We love to watch the squirrels frolic in our backyard! They’ve built an impressive nest in the tree, they’re super cute, and they give our dog something to chase.
All of that might make us want them to stay in the backyard. However, a squirrel in the house would be much less entertaining and cute.
Squirrels can be very destructive if they’re in the attic, walls, or basement. Additionally, they can carry diseases. If you think you may have squirrels in your house, it’s important to learn how to get them out as well as keep them out.
- How Can I Tell if I Have Squirrels in My House?
- How Did the Squirrels Get in?
- How Do I Get the Squirrels Out?
- How Can I Keep the Squirrels Out?
- Are Squirrels Dangerous?
- When Should I Call an Exterminator?
How Can I Tell if I Have Squirrels in My House?
First, listen carefully. Squirrels are larger than rats and mice, so they will make a lot of noise. They are also active during the day and sleep at night. If you hear a lot of noisy scrambling during the day, there’s a good chance you have a squirrel infestation.
Second, take a sniff. Squirrels are usually drawn up high to attics because they are accessible to trees. Over time, the squirrel urine will become detectable. If you have brown or dark water spots on your ceiling, smell them. It may sound gross, but you’ll know if it’s urine.
Next, take a look.
Look for Footprints
You could put out a piece of cardboard in your attic with some flour or baking soda on it. Check it later for footprints. Squirrels have five toes in the back, and four in the front.
The front footprints are about half an inch by half an inch, while the back footprints are larger, usually 1 inch by half an inch. They run like rabbits, where their back feet meet the front.
Look for Nests
Also, look around for nests. Squirrels like to build big, messy nests. Rats and mice tend to build burrows, so the difference should be noticeable.
Look for Droppings
Another sign of squirrel infestation is barrel-shaped, brown droppings. Squirrels tend to pick one spot to use the bathroom, unlike rats and mice, which scatter dark or black droppings everywhere.
How Did the Squirrels Get in?
Squirrels can squeeze through a gap as small as 0.5 inches (1.27 cm) to enter your home. They are also master chewers and can chew through drywall, insulation, and plywood.
If you have trees close to your home, squirrels can easily jump from the tree to your house.
Once the squirrels have made themselves at home, the trouble begins. As members of the rodent family, their teeth never stop growing. They have to chew in order to wear their teeth down. Obviously, this is not good for your house.
They love to chew wires, which can cause a power outage or even a fire. They will use insulation for their nests and destroy it. They can leave their tiny tooth marks all over the walls and beams.
A squirrel or two can quickly become many squirrels. If you suspect you have a nest of baby squirrels in your attic, you may need to consult a professional to relocate them.
A mother squirrel will do anything to reach her babies. Accidentally sealing the babies into your house while the mother is on the outside will lead to further destruction.
How Do I Get the Squirrels Out?
The best way to remove squirrels is to use a live trap, such as this one from Gingbau. This trap has an automatically locking door to trap the squirrel.
However, before you trap squirrels, check your area’s ordinances. Sometimes, only wildlife professionals are allowed to trap and relocate squirrels.
Use a bait with a strong smell, such as peanut butter, to lure the squirrel into the trap. Sprinkle a line of sunflower seeds to the trap, then put more seeds behind the trip line. Place the trap along the line of travel or close to the point of entry. Then, you wait. Check the trap often.
You caught a squirrel! Now what? Always use heavy-duty gloves when handling a trap with a live squirrel.
It needs to be relocated at least 5-10 miles away, or it will return. Never relocate a mother squirrel if her babies are still in your house. If you think you have a nest of baby squirrels in your house, call a professional.
How Can I Keep the Squirrels Out?
Now that your house is squirrel-free, you want to keep it that way.
Seal All Entry Points
Use copper mesh wool or a filler fabric to stuff into larger holes. For small holes, aerosol foam works well to fill and block openings. Metal flashing is a good, squirrel-proof way to block up points of entry, as well. Use a chimney cap if the squirrels are getting in through the chimney.
Remove Squirrel Food
Keep your trash cans sealed so they won’t attract the squirrels to your house.
Squirrels often get food from bird feeders, but there are ways to make them squirrel-proof, such as using a baffle. You can purchase a squirrel-proof bird-feeder, like this one.
Trees that drop fruit or seeds near your home will draw the squirrels in. Make sure you rake up anything that will attract squirrels.
Trim Your Trees
Squirrels will use branches to access your roof and your house. So, occasionally trimming the trees in your backyard can be helpful.
A dog or cat will discourage the squirrels from coming too close to your house. If you don’t have a dog or cat, purchase plastic owls to place around your yard.
Predator scents are also available and can be sprayed throughout your yard.
Use a repellent spray, such as this one.
Or, you can use a spice from your kitchen, like chili powder, cayenne pepper, or chili flakes (or a combination!). Sprinkle it around the outside of the house, especially at points of entry. You will need to reapply if it rains.
Squirrels are not a fan of mint plants. Place a few pots of mint close to your house.
Mothballs are another squirrel deterrent. Place them in your home where you think the squirrels may try to gain reentry.
Soak the squirrels with a motion-sensor based sprinkler system. They don’t like to be wet! I’ve used this sprinkler from Orbit quite effectively.
Similarly, squirrels don’t like bright lights. Rig up a motion-sensor light outside your home, and in your attic.
Loud noises scare squirrels. If they are persistently trying to get into the house, set up a radio or music player near the point of entry.
An ultrasonic repellent like this will emit a high-pitched sound that the squirrels hate!
Squirrels dislike the smell and taste of apple cider vinegar. Put some in a spray bottle to spray around entry points. As an extra, squirrel-deterring bonus, add some chopped jalapeno to the mixture.
Distract them. Set up a tasty, squirrel buffet in your yard far, far away from your house. They will lose interest in your home!
Plant squirrel proof flowers in your yard and near your house. Not only will they leave your flowers intact, but they may also stay away from the house. Squirrels dislike Daffodils, Geraniums, and Lily of the Valley.
Are Squirrels Dangerous?
Squirrels definitely pose a danger to your home. They are chewing machines that can make their way through wood, wires, and insulation. Chewed wires are a fire hazard. If you had squirrels in your home, once they’re out, call an electrician to inspect your wiring.
Squirrels can carry a number of diseases, including typhus, tularemia, and ringworm, all of which can spread to humans. Sometimes, squirrels contract rabies. Because of all these diseases, squirrels have a pretty short life-span.
If you trap a squirrel, always wear gloves while handling the trap. If you, a family member, or a pet comes into contact with a squirrel, contact a doctor or a vet. Do not attempt to corner and catch a squirrel. They can lash out if they feel threatened.
When Should I Call an Exterminator?
If you have baby squirrels in the attic, you may need to use an exterminator to get them out safely. If you seal them in the attic, and their mother is outside, she will do just about anything to get back into your house and to her babies.
Some areas require a wildlife permit to trap and relocate wild animals, such as squirrels. Check the regulations in your area. If this is the case, make sure you find an exterminator with the proper permits.
If you are unable to evict the squirrels on your own, it’s definitely time to call in the professionals. Squirrels can be very resourceful and determined! Remember, they can squeeze into your home through a tiny opening.
You can reclaim your house from a squirrel invasion! The key is to be more persistent than the squirrels. If you’ve tried everything, and they’re still getting in, keep trying.
Look for more entry points. Place more traps. Add more deterrents. The best method of squirrel repellant is a combination of tactics. With some effort, you should be back to enjoying them from a distance soon!