How to Get Rid of Ground Squirrels in Your Yard

Ground squirrels are infamous for their tendency to dig holes in random parts of a lawn. If you’ve ever been walking on your lawn and found yourself dangerously close to tripping over one of these holes, you might be wondering how to stop the little architects from continuing their work. 

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get rid of ground squirrels, including traps, repellents, and even fencing. But, before I delve into those methods, let’s go over what ground squirrels are so that you can target them specifically. 

What Are Ground Squirrels?

There are a few different types of ground squirrels that I’ve encountered in my day. For example, the most common type of ground squirrel is the Richardson (aka prairie) ground squirrel. Though they’re related to tree squirrels and actually spend a fair amount of time in trees, they live mainly in underground burrows or tunnels. 

How to Get Rid of Ground Squirrels in Your Yard
Ground Squirrel

They can also swim well and climb rocks, which makes it hard for some animals like foxes to catch them. They typically emerge from their homes around sunrise between April and October before retreating back inside when the sun sets or becomes too hot outside. 

During this time, they eat plants like grasses and seeds as well as insects like grasshoppers and beetles. However, they don’t eat any kind of nuts or berries since those foods aren’t native to their preferred habitat of the Plains states in Canada (bordering Montana). Here, they are also known as gophers. 

When winter comes around again, they hibernate until springtime returns once more. 

Ground squirrels generally have grayish fur with white marks on their tails but can vary among different species. For example, golden-mantled ground squirrels are reddish-brown with speckles on their cheeks, while California ground squirrels are yellowish-brown with light stripes along either side of their backs. 

Where Do Ground Squirrels Live?

Ground squirrels can be found in fields, hillsides, meadows, and gardens. They live in burrows that they dig with their feet and teeth. They are mainly found in western North America but can also be found in parts of Canada, Mexico, and Central America.

Ground Squirrel vs Chipmunk

People often confuse ground squirrels and chipmunks. The two look similar, and both have the ability to quickly tunnel under structures and cause extensive damage. 

However, ground squirrels are larger than chipmunks, with adults weighing up to 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) and reaching lengths of 11 inches (28 centimeters). Ground squirrel feet are proportionally larger, too, helping them dig more effectively.

Ground Squirrel
Ground Squirrel
Chipmunk
Chipmunk

Ground squirrels are also more aggressive than chipmunks. They’ll get into a fight if another animal is near their food source or if they feel threatened when nesting in their burrow systems. Plus, these rodents can be more likely to attack people than the smaller chipmunk; they’re known to bite humans when feeling cornered or trapped. 

You may also notice that your lawn and garden suffer more damage with ground squirrels around. They’re known to eat entire plants as well as flowers, fruit trees, vegetables, bulbs, and roots from potted plants. You may be interested in reading How To Keep Squirrels Out of Potted Plants.

What Attracts Ground Squirrels into Your Yard?

Ground squirrels are known for eating crops and ruining yards, but their attraction to your yard isn’t limited to these appetites. Ground squirrels will enter your yard in search of food and water, as well as shelter, space to burrow, and potential mates.

They eat a variety of foods both on the surface and underground. As omnivores, ground squirrels can survive by eating seeds, nuts, fruits, insects, and even roots. However, they aren’t opposed to eating plants and vegetables in your garden.

Bird Food, Crops, Insects

Squirrels are omnivores, so they eat plants and insects. Wild squirrels feed on nuts and seeds, but they will also eat fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other crops. Squirrels are also known to consume insects such as caterpillars and grasshoppers.

The best way to keep squirrels out of your garden is by removing all sources of food from the area except for what is planted for harvesting purposes. This means removing all fallen fruit from the ground; if it’s accessible by squirrels, it’ll be gone in no time at all.

A Place to make a Burrow

Ground squirrels do not require a huge amount of space to make a home. Any lawn, garden, or flowerbed will be suitable for them to dig in and make burrows to live in. 

They also like to burrow under structures like decks, porches, and foundations if they can find an easy access point from beneath. If you have any unsecured sheds or garages on your property, the ground squirrels will most certainly take advantage of them.

