Squirrels gone wild in your L.A. yard? Here’s how to get your revenge (2024)

This is the part where I admit two things — neither of which I’m proud of. First, it was only then, several months in, I realized I’d made a colossal blunder when trying to hang my precious high-tech feeder out of squirrels’ reach. I’d measured the recommended five feet off the ground sure enough, but failed to account for the elevation afforded by a nearby tree stump that cut that distance in half. Within 10 minutes of realizing my error, I moved the feeder to a non-stump-adjacent location. Voila! My immediate problem was solved. As of this writing, it’s been 40 days without a squirrel breach.


Second, even though I’d won the battle by accomplishing exactly what I’d set out to do, I refused to give up. I’d waged this war too long and invested too much. How could I sit back when my friend’s guava tree continued to be routinely ransacked and my co-worker’s avocados savaged and tossed to the ground with grubby-pawed abandon?

Squirrels gone wild in your L.A. yard? Here’s how to get your revenge (1)

Peppermint essential oil, first sprayed and later put in jars with cloth wicks around the yard (a suggested hack found online), worked — but only for a short period of time.

(Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times)

And worse yet, what if they decided to come for the single — and so far unscathed — orange tree just now starting to show pea-sized fruits in my backyard? No, I needed closure. But before I started investing in owl-shaped, light-up motion sensors (these exist) or blasting C-SPAN across my yard at all hours, I needed someone to tell me if protecting L.A. backyard fruit trees (humanely, remember?) was even possible.

And that’s how I ended up on the phone explaining my situation to Roger Baldwin, a UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialist who focuses on human-wildlife conflict resolution.


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“You’ll find various chemical repellents that are marketed and sold [to combat them],” Baldwin told me. “But there’s nothing that’s ever been proven effective against tree squirrels. So I wouldn’t anticipate there being anything that you could spray to really keep them away. [And] there’s no kind of sound devices or ultrasonic devices or lights or strobes — or anything like that — that’s really been proven effective.” (He did note that some repellents might work on a short-term basis until the wily critters adapt.)


“No,” Baldwin said, “there’s nothing that’s guaranteed to work when you’ve got fruit trees, which are an abundant food source, and tree squirrels. ... But, like with your bird feeder, if you had an isolated tree — meaning nothing else around for a good 10 feet and nothing overhanging it — and its lowest branches were a good five or six feet off the ground, you could put a metal ring around the trunk to keep them from being able to climb it. But basically this is almost never going to happen.”

He added that even trapping, which might be an option for those willing to consider the squirrel death penalty (in California, the eastern fox squirrel can be trapped and euthanized humanely — but not released elsewhere), would likely be only a temporary solution. “Invariably there’s someone — probably more than one person — on your block feeding squirrels,” he said. “And other squirrels will likely move in. And there’s not much you can do about that. There are too many access points.”


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Sensing where things were headed, I cut to the chase. Based on Baldwin’s 16 years of experience, did I have any viable options beyond accepting that my backyard would forever be shared with whatever eastern gray fox squirrels wished to have their run of it?

“There’s probably not a lot that can be done to keep the squirrels from the fruit and the trees given the different limitations that you’ve discussed,” he said. “Yes, it’s more about realistically just learning to live with the squirrels.”

Perhaps sensing my dismay, Baldwin offered a tiny glimmer of hope.

“Sometimes, if you’ve got a very aggressive dog in your backyard — one that can chase squirrels effectively — that can sometimes help reduce problems,” he said.


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We’re a dogless household, and the notion of getting a dog just to vanquish a squirrel (or three) felt wrong. (I’m sure our two cats would agree.) So I’m accepting defeat on that front and keeping my focus on the no-longer-under-attack bird feeder.

But so help me, the minute one of those hairy little heathens helps itself to the fruit of my orange tree, the phrase “dogs of war” is going to take on a whole new meaning on my backyard battlefield.

Squirrels gone wild in your L.A. yard? Here’s how to get your revenge (2024)


What are squirrels afraid of? ›

Use repellents.

Chili peppers and mint are common home remedies for keeping squirrels at bay, since they detest the taste and smell of both. You can whip up a spray concoction using one of the many recipes found online.

