it down based on where you’re spotting the furry animals.

How to Get Rid of Squirrels in Your Yard

Squirrels are foragers, and a garden filled with fresh greens and vibrant-colored flowers is, in their eyes, an all-you-can-eat buffet. Squirrels love juicy vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as berries and seeds of all kinds. They’ll flock to gardens lined with tulip bulbs, hydrangeas, and hibiscus. 

You can get rid of squirrels in your yard by removing the many veggies, fruits, and plants they love (or limiting the amount you have in your garden):

  • Tulips (and most bulb plants)

  • Rhododendrons

  • Hydrangeas

  • Hibiscus

  • Petunias

  • Sunflowers

  • Oak and pine trees

  • Cilantro

  • Dill

  • Thyme

  • Parsley

  • Basil

  • Apples

  • Melons

  • Figs

  • Berries

  • Corn

  • Tomatoes

  • Radishes

  • Root vegetables

  • Cabbage

Garden beds also provide an opportunity for squirrels to bury their nut and seed treasures. If you have a squirrel problem, by now, you’ve likely discovered small holes scattered about in the soil. 

How to Get Rid of Squirrels in the Walls or Attic

If you’re spotting squirrels in the walls or attic of your home, you likely have another reason for attracting them than a mere luscious garden. The main culprit for squirrels in your walls and attic is openings in the exterior of your house. 

That damaged soffit or fascia board may seem insignificant, but when it comes to all things squirrels, it can mean the difference between a squirrel-free zone and a nightmare. Squirrels can enter your home through holes that are only 1.5 inches wide. You can get rid of squirrels in the walls or attic by doing the following: 

  • Caulk cracks in your drywall with painter’s caulk.

  • Install 1/2-inch chicken wire over your soffits.

  • Make sure your vents and chimney caps have wire mesh over them.

  • Keep bird feeders away from your home’s roof.

  • Install motion-detecting lights in your attic.

  • Foundations with a pier-and-beam design should also have wire mesh underneath to keep squirrels from crawling under the house.

  • Hire a general contractor near you to seal up large holes in your home’s walls.

How Much Does It Cost to Get Rid of Squirrels?  

Most homeowners will pay around $350 to remove squirrels from their property, though you might pay anywhere between $200 and $650 on average. Depending on the extent of your squirrel problem, the cost to remove squirrels can be as little as $125 or up to $1,500 in some cases.

Signs of Squirrels in the House

Not all critters in the walls of your home are squirrels. Knowing which pest is running amok in your home is key to getting rid of it. 

Refer to these signs to pinpoint if you’ve got a squirrel problem:

  • You hear scratching in your walls or in the attic.

  • There are teeth marks on the ductwork, wires, or wooden structures in your home.

  • You can smell unpleasant odors throughout your house with no known cause.

  • Droppings appear in your attic or the garage.

How to Get Rid of Squirrels

Once you know you have a squirrel problem, you’ll want to take action to prevent them from causing damage to your property. Try out these steps to get rid of squirrels in your yard.

Sprinkle Used Coffee Grounds in Your Garden

The smell of coffee in the morning might be the perfect way for you to wake up, but for squirrels—not so much. Using coffee grounds is a triple win because squirrels dislike the strong smell of coffee, your garden benefits from the minerals in your coffee grounds, and you get to have that morning cup of coffee! 

Here’s how to strategically use coffee grounds to deter squirrels:

  • Sprinkle used coffee grounds evenly on the ground or in planter containers.

  • Use only 1/2–1 inch of coffee grounds.

  • Pay special attention to areas prone to squirrel activities.

  • Apply at least once a week, and increase as needed.

Grease Bird Feeders With Petroleum Jelly

If you’ve ever had a bird feeder, then you know just how frustrating it can be to have squirrels eating all the bird seeds and knocking the feeder to the ground. Some squirrel-proof feeders have an industrial appearance, so if you’d rather keep your current feeder, you may be surprised to learn you can use petroleum jelly to keep squirrels out.

This method only works for bird feeders supported by a metal pole or extended arm. Simply apply a generous amount of petroleum jelly to the metal part of your bird feeder. Petroleum jelly makes the feeder too slippery for squirrels to shimmy their way up.

Spice Up Your Garden With Chili Peppers

Squirrels will flee at the scent of hot pepper, so a simple and natural way to squirrel-proof your garden is to add a little spice to it. Proceed with caution if you choose this option and use gloves while applying the hot pepper to your garden. 

Spray Method

  • Combine hot sauce, water, and cayenne pepper in a spray bottle.

  • Test the mixture on the leaf of a plant in your garden bed.

  • Spray the mixture on vulnerable areas of your garden.

Sprinkle Method

  • Sprinkle cayenne pepper or chili pepper around the soil of your plants.

  • Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes and mouth, and keep pets and children away from the pepper-coated areas.

  • Reapply the dried or liquid pepper to your garden after rainfall.

Apply Apple Cider Vinegar

Squirrels don’t like the smell of apple cider vinegar.  You can apply this solution directly to most plants, plastic, or glass. Avoid applying any kind of vinegar to brick, concrete surfaces, or metals susceptible to corrosion.

All you need is a spray bottle and apple cider vinegar. 

  • Pour the apple cider vinegar into the spray bottle.

  • Test the solution on an inconspicuous part of a plant.

  • Spray the solution around the perimeter of your garden.

  • Reapply the apple cider vinegar spray two to three times daily to ensure squirrels stay away.

Use Essential Oils

Peppermint is another scent that can keep squirrels away from your yard and garden. Here’s how you can use this essential oil to get rid of squirrels. 

