It’s autumn time, which means it’s the season for squirrelling! Squirrels are hard at work preparing for the long winter ahead and making sure they store enough food, and while they can be entertaining to watch, they can wreak havoc on your flower beds, damage your plants, as well as cheekily pilfer from your bird feeder. Notoriously agile and persistent, it can sometimes almost feel impossible to keep squirrels out of your garden, but we have a few handy tips and tricks for you to keep those pesky critters from stealing from your plants!
Squirrels are undeniably cute, and many of us may be fond of watching them scurry and scamper across the lawn and up trees as they go about their autumn foraging. But squirrels can cause rampant destruction to the garden you have worked so hard to rear. Also, squirrels don’t hibernate: while they might be more active at this time of year as they prepare for the cold spell and the period where they lie low for a little while, their foraging and pillaging is in fact all year round, which means that once you have a squirrel problem it is tough to shake them and it can start to drive you nuts!
Squirrels’ instinct is to store food in their territory, so once they have established your garden as a place they can forage and roam, they will carry on with reckless abandon. They like to gather all sorts of things from your garden, and sometimes it seems like they might just be ruining plants for the fun of it. Squirrels are fond of nuts and acorns (of course), as well as fruit, berries, and bulbs – and let’s not forget what fun they seem to have to steal seeds from the bird feeder!
Red Squirrel Conservation
So if you’ve noticed a few of the critters scurrying about, or perhaps you’ve seen some damage in your garden and you are suspicious it might be from squirrels, the first thing to do would be to establish what type of squirrel it may be. There are two species of squirrel in the United Kingdom – the red squirrel and the grey squirrel. There are only 140,000 red squirrels, compared to the 2.5 million grey squirrels. So if you spot a red squirrel in your garden, they’re actually a lot rarer than you might actually think!
In the Victorian era, grey squirrels were introduced into the population from North America, and in the past 200 years, the grey squirrels have slowly replaced the red squirrels – who are in fact endemic to the United Kingdom. Because of how the grey squirrel has been invading the red squirrel’s territory, their numbers have in fact dropped drastically, and red squirrels are now in serious need of conservation efforts else they risk becoming extinct, forever.
Red and grey squirrels can’t live together in the same environment as the grey squirrels are larger and more dominant over the resources and push the smaller red squirrel into difficult terrain that is harder to survive in. Grey squirrels also carry a squirrel pox virus which is fatal to red squirrels. So if you have red squirrels visiting you, most likely you won’t have any grey squirrels. Because of how endangered they are, if you have red squirrels visiting your garden, you are in fact luckier than you realise.
If there are red squirrel strongholds in your area, there should be local conservation efforts and Wildlife Trusts dedicated to preventing the extinction of the red squirrel, and if it is suitable, you may in fact wish to encourage red squirrels to your garden, as red squirrels play a crucial role in keeping our evergreen woods seeds dispersed and help keep the woods healthy. The red squirrel is the only native squirrel in Britain but is close to extinction. A good way to help can be as simple as reporting any sightings of red squirrels in your area to your local conservation initiative.
It is in fact the grey squirrels who are more likely to be seen as pests. As they number so many, they are the ones who tend to cause annoying damages in the garden and can be a bit of a nuisance. It’s easy to spot if you have a grey squirrel problem if you look for:
- Damage to your lawn or plant beds from where they have been digging or burying
- Bark stripped from your trees
- Gnawed hosepipes or other plastics being nibbled at
- Raided bird feeders, with lots of seed scattered on the ground
- Plants that have been nibbled on
Once you’ve established that pesky grey squirrels are the culprits behind your gardening woes, it’s time to take action! There are plenty of things you can do to make your garden less desirable for squirrels, or more difficult for them to come and pillage in so that hopefully they will start to see your lovely garden as just too much bother to raid!
Here’s what you can do.
How To Keep Squirrels Out Of Your Garden
Limit Their Access To Food As Much As Possible
Your bird feeders might be to blame for drawing in the squirrel critters, who can see it as an easy source of food. Not only could they then go on to do some damage to the rest of your plants, but they have most likely scared away the birds that you were trying to attract to your garden in the first place! The easiest way to stop this from happening is to make your bird feeder one that is impossible for squirrels to pilfer from. There are some different ways of going about this, like:
Buy a feeder guardian
Sort of like an upside-down basket, this fits neatly over your bird feeder to stop squirrels from getting in, but it’s just the right size to still allow birds to feed.
Buy a dome or squirrel baffler
This attaches to the feeder’s hanger to stop the squirrel scurrying down to the feed.
Buy a new bird feeder
If your budget allows, invest in a feeder that is designed to keep squirrels out. There are caged feeders that are specifically designed for this, or, if you’re feeling really fancy, there are feeders that have weight sensors, that shut off access to the feeding port when the squirrel comes to feed, denying the critter’s access.
A sprinkle of chilli powder
This won’t deter your birds, but squirrels hate the stuff. A dash of chilli over the feed will put squirrels off the grub.
Make Some Changes To Your Garden
There are some few additions to your garden that might be worth investing in if squirrels are giving you hassles.
Use Tree Protector
You can purchase some spiral tree protectors that you can attach to the tree bark to stop squirrels from damaging or flaying them.
Mulch is great for your plants – as it breaks down, it adds nutrients to the soil and keeps it moist and warm. Making use of thick garden mulch, such as a heavy layer of garden compost or wood chippings, makes it difficult for squirrels to get to and then damage the plant’s roots.
Motion detector sprinklers are useful not only for keeping your garden hydrated, but also to chase away squirrels as they potter about as they don’t like being wet!
Season with chilli and peppermint
Like with the bird feeder, a bit of chilli sprinkled around the garden will be helpful in putting them off their unwelcome visits – you could even try cayenne pepper too. Squirrels also find the smell of peppermint quite strong, so a few mint sprigs dotted about your garden won’t go amiss.
Plant bulbs they don’t like
Squirrels aren’t a fan of daffodils, snowdrops and fritillaria, so a few additions of these to your garden will further deter them from visiting and causing havoc.
Add some fencing
Some chicken wire or netting might be the way forward for you. While this might not be as aesthetically pleasing, it may be a worthwhile option to consider as it keeps the mischievous squirrel out of your flower beds.
Hopefully, you will be able to make use of some of these tips to make your garden a squirrel-free zone. Don’t forget, if it’s a red squirrel, you might actually want to keep them visiting your garden because of how rare they are!
Whether the squirrels in question are red or grey, always remember that no matter how much of a nuisance they may be, no animal should be harmed. Always ensure the actions you take are humane.
 Red Squirrel Conservation – Link