We are committed animal lovers here at Home & Roost. We love our garden birds, hedgehogs, bees and foxes. We wouldn’t dream of killing a spider. But even we draw the line at grey squirrels. Grey squirrels are legally classed as an Invasive Alien Species here in the UK.
If you’ve ever had them in your loft you will know that this scary sounding description is no exaggeration.
In this article we are going to look at how to stop grey squirrels becoming a problem in your house and garden.
How To Repel Grey Squirrels
Why are Grey Squirrels a Problem?
If you are in any doubt about whether you should be discouraging or getting rid of grey squirrels take a look at our article on how they came to be in the UK.
In a nutshell, they’ve done an awful lot of damage to our native wildlife in the 150 years they have been in the UK.
And they have the potential to do plenty of damage to your home and garden.
- Gnawing through woodwork.
- Stripping insulation from wiring.
- Shredding fibreglass roof insulation.
- Peeing in your cold water tank.
- Damaging trees.
- Digging up bulbs.
- Raiding your fruit and veg.
- Eating your bird food.
- Raiding birds nests.
Although they may look cute, especially if you’ve never been lucky enough to see a native red squirrel, it really is best to deter them.
Squirrels in Your Home and Outbuildings
Squirrels love a nice cosy attic, loft or garage. If they can find a space in your buildings they will happily move in and start raising a family. You’ll have saved them the bother of building a nest or dray.
As we’ve seen squirrels in your buildings can do real structural damage and potentially pose health risks for you if you have an open water tank in the loft.
Plus the sound of those not-so-tiny feet scampering around doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep.
Prevention will always be better than cure. So the smart move will be making sure that squirrels don’t get into your buildings in the first place.
There are a couple of simple steps that will help keep squirrels out of your buildings.
- Trim back overhanging branches. Take a good look at any trees around your house and cut back branches that overhang your roof. Squirrels can jump up to 8 feet. So tree branches need to be cut back so they are more than 8 feet from the roof.
- Keep Ivy and climbing plants under control. Ivy and other established climbing pants can provide a handy ladder for squirrels to reach your roof space. Make sure that climbers are kept trimmed back so they don’t get near to the roofline.
- Block Up Entry Points. Look for any holes or gaps that give access to your roof spaces and block up. Ideally use strong wire mesh, securely fastened. Remember wood does not pose much of a problem for a determined squirrel.
If squirrels are already present in your property there are several things you can try to get rid of them. With all these tactics you are making the squirrels feel uncomfortable or under threat, so they will leave.
- Make some noise. Squirrels are not keen on being around humans. So a radio left on a talk station could well see them off. You can also buy Ultrasonic Pest Scarers which are effective on rodents but do not disturb humans or pets.
- Leave the lights on. Squirrels are more comfortable in twilight or darkness. Leave a light on in your loft or garage. A cool toned LED is likely to be most effective.
- Introduce Predator Scent. Squirrels will move out if they smell predators. You can buy commercial sprays that contain the essence of fox. Use these to spray the problem area. Alternatively dog, cat or human hair sprinkled on the floor will have the same effect.
If the squirrels won’t leave when you ask them nicely you may feel you need to forcibly remove them.
If you are an animal lover you’re probably not going to find any of these options very appealing.
- Poison. It’s a nasty way to die and would be a last resort for us. But Rodent poison can be an effective way of getting rid of squirrels. There are plenty of different poisons available. If you are going to use poison you need to take great care, especially around children and pets.
- Traps. A humane trap, or “catch trap” may seem like a good solution. But for squirrels it’s more problematic. It’s illegal to release a trapped grey squirrel. Because of their status as an Invasive Alien Species trapped grey quarrels must be destroyed. So this leaves you with an unpleasant task if you do catch any.
- Pest Control. After taking a look at the other options you may decide calling in the professionals is your best option. A Pest Control Specialist will deal with the problem effectively and as humanely as possible. You can find a local pest control specialist here.
Squirrels in the Garden
Squirrels in your garden can wreak havoc on your trees, flowers, fruit and veg as well as other wildlife.
It can be difficult to keep squirrels out of your garden if they are in the neighbourhood already. But here are a few strategies you can try which will make the garden unattractive to them.
- Cutting Back Trees. Squirrels will run along fences, the ground and even washing lines. But they much prefer to be in trees. Try to make sure that your tree branches are 8 feet clear of your neighbours. This way you block the squirrel’s most natural route into your garden.
