I’m often asked how to get rid of squirrels, particularly now that I’ve written four books on gardening, plus created the Survival Gardening Secrets audiobook.
A recent conversation with a friend on Twitter brought the squirrel issue back to the forefront:
I had a few suggestions there, but over the last few days I’ve been remembering a lot of my favorite methods for getting rid of squirrels… and today’s post is my gift to those of you who hate the little tree rats.
If you’re triggered by the thought of killing adorable little tree-dwelling creatures, quit reading now.
I haven’t practiced all of these squirrel killing methods, but if I had to choose between my garden and whacking a few rodents, I’d whack rodents.
One year after planting a bed of rare heirloom corn, Rachel caught a squirrel digging up and eating the new shoots.
Squirrels will eat your squash and pumpkins, gnaw and drop all your avocados, steal your peaches and persimmons and generally wreck whatever food they can get their paws on.
They’re wantonly destructive, too.
Instead of just taking an entire fruit, they’ll bite pieces from 30 fruit and leave them all to rot.
They must die. Here are a bunch of ways you can get rid of squirrels.
When I lived in Tennessee, I bought a house in a quiet old neighborhood with lots of trees and places for squirrels to live.
Yet there were almost no squirrels. It was wild. I couldn’t figure out why, until at some point I mentioned it to one of the neighbors.
“Oh, they’re all gone because Mr. ____ down the street was mad about his gardens, so he dedicated a few years to trapping them all.”
Dedicated population control works.
There are multiple ways to trap squirrels, both deadly and non-deadly.
The Havahart trap works well and I’ve caught squirrels in it before.
The problem is – what do you do with that squirrel once you’ve caught it? A remorseless old homesteading dame of yesteryear would probably throw the whole trap in the horse trough to drown the hapless squirrel, but we modern fops find that horrifying.
Release the squirrel and you may simply be prolonging his death, however.
According to The Humane Society:
“When the only other option is killing we sometimes agree that relocation, which gives the wild animal at least a chance, is acceptable. Much depends on the species involved, the time or year, the area into which relocation occurs and other factors—too many to write a general prescription.
For example, relocating an opossum, an animal that tends to wander all its life and often has no fixed home range (and who carries her babies with her) could be seen as more acceptable than relocating a squirrel in mid-winter. For the squirrel it is a death sentence since she would no longer have access to her food cache on which she survives the winter.” (source)
So, kill ’em. KILL. THEM. ALL.
PVC, a bucket, some peanut butter… very inventive.
Here’s an even easier way to knock down the squirrel population rapidly: rat traps.
Nail rat traps to your fence posts and bait them with peanut butter. The squirrels WILL go for it. If you put out 5-10 traps, you can nail a lot of squirrels quickly.
These Victor traps work nicely.
Yes, it’s mean. Look – if you’re going to complain about it, why are you still reading? Didn’t you see my trigger warning?
I used to have an aunt who decided to go all Rambo against the squirrels in her attic.
She went up there with a .22 and waited for a squirrel to show its face… then she’d shoot it.
Not recommended, but quite understandable.
Squirrels have a way of making one go mad and needing, on a visceral level, to kill.
I’ve nailed squirrels with a BB gun, with a pellet gun, with a slingshot and with a shotgun.
In the city, you’re limited to BB guns or pellet guns, and even then you need to be careful you don’t get reported by nosey neighbors.
This rifle is a good choice:
That’s the Ruger Blackhawk piston-driven .177. It shoots pellets at 1000 fps. That’ll punch through a lot. The only thing about that gun is that you need to shoot good pellets for accuracy. Mine didn’t like the cheapo pellets.
Still a lot cheaper than a real gun, plus it’s legal to buy right off Amazon.
If you don’t have time to shoot the squirrels yourself, have one of your sons do it for you. Good times.
If you live in the country, I’d get a Ruger 10/22, or, if you live further out in the country, just get a shotgun so you don’t need to be as accurate.
Now, here’s a good idea for getting rid of squirrels by shooting them: set up a squirrel feeder in your yard. Just an upright log with some peanuts or corn kernels on it is fine. Keep replenishing that spot with food and the squirrels will show up again and again.
Place the feeder in a good location so you can snipe with your gun. Every morning you should be able to nail at least one.
Using Nature To Get Rid of Squirrels
The reason monocultures often don’t work well is because they’re an imbalanced ecosystem.
Squirrels become a dominant species in suburbia because the apex predators are usually gone. Homeowners remove dead trees that could house hawks and owls, kill snakes, and keep their lawns tidy so predators don’t have any hiding places.
They also feed the squirrels with feeders, whether intended for squirrels or birds.
This selects for hordes of squirrels and doesn’t allow the ecosystem to sort itself out.
Suburbia is squirrel paradise.
However, you can strike back by providing places for owls, snakes, hawks and other predators. Yeah, your neighbors might not like it, but I have found that my species-dense food forest has few problems with squirrels. They’ll rob a peach tree now and then, but they also get killed by snakes and snatched up by predatory birds. Hawks in particular are a great way to get rid of squirrels. Getting them to show up in suburbia isn’t easy, though. You’ll probably have better luck attracting rat snakes (who will happily eat squirrel babies).
Uses For Squirrels
Now since I’m not a fan of just killing without getting some extra use from my kills, let’s look at a few uses for the squirrels you knock out.
First of all, you can eat them.
I find that squirrels aren’t all that great roasted without seasoning, but they do make good curries. Skinning a squirrel is pretty easy when you do it right.
Here’s how to skin a squirrel in one minute:
I’ve done that and it works.
Squirrels may also be a life-saving food if the entire grid collapses, so before you wipe out the entire population, you might want to think about gardening for squirrel meat instead of vegetables. What if you raised the population to horrifying levels by feeding them, then started culling meat for the freezer. Just a thought.
Turning Squirrels Into Eggs
Here’s another good use for dead squirrels: chicken feed.
One of the limiting factors when raising chickens is getting your birds enough protein. I’ve killed and chopped up squirrels for the birds and they’re very happy to eat ’em up.
Most people don’t realize that chickens will eat almost anything – including other chickens. Feed them squirrels and they’ll turn the squirrels into eggs. Good trade.
In my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting I share one of my favorite composting methods: making melon pits. That’s basically just a method of burying waste that wouldn’t work on a regular compost pile, then planting on top of it.
Squirrel corpses contain a lot of potential nutrition for your garden, plus using them to feed it has a certain satisfying symmetry. Get rid of squirrels that are eating your garden by turning them into food FOR your garden. Perfect.
Squirrel infestations will take some time and ingenuity to beat, but they can be beat.
If you really want to be a pacifist and leave the squirrels alone, I recommend following the option of building a higher-end ecosystem and hoping predators will return. Alternately, you can just fence in your entire gardening plot, top to bottom, with wire so the squirrels can’t get in.
Many of you don’t have that kind of time or money so killing squirrels may be the only way to go.
Nature is red in tooth and claw. If you don’t have predators, you have to be the predator.
Unless you want to see your fruits and vegetables disappear into the greedy little mouths of tree rats.