How to get rid of squirrels without hurting them

A squirrel looking over a tree branch
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re looking up how to get rid of squirrels, odds are you’ve got some unwelcome visitors in the attic, or perhaps your plants are looking more gnawed than usual. While squirrels look pretty cute and fluffy, they can easily become a nuisance in either of the above scenarios. And that nuisance can quickly turn expensive if your home suffers damage as a consequence. That’s why if you suspect squirrels have burrowed their way in, you should deal with the matter as soon as possible. 

The trouble is, as most of us know, squirrels are very difficult to catch — they’re quick, clever and can fit through the smallest of gaps. So what can be done if you’ve got a squirrel problem, but don’t want to hurt them? Here, we take you through some tips and tricks to keep squirrels at bay, whether they’re in or around your home. Here’s how to get rid of squirrels. 

If you suspect something larger has taken up residence in your attic, check out how to get rid of raccoons.

How to get rid of squirrels 

Before we start, you should always refer to your local state laws in relation to dealing with squirrels. You may require a permit to use traps, and there may be restrictions on using toxic chemicals. None of the following methods use such chemicals.   

1. Don’t feed them — First of all, as cute and fluffy as they are, don’t start feeding the squirrels. This will only encourage them to return to your home. Also, look out for any food sources around your yard which may be unintentionally feeding them, such as pet food bowls, bird feeders, or unsecure bins. Keep all sources of food sealed and out of reach.  

A squirrel peeking over the gutter on a house

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

2. Make your home inaccessible — If squirrels are finding their way onto your property, take the time to consider how they’re getting up there. If you have an overhanging tree placed nearby, that may well be what they’re using. You can fashion and fit a baffle around the trunk to prevent the squirrel from climbing — you would likely have to make one yourself however, as such designs seem limited online. Alternatively, you can remove the branches that provide access to your home. Bear in mind that squirrels can jump up to 7 feet from tree-to-tree, so a baffle alone may not be enough if there’s other trees nearby. As a last resort, you could also remove the tree. 

3. Secure the bird feeder — Your bird feeder counts as a source of food, and if it’s more often attracting squirrels rather than birds, that defeats the purpose. Make your bird feeder inaccessible to squirrels — there’s a couple of ways you can do this. You can use a baffle, such as this 3 Pieces Squirrel Baffle Metal Spring Device ($13.99, Amazon (opens in new tab)), or you can just swap out your feeder for a squirrel-proof design, such as this Perky-Pet Squirrel-Be-Gone Bird Feeder ($19.96, Amazon (opens in new tab)). You can also apply chilli to the seeds — birds love the flavor while squirrels will steer clear. Cole's Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce ($19.31, Amazon (opens in new tab)) is a popular brand for this.

A squirrel hanging off of a bird feeder

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

4. Apply odors — Another way to deter squirrels is through their noses. Certain smells will repel squirrels, especially the smell of a natural predator. You can buy the urine of predators from local garden centers and home department stores, and it’s even widely available online, such as this Predator Pee 100% Fox Urine ($34.67, Amazon (opens in new tab)). All you then need to do is ‘mark the territory’ around the property, exactly how the animal would. Just remember to reapply regularly.  

5. Let the dog out — If you’ve always wanted a dog, this is a good excuse to get one. Dogs are natural predators to squirrels and love to chase them around. So, if you have a dog frequenting your yard, squirrels are far less likely to visit. 

A dog sitting on a lawn

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

6. Apply repellents — If you don’t like the smell of the urine or the idea of applying it, you can of course opt for a proprietary squirrel repellent instead, such as the Bonide Repels-All Animal Repellent ($12.82, Amazon (opens in new tab)). You can get these in both spray and pellet form, and they often contain remnants of chilli or mint to put off squirrels. In some cases you can even apply this to your soil and bulbs for extra protection — check your manufacturer's instructions for guidance.

7. Protect your plants — Your plants will likely be another food source for the squirrels — in fact, your entire garden will provide a smorgasbord of options. Squirrels will eat anything, from fruit and veggies to nuts and seeds and bulbs, so your plants will need some protection. You can invest in a greenhouse for the most precious of plants, but it needs to have a solid, sealed design which the squirrels can’t penetrate. You can alternatively place netting or fencing around your plants.


(Image credit: Shutterstock)

8. Be selective with your plants — There are some plants squirrels love, and some they hate, so depending on which you choose can start or stop a squirrel infestation. To keep squirrels away, plant daffodils and peppermint. The bulb of the former is toxic to squirrels and they hate the smell of the latter, so they will steer clear of both. Squirrels are also repelled by the aroma of alliums, catnip and hyacinths. Avoid tulips though; these are a favorite on the menu.

9. Motion detectors — Devices are available which will emit an ultrasonic sound to deter squirrels. These can be placed both around the yard and in the home — they feature motion sensors, so will only activate when movement is detected. These are widely available in home department stores and online, such as this Virine Mice Repellent Plug-in ($54.98, Amazon (opens in new tab)).  

Alternatively, you can also use motion sensors connected to sprinklers, to douse the squirrels when detected, such as this Havahart Critter Ridder Motion Activated Animal Repellent and Sprinkler ($39, Amazon (opens in new tab)).   

Rake in pile of leaves

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

10. Keep your yard maintained — While you may have sealed away all obvious food sources, squirrels will still be attracted to an unkempt lawn. These provide plenty of hiding spaces. Not to mention there will be food sources hidden by the grass itself. Take the time to tidy up your yard and rake the grass to remove all potential berries and nuts — here’s how to rake leaves the easy way for guidance. If you have a fruit tree, make sure any fallen fruit is collected as soon as possible as well.   

11. Trap and relocate the squirrel — Lastly, if one squirrel is causing an ongoing problem, you can, of course, use a live trap. Although, as mentioned earlier, you should check your local state laws to see if you require a permit to do this. Place the trap in an area where the squirrel frequents and check it at least twice a day. Once you’ve caught the squirrel, move it at least 10 miles from your home before releasing it, so it can’t find its way back. You could use the Havahart Small 2-Door Humane Catch and Release Live Animal Trap ($19.98, Amazon (opens in new tab)) for this. 

If all else fails, and your squirrel problem is persistent, it’s time to call in a professional. You should also be sure to get any damage to your home repaired and sealed as soon as possible, to prevent any other squirrels from taking up residence.

Are you dealing with unwelcome guests in your backyard too? Here's how to get rid of moles without hurting them. You might also want to check out how to get rid of fruit flies quickly if you find any at home and how to get rid of mice

Katie Mortram
Homes Editor

Katie looks after everything homes-related, from kitchen appliances to gardening tools. She also covers smart home products too, so is the best point of contact for any household advice! She has tested and reviewed appliances for over 6 years, so she knows what to look for when finding the best. Her favorite thing to test has to be air purifiers, as the information provided and the difference between performances is extensive.