- Grow Plants that squirrels hate. Although squirrels are notorious for digging up bulbs, there are also plenty of bulbs they can’t stand the smell of and will avoid. Grow daffodils. Hyacinths, Lily of the valley snowdrops and alliums to make your garden unattractive to squirrels.
- Scare them off. Most dogs and many cats chase squirrels. This is one bad behaviour you might want to encourage. As with squirrels indoors, using hair or a commercial spray to create the smell of predators can work. You could also try a motion-triggered sprinkler which will squirt them. Or an Owl decoy can be very effective.
- Remove all sources of food. Though we’ve seen this advice around we don’t really see how it’s a practical strategy for a garden. Squirrels are herbivores. They will eat pretty much anything that grows. This includes nuts, seeds, fruit and berries, sweet corn and tomatoes. That’s before they even get started on tasty bird food. So, this piece of advice is probably better in theory than in practice.
If the squirrels aren’t put off by the measures above then your next move is limiting the damage they cause.
- Protect Trees. Squirrels can strip the bark off trees weakening and eventually killing them. Protect trees, especially young ones, with a spiral tree protector. Or wire mesh.
- Fruit Cages and Bird Netting. Protect fruit and veg from squirrel attack by building cages with wire mesh/chicken wire, or covering fruit trees with bird netting. If you are using netting remember to keep it stretched tight so you don’t trap birds. And keep it a few inches off the floor so hedgehogs don’t get tangled up.
- Companion Planting. Planting things that squirrels don’t like in amongst the things you want to protect works well. So as well as the bulbs mentioned above, try nasturtiums, marigolds, geraniums, mint and garlic. Squirrels have a very good sense of smell and all these plants smell unpleasant to them.
- Mulching. Squirrels don’t like the feel of mulch under their feet. Gravel is particularly unpleasant for them. So a layer of this around plants you want to protect could be effective.
- Cayenne Pepper and Chilli. You can sprinkle cayenne or chilli in areas of the garden you want to keep squirrel-free. Either sprinkle dry or make up a spray with water. But remember cayenne and chilli do hurt them. If they get it into their eyes it can even cause temporary blindness. So you may want to think twice about this method.
Removing Squirrels From your Garden
This is probably even more difficult than getting rid of squirrels from your house.
Poison is obviously not very humane. And as well as the risks to pets and children you run the risk of poisoning other wildlife, like hedgehogs or birds.
Traps again could easily end up trapping the wrong creature.
You are legally allowed to shoot grey squirrels, because of their status as a pest. So if you have an air rifle then this might be a way forward.
But again, given the difficulties of removing squirrels yourself you might be best to call in professional pest control.
Keeping Squirrels Off Your Bird Food
Squirrels are a rodent. The same family as rats. Much of what we said in our article about how to feed birds without attracting rats is true for squirrels too.
There are a couple of additional, squirrel-specific things you can also try.
- Cut the Peanuts. Peanuts are the real prize for squirrels on the bird food menu. So cutting out peanuts from your garden birds diet could be enough to make the squirrels lose interest.
- Squirrel-proof Bird Feeders. Buy specialist squirrel proof bird feeders. These will allow the birds to enjoy a meal, but keep the food safe from squirrels.
- Squirrel Baffle. Buy or make a squirrel baffle to stop them climbing up to your bird table or feeding station.
- Greasy Pole Method. Though squirrels are great at climbing a greasy pole may defeat them. Try rubbing down your bird table or feeding station pole worth oil to make it too slippery for them to get a grip.
- Squirrel-repellent bird food. You can buy bird food laced with chilli or cayenne. The birds don’t taste the pepper and will still enjoy the food, but the squirrels won’t touch it.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Feed Them
If nothing else works and the squirrels are still happy in your garden, or if you just like having them around then why not feed them?
Conclusion: Grey Squirrels Are Not Welcome Visitors
Grey squirrels are becoming ever more common in the UK with more than 2.5 million now on the loose.
They cause damage to property and wildlife and spread disease to our few remaining native red squirrels.
It’s not a good idea to allow them to get comfortable in your home or garden. We hope we gave you some ideas on how to prevent squirrels moving in, or deal with the problem if you already have them.
For further advice and information or advice on how to deal with squirrel problems visit the British Pest Control Association Website.