8 Tips for Keeping Squirrels in Trees and Out of the Attic

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated April 26, 2016
A red squirrel sitting on a tree
Photo: Elvira / Adobe Stock

Keep these cute-but-pesky pests in their natural habitats to prevent serious safety hazards

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If you’re tired of hearing critters scurry across the ceiling when you’re trying to sleep, it’s time to start squirrel-proofing your home. Squirrels are cute, but they can become an annoyance when they decide to nest in your attic. Not only that, but if they start chewing through electrical wiring, you’re looking at costly renovations and serious fire risks. Learn how to prevent squirrels from taking over your attic, plus get advice on how to get rid of squirrels that have already made themselves at home.

1. Locate and Seal Entry Points

Squirrels only need a hole that is 1.5 inches wide to squeeze into your home. You’ll need to inspect the area around your home and roof to block off any entry points. Squirrels may still chew their way inside, but this is a starting point to uninviting these creatures into your attic.

  • Add a chimney cap to your chimney to keep squirrels, birds, and other small pests out of the chimney.

  • Repair any holes on or near the roof.

  • Seal holes around exterior pipes and cables that run into the home with caulk.

  • Add screens to vents.

  • Repair any broken windows around the attic and the rest of your home.

2. Scatter Mothballs

Like many other pests, squirrels don’t like mothballs’ strong scent. You can place mothballs around your attic to discourage squirrels from nesting here. Just be aware that mothballs can be dangerous to pets and kids, so avoid placing them in areas where your kids or pets like to play or sneak off to. If you’re concerned that your kids might get ahold of the mothballs, consider brands that make mothballs from natural ingredients. These options may still be unsafe for pets, but they will offer safer alternatives for children to be around.

3. Turn On the Lights

When squirrels crawl or chew their way into your attic, it’s not to spite you for chasing them away from your vegetable garden. They’re hoping to find a dark, warm place to build a nest, give birth, raise their young, and store their food. Bright lights are an easy way to make the space feel inhospitable to these creatures.

  • Swap attic lights for bright LED bulbs and leave the light(s) on as often as possible.

  • Add a strobe light, which flashes a bright light constantly through the attic. The combination of bright light and the movement of the light will scare off squirrels.

4. Trim Tree Branches

A squirrel exiting from an attic
Photo: Fabrique Imagique / Adobe Stock

Squirrels can crawl into your home through holes, but how do they access holes that are high up on your house? Tree branches create handy bridges from the squirrel’s natural habitat to your warmer, safer attic. Make sure to trim back tree branches at least 8 feet from your roof or side of your home.

5. Spray a Spicy Repellent

You won’t find a squirrel chowing down on your hot pepper plants anytime soon, so consider this when mixing up some DIY squirrel repellents. Squirrels dislike spicy scents, so any old hot sauce or some seasonings from your spice cabinet can come in handy here.

  • Sprinkle ground cayenne pepper around your attic.

  • Combine 1 or 2 ounces of hot sauce, 4 cups of water, and a few drops of dish soap into a spray bottle. Spray this mixture around the attic.

  • In a pot, boil water, then add one chopped jalapeno (seeds and all), two chopped onions, and 1 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper. Let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes, then let it cool completely. Strain the liquid into a spray bottle.

6. Create a Noisy Environment

In addition to making your attic brightly lit, adding noise will also make the space unattractive to squirrels. Noise repellents may frighten squirrels away from the attic.

  • Place a radio in the attic, and turn it up loud enough to scare off squirrels—but not so loud that you hear the DJs listing off this week’s top hits late into the night.

  • You can install a two-way security camera in the attic, which will alert you to movements, like squirrels jumping around. You can set these cameras to then set off an alarm or pre-recorded noises to scare the squirrels.

  • Some homeowners have had success with ultrasonic repellers, which let off high-pitched noises that humans can’t hear, but squirrels can. This option is best if you don’t have pets; dogs can sometimes hear the repeller. It won’t hurt your dog, but it may cause distress.

7. Swap Bird Feeders For Squirrel-Proof Options

One reason why squirrels may target your home is the presence of bird feeders. The feed may attract hungry squirrels. You don’t have to give up your afternoon bird-watching, though.

  • Purchase a squirrel-proof bird feeder, available online and at home improvement stores. These cost around $20 to $50.

  • Make the feed less attractive to squirrels by mixing ground cayenne pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Birds can’t sense the heat, so they can still enjoy their food.

8. Hire Animal Removal Professionals

Unfortunately, the most determined squirrels may not care about your homemade repellents or disco-party strobe lights. If you see small, chewed holes or wires around the outside of your home, hear scratching or running in the attic, or find squirrel droppings in the attic, call a local animal removal professional. Squirrels are territorial, and while they are scared of humans, they’ll be prepared to protect their nests and babies. Animal removal costs $200 to $600, and it’s worth it to have a pro safely remove and relocate the squirrel family.

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