Squirrels might be the cutest pest of all that can invade a home. They’re acrobatic. They can actually keep other pests away. They’ll even ingeniously rob your bird feeder. When they get up into your attic, however, you’ll need to know how to get rid of squirrels. Here’s how you’re going to do it.
Unless you live in Australia or Antarctica, you’re pretty familiar with the neighborhood squirrel. There are more than 200 species of this mammal and they can all become household pests. The largest squirrel, the Indian Giant, can reach three feet long and that doesn’t include the tail. Imagine having one of those in your attic!
The problem that homeowners face with squirrels is that their four teeth never stop growing. This means that the squirrel is never going to stop gnawing on something. They’ll chew the wood in the attic, wood shingles on a roof, and anything else that is made from a cellulose material. Squirrels will also nest in attic insulation, which creates a unique set of problems.
Because squirrels are relatively easy prey as a mammal, many of their species have developed a communication routine that lets other squirrels know when trouble is lurking about. This is why exterminating them from a home can become such a difficult chore. They’ll hear you coming, tell all of the other squirrels that you’re coming, and then scamper into hiding. If you hear squirrels whistling at each other, then they’re onto you.
Squirrels In the Attic
Squirrels can be generally classified into two different types: those who live above ground and those who live underground. The burrowing squirrels aren’t usually much of a problem for the average homeowner. It’s the squirrels that love living high up in the trees and have decided that an attic would make a good home that are the issue. Once a squirrel moves in, it isn’t going to want to move out.
It’s important to note that rat or mouse poison is not going to work on squirrels, despite what many websites and exterminators may claim. Squirrels don’t usually even eat the poison. If they do, it rarely harms them. In the meantime, the homeowner who thinks they’ve solved their squirrel problem winds up with more squirrels in the attic.
You also can’t trap a squirrel very well. There are the occasional few that can be fooled, but when you’re prey for virtually any animal that is bigger than you, some smarts evolve into your species. Squirrel traps in the attic might work 1% of the time. The other 99% of the time, you’ll have the rest of them laughing since they’ve just outsmarted you.
Squirrels in an attic have to go in and out to get food. That’s your ticket to excluding them from your attic. These are daytime creatures, so if you have some living in your attic, you’ll see them going in and out. They’re going to create a nest in there, so the time to get rid of them is right now.
How To Get Rid of Squirrels
Unlike other pests, trying to kill squirrels is almost pointless. It’s difficult enough to get up into the attic in many homes where squirrels are going to want to be. A finished attic won’t have a squirrel. It’s the crawl space attic with vents, wiring, and lots of insulation that the squirrels love. Don’t even bother with traps, bait, or even sound eliminators. They’re not going to work.
The first thing you need to do is locate the entry point that the squirrels are using. Attics are an awesome place to live if you’re a squirrel because it’s warm and safe. They’ll find an opening that exists, usually through an unsecured vent, squeeze through, and then call the attic their home. If they can’t find an opening, they’ll make one if they really want to get in there. Pay close attention to the soffit and any gaps you may have in your eaves.
If you find an entry hole that the squirrel has created, then wait until the squirrel leaves on a hunting expedition to seal it up. The last thing you want is a hungry, trapped squirrel in your attic! Use a metal mesh to secure all of the entry holes that the squirrel created. If you’re not sure the squirrels have left, then seal all holes but one primary exit hole.
Sometimes a nest has already been established before you realize there are squirrels living in your attic. In these circumstances, it’s better to install a one-way door for the squirrels. They’ll be able to leave, but they won’t be able to get back in. This is useful when the nest is mostly grown and all of the squirrels are ready to explore away from home. Having squirrel babies in your attic with an angry squirrel mom? That’s a new hole in your roof that is waiting to happen.
If there are young ones up in the attic, consider setting or mounting a repeater trap to snag them. When they crawl out to find mom, you’ll be able to catch them and then release them. Over the course of 48-72 hours, you’ll be able to catch or exclude the squirrels that have called your attic their home.
The final step is also the most burdensome: cleaning. Squirrels leave a lot of wastes behind. You’re going to need to decontaminate your attic and that may mean removing insulation. Wear all appropriate safety gear, including breathing protection, when you’re getting ready to clean.
Here’s a pro tip: If you haven’t actually seen the squirrels entering your attic, then don’t assume that what you’ve got are squirrels. Raccoons, bats, opossums, and rats will all gladly call an attic their home. It can be a rude surprise to climb up there expecting to see a squirrel and instead see an angry raccoon staring back at you!
DIY Squirrel Control
DIY squirrel control is all about making sure those pests don’t want to call your attic their home. Installing mesh is always a good option, but sometimes you’ve got to encourage those squirrels to leave. These options can help you to do just that.