Access to Water Source

Depending on where you live, there may or may not be a source of water for the squirrels to drink. If your problem is truly an infestation, you’ll need to find a way to keep them from drinking water in your yard. This can be done by installing a fence around any one of the following:

  • Your pond or lake
  • Your swimming pool
  • A sprinkler system

Signs of Ground Squirrel Damage

If you have squirrels in your backyard, believe me, it won’t be much of a mystery. In addition to seeing them, you’ll also notice damage to your backyard landscaping and signs of burrowing and chew marks on your patio furniture. 

Let’s go over these sure-fire signs now so that you’ll have a better idea of what to look for if you suspect you have ground squirrels in your yard. 

Damage to Your Backyard Landscaping

Ground squirrels like to eat bulbs, seeds, and seedlings. This is especially true in the springtime. They’re also particularly fond of flowers and vegetables. Plus, they also love to munch on fruit trees, as well as ornamental plants. 

So, if you notice that your flower beds have been uprooted, your crops massacred, or your decorative plants destroyed, then there’s a great chance that you’re dealing with ground squirrels. 

Signs of Burrows and Tunnels in Plant Borders

You may see burrows near plant borders or in the shrubbery. The most common signs of a burrow are holes 6-8 inches in diameter. Burrows are usually up to 18 feet long and can have multiple entrances and exits. The main entrance is often hidden by plants or shrubs, so you may only spot it after the squirrels have been removed.

Chew Marks on Furniture

Squirrels love to chew, which can cause extensive damage in and around your home. It’s important to seal up any entry points where squirrels might be able to enter. This will prevent them from causing further damage while also protecting the structural integrity of your home. 

When squirrels invade your house or garage, they usually have a nest in there that they’ve built out of whatever items they could find inside. Because ground squirrels are rodents, their teeth won’t stop growing; this means that they need to chew on things to prevent their teeth from getting too long and hurting themselves when eating and drinking. 

Trust me; they’ll chew on anything from siding and furniture inside houses to your outdoor patio set. Which is not only very annoying, but it can actually cause extensive damage that’s costly to repair or replace. 

Squirrel Sighting or Sounds

If you see a squirrel, don’t panic. Ground squirrels are not aggressive and won’t attack you. They may bite if cornered or injured, but they can be scared away by making noise or throwing objects at them.

If you hear scratching or chewing noises coming from your attic or walls, then it’s likely that you have squirrels in the yard that are working their way into your home.

Burrowing near Building Foundations

Ground squirrels can cause problems in your yard by burrowing under building foundations and burrowing around swimming pools. They are destructive when they:

  • Dig into the ground and damage foundations, building supports, and retaining walls.
  • Burrow under concrete slabs and patios.
  • Burrow under and around swimming pools.
  • Create openings under house siding and trim.

Damage to Your Lawn

When ground squirrels start digging in your yard, it can lead to divots, holes, and other areas where the grass is missing. Ground squirrels eat grass, so it follows that their presence in your yard will eventually result in dead patches of grass or other damage to your lawn.

How to Get Rid of Ground Squirrels Naturally

Now for the good news, over the years, I’ve dealt with my fair share of squirrels, and I’ve learned a few things about how to get rid of them. The following tips and tricks will help you get rid of ground squirrels and prevent them from returning to your yard. 

Noise Deterrents

Adding noise to the yard can make it less attractive to ground squirrels because of their sensitivity to sound. Here are some options you can try:

  • Motion-activated sprinklers
  • Ultrasonic devices
  • A radio or talk show playing at a high volume
  • A dog that barks or a cat that meows a lot 
  • Windchimes

Basically, anything that’s loud enough will scare off any ground squirrels in your yard. The trick is to have something making noise in your yard 24/7, as this will not only scare off the squirrels but will deter them from coming on your property in the first place. 

Pepper Spray or Castor Oil

If you want another easy way to get rid of ground squirrels, try pepper spray or castor oil. Both of these natural repellents can be bought from online retailers and in most hardware stores. 

The biggest benefit of using pepper spray or castor oil is that it will deter squirrels from coming onto your property without harming them or other animals in any way. 

Plus, since it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals as many insecticides do, there’s no need to worry about risking your health when using them as a deterrent either inside or outside of your home.

