Got squirrels? Here’s how to get rid of them for good


Written by:


Do you ever hear that tell-tale pitter-patter of tiny feet from the attic? Some squirrels might just be setting up camp for the winter right overhead.

These pesky little creatures are fast, agile, and acrobatic: the perfect combination for sneaking into attics through tiny entryways. When they’re just outside, squirrels are usually just a nuisance – albeit an annoying one – but can become quite dangerous and hazardous when they make their way indoors. Most often, they head right for the attic: someplace dry, warm, away from predators outside and all of the household action down below, and easily accessible via the roof and nearby trees.

Before these squirrel-squatters get inside – and even after they already have – there are some easy, humane solutions to keeping your attic creature-free during the colder months.


SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn't have to be hard. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you're ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals get started now.





Why Are There So Many Squirrels?

This season, if you’re noticing even more squirrels in the neighborhood than usual – climbing around on the roof, taking bites out of decorative gourds, ripping through the garden – you’re right. There’s been a population eruption of the gray squirrel in parts of the eastern US this year, according to pest expert George Rambo. While squirrels normally only give birth to two litters each year – one in the spring and one in the fall – this year, they produced a third in the summer. In some ways, their population boost is linked to climate change: last winter was mild, which meant that nut-growing trees produced more nuts than usual (a “bumper” crop), so squirrels had abundant resources to feed on, encouraging them to increase their populations.

As a species, however, squirrels have a relatively high mortality rate and often only live for a few months. As the colder weather sneaks back in and nuts get fewer and further between, their population numbers are expected to even out again.

But, while their numbers are high, it’s a good idea to take preventative action to protect your property and keep these critters outside rather than in.

What Damage Do They Cause to Homes?

Squirrels want to come inside for the same reasons that mice and other common household pests do: they’re looking for warmth, shelter, food, and a place to build their nests. In the process, they can cause major damage to the structural integrity of homes by tearing at insulation and wood, chewing through electrical wires, and destroying furniture or belongings in attic storage. They’re known to push in the bricks on chimneys, and can easily ruin terra cotta, slate, aluminum, and shingles, necessitating expensive home repairs. Perhaps most importantly, they bring in scraps and waste from the outdoors, and leave their own urine and droppings in your living space, which creates a health hazard. What can initially seem like a minor issue of noise from the attic can quickly escalate into a more serious problem.

How Can You Keep Them Out?

Find and Seal Points of Entry

If possible, it’s best to do this in the summer before the little critters are looking for a warm winter spot. On the outside of the home, look for any fist-sized holes; on the inside, check for gaps of similar sizes. Cracks are often given away by light seeping through from the outside. Squirrels are notorious for fitting through very small holes, so check areas that commonly have tiny gaps: the meeting points of siding, the openings where pipes and cables enter the home, under the eaves, and the gaps around windows and doors. Seal these with fiber cement or sheet metal flashing.

Vents are another favorite entry point. To seal, stretch hardware cloth over the vent (with extra fabric all the way around in case they try to rip at it) and secure it with a staple gun.

Check Out the Chimney

Squirrels love to come down through the chimneys, attracted by the warmth coming from inside, or by the shelter they provide from the wind. If the chimney hasn’t been used in a long time, they might even make a nest in it.

To keep them from climbing down for a surprise visit to your living room, install caps on chimneys. If you hear them already inside, make lots of noise to encourage them to get out through the top, or hang a rope down from the top of the chimney so they can climb up and out.

Check the Trees

If you’ve ever watched an epic tree-high squirrel race, you know how far those little guys can jump. Trees surrounding the home can be an easy way for them to access the roof and whatever crevices might be up there. Assess the trees around your house and see if any branches are within six to eight feet of it (that’s about how far squirrels can jump). Consider trimming back those that come right up to the house if so.

To keep squirrels from climbing up the tree, wrap a sheet of metal (around two feet high, or about double the length of a squirrel’s body) around the trunk about six-eight feet above the ground. At this height, a squirrel shouldn’t be able to jump over it. Make sure to assess how tightly it’s fastened around the tree every couple of months to make sure it isn’t impeding growth or cutting into the trunk; or, attach the ends of the sheet of metal with springs, giving the tree room to grow. Do this to all trees within jumping distance of that initial tree as well, if possible, so they don’t tree-hop their way to the roof.

Try Repellent

Strong odors like white and black pepper, garlic, peppermint, and hot peppers will deter squirrels (and many other household and garden pests, at that). Most chemical repellents sold at garden centers and hardware stores mimic the natural scents of predators – mostly their urine – like coyotes and foxes, but natural options work well too. To make your own, mix 1 part hot sauce with 64 parts water (or, one tablespoon per one quart). Transfer to a spray bottle and spray anywhere animals enter or leave droppings. Squirrels also hate the smell of apple cider vinegar, and some soaked rags placed around the attic will keep them out. Natural remedies fade much faster than chemicals so you’ll want to replenish the rags or re-spray at least twice a week.