Havahart Deer Off Repellent Concentrate
This product is designed to cover up to 4,000 square feet of space with nasty smelling stuff – to squirrels, that is. It’s made from natural ingredients (aka coyote urine), so there aren’t any problems placing this formula in the home if needed. It’s also weather-resistant, so you can place it along your soffit, vents, and other attic access points. As an extra bonus, you can place this repellent on your plants or your bird feeder pole so the squirrels don’t try to steal something when they’ve got the munchies.
Audubon Torpedo Steel Baffle
Squirrels can climb better than most pests. This gives them the ability to access bird feeders, tree canopies, and the top of your roof pretty easily. Even if you don’t have trees, a squirrel can climb up your gutter system to your roof and find an entry point. This steel baffle is designed to make that climbing skill work against the squirrel. It’s designed to mount to any pole, but it can also work for small branches or other roof access points. The squirrel hits this thing, slips off, and can’t climb up to make a new home.
Providing 10 linear feet of spikes per box, this bird deterrent is also a very effective squirrel deterrent around your attic access points. The spikes are long enough where the squirrels can’t step on them, nor can they step through them. Could they leap over them? Only if you give them that opportunity, so make it impossible for the squirrel to get up high enough to your roof to find out. These spikes can be placed on roof perimeters, awnings, poles, gutters, and even your air conditioner if you wish. The glue is included and it is small enough that they’re invisible from a distance. A 5-year warranty backs up this product.
Squirrel Control Cost
The problem with controlling squirrels is that the entire attic essentially needs to be reinforced if the animals have targeted it as a nice place to live. You may need mesh, spikes, and repellent all working together to create a strong barrier against the squirrels. Your soffit may need to be upgraded. You might even need to patch that persistently leaky spot in your roof. For the average homeowner, the cost of getting rid of squirrels can easily top $600 if hiring someone to do the job.
This is why DIY methods are often emphasized. Over the course of a weekend or two, a permanent solution to keep squirrels out can be installed. Even if there are multiple entry points that have been created, strong metal mesh, and a primary one-way door to exclude the squirrels is a very effective method of removing them from an attic permanently.
Some homeowners have found success using strobe lights and loud sounds, but most squirrels are going to ignore these efforts. That’s why the focus on squirrel control is always going to be closing access points and removing the animals that decide they don’t need to leave for some reason. Once the work has been completed, it only needs periodic inspections and maintenance to keep the squirrels out for good.
How To Keep Squirrels Away
Sometimes you’ll get a hard-headed squirrel that refuses to give up. These squirrels will look at your prevention methods, laugh hysterically in their own squirrel language, and then damage your home in their quest to get into the roof. You’ve got to be very creative to keep these squirrels away because they will keep trying to figure out your defense system.
These hard-headed squirrels can even figure out how to open a one-way soffit if given half a chance. That’s the battle you need to be prepared to face.
Sometimes the best way to stop a squirrel is to fight from the inside out instead of the outside in. Squirrels like attics because they can create a nest, have a warm place to live, and be safe from predators. If you eliminate just one of those benefits, even the stubborn squirrels will generally leave you alone. You could take all of the insulation out of your attic, force your cat to live in the attic for a few weeks, or blast cold air into it, but those are all rather unreasonable.
You can, however, place a repellent up in your attic that will make the squirrels think that there’s an animal living in there. Being easy prey means you avoid any chance of getting eaten. The whiff of a predator is often all it takes to make even the most hard-headed of squirrels think twice about what they’re doing.
Natural Squirrel Repellent
Anything that involves a cat is going to be a natural repellent to squirrels. For those who own a cat, just spreading a little cat litter up in the attic can be enough to make the squirrels go away. Make sure it’s fresh kitty litter though because otherwise your attic will stink all summer long.
Squirrels aren’t a fan of things that are hot and spicy either. Using cayenne pepper liberally in your attic, especially in your insulation where they’ll want to nest, can stop squirrels from invading very quickly. Try mixing cayenne with vinegar, jalapenos, and some water. Let the mixture sit for a couple days and then spray it around your openings. This mixture will work until it rains.
If you’ve got some old nylons, then pick up some mothballs. Not only will you be able to repel attic moths, you’ll be able to repel attic squirrels. You’ll need to hang a few mothballs every few feet to avoid having gaps in your “repellent zone.”
Knowing how to get rid of squirrels means taking the time to fully inspect your roof and attic so that it can be completely sealed. Once that occurs, you can begin driving the squirrels away using this guide so your attic doesn’t become a free hotel for this pest.