How to keep squirrels away from a house? ›

How to deter squirrels from your home
  1. Seal off entrances. If squirrels can't get into your home, they won't become much of a nuisance. ...
  2. Remove food sources. ...
  3. Incorporate natural repellants into your yard. ...
  4. Get a dog. ...
  5. Think about your bird feeders. ...
  6. Use garden netting or a greenhouse. ...
  7. Keep your trees trimmed.
Sep 21, 2021

What attracts squirrels to your yard? ›

Unsecured trash bags, fruit trees, easily accessible bird feeders, bird baths, and pet food all attract squirrels. So, before you install scary spikes or resort to extreme measures like squirrel poison, know that the best way to deter squirrels is to eliminate the things that attract them.

What is a squirrel's worst enemy? ›

Like many small animals they have several predators. Predatory birds, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, raccoons, domestic cats, and snakes will all eat squirrels. Despite this, squirrels are very abundant, and the eastern gray squirrel is not considered endangered or threatened.

What do squirrels hate to walk on? ›

Adhesive Materials: Polybutenes. Polybutenes create a sticky lubricant that can deter squirrels from scaling railings and buildings. As they walk across the material, their feet may become stuck, which could cause so much irritation that they don't return.

What food is poisonous to squirrels? ›

Toxic Foods for Squirrels:

1. Chocolate: While it may be a delightful treat for us, chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to squirrels and can lead to severe health problems. 2. Avocado: Avocados contain persin, a substance that is toxic to many animals, including squirrels.

What smell do squirrels hate the most? ›

Now that we know more about them, we'll discuss the scents they hate! The scents on this list are: Peppermint Oil, Capsaicin, Coffee Grounds, White Vinegar, Garlic, Cinnamon, Predator Urine, Irish Springs Soap, Dryer Sheets, and Rosemary.

How do you deal with nuisance squirrels? ›

Remove/rake up food sources, such as nuts, berries, fruits, and acorns. Secure all trash cans with tight lids and bungee cords. It helps to rinse them out occasionally to remove the attracting odors. If you have a bird feeder, buy a squirrel proof feeder or equip it with a baffle.

Why would squirrels suddenly disappear? ›

A number of sources also mention occasional mass squirrel migrations from one area to another for reasons such as drought or food shortage or overpopulation. It has been reported that in some cases hundreds or even thousands of squirrels all leave an area in mass migrations.

What is the most effective squirrel deterrent? ›

Use Strong Odors

Scents like white pepper, black pepper, and garlic are naturally unpleasant to a squirrel. The same goes for sweet smells such as peppermint. Try spraying your plants and flowers with water and then sprinkling on pepper or peppermint oil to deter squirrels.

How do farmers keep squirrels away? ›

Mint and other aromatic plants

A lot of animals are repelled by the scent of mint and squirrels are one of them. You could try planting some mint under your fruit trees or make a spray similar to the hot pepper spray using peppermint or spearmint essential oils and water.

Does anything scare squirrels away? ›

Turn up their noses. Squirrels are offended by many of the same scents as deer, so repellents like Plantskydd Deer Repellent work well. You can also try a thin layer of coffee grounds or tucking a small amount of dog hair around and under plants.

How do I get rid of squirrels permanently? ›

Here's how to get rid of squirrels in the yard and keep them out of your home.
  1. Don't feed them. If you feed them, they will come. ...
  2. Remove what attracts them. The sight and smell of fallen fruit, nuts and seeds lures squirrels. ...
  3. Scare them. ...
  4. Spray them. ...
  5. Exclude them. ...
  6. Deter them. ...
  7. Repel them. ...
  8. Plant flowers squirrels hate.

Is it good or bad to have squirrels in your yard? ›

Though having squirrels in the yard is certainly favorable to having them inside homes, the pests are capable of causing a fair amount of destruction on residential lawns. For one, they feed on garden plants, digging up roots and stunting growth.

What smell do squirrels hate? ›

Now that we know more about them, we'll discuss the scents they hate! The scents on this list are: Peppermint Oil, Capsaicin, Coffee Grounds, White Vinegar, Garlic, Cinnamon, Predator Urine, Irish Springs Soap, Dryer Sheets, and Rosemary.

What is the biggest threat to squirrels? ›

While most of these predators eat adult and young squirrels, raccoons and gray rat snakes prefer to prey on nestlings. However, the truth is that humans represent the greatest threat to gray squirrels. Untold numbers are killed by vehicles racing down our highways.

What surface can squirrels not climb? ›

Other than completely smooth, extremely slippery surfaces, squirrels can climb just about anything. That means metal poles as the supports for your feeders are the beginning of any squirrel-deterrent effort.


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