Conflicts can occur when humans and squirrels live in close proximity. Squirrel feeding can result in the loss of sweet corn, tomatoes and other vegetables from your garden. High squirrel populations also can affect commercial nut production, especially walnuts and pecans. Squirrels sometimes dig and eat flower bulbs and newly planted seeds.
When squirrels enter homes, they can become destructive because of gnawing habits and collections of nest materials. Exterior siding and wiring sometimes is damaged by their gnawing. In addition, the clatter of squirrel movements within the structure can be bothersome.
Shooting. Shooting is effective where local laws permit the discharge of firearms. Hunting can be a useful method to control squirrel numbers, but adequate hunting pressure is essential.
Exclusion. You can prevent squirrels from climbing isolated trees and utility poles by encircling the poles with a two-foot-wide collar of smooth metal six feet above ground. Attach the collar with encircling wires held together with springs to allow for tree growth. Trees adjacent to buildings should be trimmed to prevent squirrels from jumping onto roofs.
Squirrels can be prevented from traveling on wires by installing two-foot section of lightweight, 2- to 3-inch-diameter plastic pipe. Slit the plastic pipe lengthwise and place it over the wire. The pipe will rotate with the weight of the squirrel, causing it to tumble. WARNING: Due to the danger of electrical shock, this should only be attempted by a qualified electrician or a representative from your utility company.
Squirrels can be excluded from buildings by closing all openings with 1/2 -inch wire mesh or by making other necessary repairs. However, care must be taken to ensure that no squirrels are unknowingly kept inside the building. More damage could result if a squirrel trapped inside gnaws in order to get out. If it isn't possible to remove young squirrels, exclusion efforts should be delayed until the young have matured. Generally, problem squirrels should be removed from buildings before exclusion or repair work is initiated. In some situations, however, it might be possible to capture squirrels inside a building for relocation.
Trapping. Live-trapping could be necessary in some situations. Metal live traps are available from some farm and garden supply stores and numerous catalogs. Live traps should be placed in areas where squirrels are commonly observed--on roofs or porches, near feeding or traveling areas, etc. Baits attractive to squirrels include unsalted walnut meats or other nuts, slices of orange or apple, and peanut butter. Squirrels are also attracted to corn and sunflower seeds. Live-trapped squirrels should be released at least two or three miles away to prevent their return.
Trapping with steel traps can be highly effective. The #120 conibear-type trap is especially effective when used with a small cubby box. A nail driven in the back of the box is handy for holding a small ear of corn or other bait. The #120 conibear trap should be used only if it is off the ground and away from children and small pets.
Repellents. Naphthalene (moth balls) temporarily can discourage squirrels from entering attics and other enclosed spaces. Supplement this method by lighting the attic. A house cat may further discourage squirrel activity.
Thiram painted on some plant stems or bark reduces gnawing. Methyl nonyl ketone crystals are labeled for border treatments to protect vegetable gardens and for floor treatments to repel squirrels from attics. Polybutene tactile repellents are suggested to keep squirrels away from building exteriors.
Shrubs and garden bulbs can be protected by spraying with a commercial repellent, nicotine sulfate (insecticide), or homemade preparations of one teaspoon of Lysol or three ounces of Epsom salts added to one gallon of water. These sprays must be repeated frequently as new growth and rains reduce their effectiveness.
To discourage squirrels from gnawing cedar shingles, a repellent can be made by combining one pound of copper naphthenate with 2 1/2 quarts of either mineral spirits, linseed oil or shingle stain. If color is unimportant, two pounds of copper carbonate and three pounds of asphalt emulsion create a good repellent.
For additional information contact a conservation agent or your nearest Department of Conservation office.