Spray Method

  • Combine 1 drop of peppermint essential oil with 1 ounce of vinegar in a spray bottle.

  • Spray the mixture around your garden or at entry points of your home.

Cotton Ball Method

  • Combine 1 drop of peppermint essential oil with 1 ounce of vinegar in a small container.

  • Spray the mixture around your garden or soak cotton balls in it and place them in jar lids around the garden.

Add Some Garlic

Though it’s a beloved staple in kitchens everywhere, garlic isn’t on the menu for garden-invading squirrels. If you love garlic, planting it in your garden will not only repel squirrels but will also mean fresh garlic for you. If you’d rather not plant it, using simple garlic powder will also do the trick. 

  • Sprinkle garlic powder around your garden, windowsills, or other areas of your home that squirrels might be attracted to.

  • If you’re unsure of how your plants will react to the garlic, try applying garlic powder near a single plant first before applying it to an entire plant or area.

Chop Up Scented Soap

Next on the list of aromas that squirrels hate is scented soap. To make the most out of a soap deterrent, follow these steps:

  • Grate or chop the soap into chunks.

  • Evenly spread the shavings or pieces around the base of the plants that the squirrels have been eating.

Install an Ultrasonic Squirrel Repellent

Take a more proactive approach with a motion-activated ultrasonic pest repeller. These devices emit a high-frequency pitch that squirrels can’t stand. For these devices to work, the sound must be set to go off intermittently or squirrels will learn to tune it out. 

The best part about ultrasonic devices is that they also will keep deer out of your garden, as well as mice, cats, and other animals you don’t want in your yard. 

Install the device either directly into the ground, on a flat surface, or mounted onto a wall to protect your home from unwanted squirrels. Follow the instructions for your repellent to ensure you’re getting the best results.

Use a Humane Squirrel Trap

If push comes to shove, and you have squirrels inside the walls or flue of your chimney, a deterrent might not do the trick. Instead, you’ll have to take a more proactive approach. 

The most humane way to get rid of squirrels with this method is by trapping and releasing them. These traps come in a variety of styles and methods, but all of them keep squirrels alive so you can set them loose away from your home. 

You can even use some of these traps to capture multiple squirrels at a time. Here’s how to use a live squirrel trap:

  1. Choose a safe squirrel bait. Peanut butter is a great option for attracting squirrels.

  2. Spread the bait on top of the trigger plate.

  3. Place the trap where squirrels frequent your property, being sure to put it on a flat surface.

  4. Follow the specific instructions on your live trap to set it.

  5. Check your trap twice a day, in the morning and the evening.

  6. Refill the bait if you notice it’s empty.

  7. If you catch a squirrel, use gloves to carry the trap by its handle, and release the squirrel approximately 10 miles from your house. Release the squirrels in an area away from other homes that has plenty of food, water, and shelter.

  8. Sanitize the trap after using it.

Tips for Preventing Squirrels

So you’ve taken all the measures and successfully removed squirrels from your property—great! The next step is to ensure they don’t come back. Here’s what you can do to keep squirrels away for good.

1. Seal Exterior Holes

Sealing holes in your walls and attic can help prevent squirrels from getting inside your home. But only seal exterior holes if you’re certain that there are no squirrels inside. 

Here’s how to keep squirrels away from your home’s interior:

  • For small cracks: Use weatherproof caulk around windows, doors, electrical wires, and plumbing.

  • For holes and larger cracks: Use steel wool, copper mesh, and polyurethane foam to seal the gaps.

  • For very large holes: Chimney flues, attic vents, and crawl spaces need a fine wire mesh to keep squirrels and other critters out.

2. Repair Chimney Damage

Though it might seem like no critters could ever want to enter a sooty chimney, squirrels view chimneys as a potential nest that’s free from dangerous predators. 

A broken chimney crown, missing chimney cap, or broken chimney cap mesh can enable squirrels to enter your home through the chimney, so you’ll want to repair your chimney to prevent this from happening.

3. Protect Squirrel-Attracting Plants

Squirrels love all kinds of vegetables, fruits, bulbs, and brightly colored flowers. You’ll want to avoid planting these plants without some sort of protection. 

If you don’t want to part ways with some of your favorite plants, you can take preventative measures without compromising your favorite fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Try these tips to protect your plants and get rid of squirrels: 

  • Build a greenhouse for your plants.

  • Install a fine, hardwire cloth around your garden, being sure to bury it at least 6 inches into the ground to prevent digging.

  • Cover bushes and potted plants with netting.

  • Add mulch or another hardscape material to your garden to make it appear less enticing for squirrels.

4. Grow Squirrel-Repelling Plants

Squirrels may be opportunists, but even they have their limits. You can use strategic gardening as your tactic to combat squirrels in your garden by growing the plants that repel them: 

  • Mint

  • Garlic

  • Catnip

  • Daffodils

  • Geranium 

  • Hyacinth

  • Lily of the Valley

  • Alums

DIY vs. Hire a Pro

If you’re trying to keep squirrels out of your garden or bird feeder, you can DIY it. However, if you have a major squirrel infestation inside your home and need to use a trap to remove them, it’s best to call in a humane animal removal company near you to take care of the job. 

Professional removal pros generally charge between $200 and $600 to remove squirrels from your home. It’s well worth hiring a pro, as failure to quickly and successfully remove squirrels from your walls or attic can lead to destroyed insulation, walls, and siding, which will end up costing you significantly more in repairs in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

Smells that keep squirrels away include spicy or pungent odors. This includes pepper, garlic powder, vinegar, mint, and coffee.

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