Remove Sources of Food


You can’t do much about a big fruit- or nut-producing tree near the house, but making indoor food inaccessible will remove a major selling point for squirrels interested in breaking in. They’re also very attracted to bird feeders, which are an easy food source. Try squirrel-proof feeders – many of which are accessible only by flight – placed far away from the home and far from trees so they can’t be easily jumped onto.

If They’re Already Inside, How Can You Get Them Out?

If you already hear the pitter-patter of little feet overhead, keep up the preventative tactics, like the repellent – you’ll want to drive them out while also preventing them from getting back in.

Use Light to Your Advantage

If you notice squirrels trying to get in, try some very bright lights in the attic. Shine them into corners or places where they’ve tried to make nests.

Make Some Noise

The most low-budget solution to driving away squirrels: make a huge racket. Bang on the ceiling and walls, yell, bang pots and pans, or turn on a radio/TV to full volume. Playing a radio overnight in the attic will likely make them want to leave.

Ultrasonic noise machines designed for rodents are another popular, hands-off solution, although it can be a bit pricey. These machines release high-pitched sounds that are inaudible to humans, but irritating to some animals, driving them out of the room. The noise might bother household pets if placed too close to your living space, but you’ll likely be able to tell if the sound is bothering your furry friends.

Don’t Trap Them Inside

Before sealing up your house from further invasion, you’ll want to figure out whether the squirrels are inside or outside; you don’t want to seal up all points of exit and leave them trapped in the attic with nowhere to go (and, giving them ample time to keep destroying your house).

Squirrels usually leave during the warmest parts of the day, so that’s a good time to do an inspection. Plug entry points that you’ve identified with scrap paper. In a day or two, if the paper shows signs of disruption, the squirrels have probably been going in and out; if not, there are probably no squirrels actively going in and out of the attic, so you’re good to seal up the holes.

Set Some Traps

If the squirrels aren’t leaving on their own, try a humane trap to capture them, making sure to check on it at least once a day. When you release the squirrel, you’ll want to do so after sealing the hole so it won’t come right back inside. Ultimately, it’s best to release them near your house rather than driving them far away, as counter-intuitive as that might seem. Squirrels become aggressive when outsiders enter their territory, so if you move it to a new location, it might be killed. Plus, new squirrels will begin populating your yard in the absence of the former squirrel, and you’ll start the whole cycle all over again.

Removing a Nest With Babies

Before sealing your attic off, you should also make sure that there are no nests inside. If the mother is trapped outside, she could cause more damage to the home by trying to get back in, or the babies could die without any care.

If you don’t want to wait until the babies grow up and leave on their own (which can take about three months), you’ll need to encourage the mother to move them herself.  Play a talk radio station loud enough to fill the whole attic and shine a bright light on the nest. All of this should encourage the mother to move them herself to another location. Alternatively, call a local wildlife center that is trained in rehabilitating animals and can safely remove the nest and assist the babies. You should not, however, attempt to remove the nest by yourself; if the nest is brought outside, the babies might be put in jeopardy, or not found by the mother. You also risk getting attacked or encountering bacteria and diseases.

If you notice a lot of damage occurring to your home or a squirrel consistently trying to get inside after being removed, there’s probably a nest in there, and you should call in a professional.

Take note of rules and regulations in your area before taking action. Some states actually require permits to trap and move animals from inside – even from your own home – including Maryland

Removing a Squirrel From an Inhabited Room

Sometimes, a particularly adventurous squirrel will skip the attic and head right downstairs. In that case, remove all pets from the room and take out anything that might encourage the squirrel to stay (AKA snacks). Close all the doors that lead from the room to other areas of the house, but open all of the windows to the outdoors. They’ll likely try to get out on their own, especially if you make some noise on the other side of the door.

What Not to Do

Use Poison

By using a few other tactics, squirrels can be removed from homes without resorting to deadly poisons. Rat poisons are especially harmful; they often won’t kill larger animals like squirrels but will cause serious damage and suffering to the creature. Squirrels can also track the poison outdoors, which can then come into contact with pets or young children.

Try to Trap the Squirrels Yourself

Approaching a squirrel puts you in jeopardy. Some people might try to throw a blanket over the squirrel or trap it in a box, but the animal might become aggressive and attack you, bringing you into contact with bacteria and disease – not to mention their claws. Trying to trap the squirrel in this way might also cause unintentional injury to the animal.

Call an Exterminator Immediately

Many exterminators will come and set kill traps. Before resorting to this, try some of the easier, more humane options that can safely remove the squirrel from its indoor hiding place.


This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

More from MediaFeed:

Like MediaFeed’s content? Be sure to follow us.

20 easy ways to pest proof your yard


Use common household items to keep pesky squirrels, rabbits, deer and snakes out of your yard all year long.



valio84sl / iStock


Mice, moles, squirrels, gophers, and even rats hate the aroma of peppermint. Try planting mint near your home — chances are you will never see one of these pests again!


Quick Tip! For a preexisting gopher problem, soak cotton buds in peppermint oil and then drop them down a gopher burrow.


Ihor Smishko / iStock


Cats trying to make a sandbox a litterbox? Design a more protected play area by setting up a small tent, then cover the bottom with sand. Comb a cup or so of ground cinnamon into the sand to keep out ants, centipedes and other pests, and zip up after each use.


Ukususha / iStock


Believe it or not, snakes dislike humans just as much as we dislike them. To keep snakes out of your yard, it can be as easy as letting them know humans live there! To do this, save the hair from your hairbrush, and sprinkle it around the perimeter of your property. Snakes will smell the hair and keep away.



johnemac72 / iStock


Have a dog that sheds like crazy? Save the clumps and poke them into an old grapevine wreath. Hang it (and its repellent scent!) on a stake in the garden to chase away rabbits, raccoons, squirrels and other unwanted creatures.


smrm1977 / iStock


Squirrels can be one of the trickiest garden pests to deal with. They chomp on flower bulbs and other leaves, dig up your favorite plants, and otherwise wreak havoc. Protect your garden by grating some Irish Spring soap around your plants. Squirrels can’t stand the smell of it and will stay away.


leekris / iStock


You can buy expensive baffles to keep squirrels from climbing poles to your bird feeder. But there’s a simple solution you may already have around the house: a slinky! Just wrap it around the top of the pole so that it extends down around it and creates a bouncy obstacle.


See also: How to Get Rid of Raccoons, Possums, and Skunks in Your Yard


BethAmber / iStock


If squirrels are making a nuisance of themselves around your home, keep them away with a homemade pepper spray. Take a cup of your favorite hot sauce, add a spoonful of cayenne pepper and a capful of Murphy’s Oil Soap, and mix together. Spray the mixture in whatever areas you want the squirrels to steer clear of.



JasonOndreicka / iStock


If possums are a problem in your yard, mix together camphor oil with enough petroleum jelly to make a paste and spread it around the base of trees. The smell should keep them away.



mtruchon / iStock


If rabbits eat your garden year after year, try planting plants that repel them. These include amaryllis and day lilies, English ivy, ferns, forget-me-nots, foxglove, impatiens and pachysandra. Rabbits also hate certain trees, such as cedar, magnolia, maple, oak, pine and spruce.



Sayan_Moongklang / iStock


With the help of some vinegar, you can keep rabbits from overrunning your garden. First, use a knife to cut small slots in the pill bottle in several places, then soak some cotton buds with vinegar and place them inside. Bury them just under the soil and the smell will keep rabbits away.



CreativeNature_nl / iStock


Birds (and their droppings) driving you crazy on your deck? Keep them away with baking or baby powder. Sprinkle it where they like to land, and they’ll find somewhere else to go. They hate the feeling of it under their feet!



Wendy/Jeff Sparks/Torquemada / iStock


Tie old CDs wherever you want to scare away birds. They’re perfect to keep the flocks from feasting on your fruit trees!


See also: How to Keep Birds Away From Your Patio, Pool and Garden


IngaNielsen / iStock


Mothballs aren’t just for moths. Sprinkle them around your yard, and they’ll keep skunks away. Just be careful, as they’re harmful to your pet should he decide to eat them!



bobloblaw / iStock


Have the raccoons grown rather bold around your backyard and trash cans? Try this equivalent of a phony “Beware of Dog” sign by distributing dog hair around your property.


Quick Tip! You can also try planting cucumbers to get rid of pests, which both skunks and raccoons avoid like the plague.


Dee / iStock


To keep raccoons, possums and other critters out of your garbage, regularly spray the side of your cans with a mixture of one part ammonia and one part water.



Lupico / iStock


Hanging small pieces of a deodorant bar soap on trees will keep deer from munching on them. Or hang some dryer sheets around your garden. The smell will keep the deer away.



tmphoto98 / iStock


It sounds crazy, but laying old rugs or carpet samples around the outside of your garden in a path about 4 feet wide will turn deer away. They’re suspicious of the texture and won’t put a hoof on it!



LizMinkertJohnson / iStock


Plant thick rows of gladiolas around garden areas you don’t want deer to enter. Deer don’t eat glads and also won’t cross through them no matter how tempting the plants on the other side.



MayaAfzaal / iStock


Instead of throwing out orange, lemon, and lime peels, chop them up for use in your garden! If you sprinkle citrus rinds directly on the soil, you’ll keep cats, dogs and other neighborhood animals away from your precious plants.



akirk / iStock


If you’ve ever bitten into a shred of foil that had gotten stuck to a piece of candy, you know how unpleasant the sensation is. Rodents hate the feeling of foil between their teeth, too, so placing strips of foil in your garden mulch will help deter rodents and some bugs. If rodents are eating the bark of your tree, you can also wrap the trunk in foil.



This article
originally appeared on 
QuickAndDirtyTips.comand was
syndicated by


ziggy1 / iStock


Featured Image Credit: leekris / iStock.