Incorporate Specific Plants

If you want to keep squirrels out of your yard, you can also plant certain types of plants that they don’t like. For example, squirrels aren’t too fond of the scent of garlic and peppermint. 

You could also consider planting marigolds or lavender in your garden, as these are plants that squirrels hate. 

Use Predator Decoys

Predator decoys like plastic owls and fake snakes are a common, inexpensive method of ground squirrel removal. These decoys can be effective if placed in the right areas, but they require regular maintenance. 

Squirrels quickly get used to seeing the same thing every day, so it’s important to move your decoy around at least once a week. Decoys should be placed near burrows and high traffic areas. This is a great way to keep squirrels away from new vegetation or newly seeded yards. 

If you spot squirrels in your yard regularly and want them gone, this probably won’t be enough by itself, but it’s a good start.

Use Catch and Release Traps

Traps can be purchased from home improvement stores, but you can also rent one from the local animal control department. 

The idea is to bait the trap with peanut butter. Peanut butter is known to attract squirrels and is relatively harmless to them if they decide to eat it while they are in the trap.

Place the trap in an area where squirrels have been seen or where their droppings have been discovered. Ideally, you want a shady spot that is away from your house and your neighbor’s house as well; otherwise, you may never get rid of them.

I recommend that you only use these sorts of traps as a last resort if you’re dealing with a large number of squirrels on your property. Especially if they are causing damage, such as digging holes under porches or decks, which could result in structural instability over time and which may lead to personal injury.

How to Trap Ground Squirrels in Your Yard

Now that I’ve gone over what ground squirrels are, why they’re a nuisance to homeowners, and the reasons why you probably want to get rid of them, let’s look at how to remove them from your yard. 

The best place to start is probably with traps since these are the most common method deployed by people with ground squirrel infestations. 

Ground Squirrel Traps

Ground squirrels are notoriously difficult to trap. They are smart and suspicious of new things, which makes them wary of traps. But with the right bait, the right trap, and the right technique, you can successfully trap ground squirrels.

Types of Traps

There are a few different types of ground squirrel traps, and it can be hard to know which one to use without knowing more about each. The following are the most popular kinds.

Ground Squirrel Bait

The best bait for ground squirrels is sunflower seeds and cracked corn. You can also use peanuts, other nuts, fruits, or vegetables. You can also use peanut butter if you don’t have any of the other ingredients available. 

Snap Traps 

Snap traps have a powerful spring-loaded mechanism that will crush the neck or spine of the animal when triggered. These traps work best if you’re trying to eradicate your problem quickly but don’t intend on reusing them for future catching sessions. 

Once an animal is caught in a snap trap, you’ll want to dispose of it immediately; otherwise, the stench may attract more animals to investigate the scent and get caught themselves.

Live Traps 

Live traps do not kill the squirrel directly but rather enclose it in a cage until you’re ready to release it somewhere else. This is great if you are looking for a humane approach and would prefer to relocate your squirrels instead of outright killing them.

ground squirrel trap

Exclusion Devices 

These contraptions work by preventing animals from being able to enter your home or lawn at all through gates and fences made specifically for this purpose; they come in many different designs depending on what type of animal you’re trying to block out and how big said animal is.

This option will also cost significantly less money than hiring professional help because it’s DIY-friendly while still delivering quality results over time with minimal effort needed from human beings once everything has been installed correctly. 

How To Set A Trap 

It’s not particularly difficult to set a squirrel trap. The basic idea is that you first need to bait the trap with one of the baits listed above. 

Next, you’ll need to cover the trap in soil and set it in the area where the squirrels are active. Covering the trap will make it seem like just another part of the ground and increase your chances of catching a squirrel in action.

That’s about it. Depending on the type of trap you’re using, all that will be left to do is sit back and wait for the squirrel to stumble into your trap. With any luck, it shouldn’t take too long. 

Call in the Pest Control Experts

Getting rid of squirrels in your yard may be a job for professionals. Eliminating squirrels is tricky, and there isn’t just one strategy that works for all cases. 

Squirrel removal specialists can help you decide what kind of squirrel problem you have and which method to use based on the animals’ patterns. They can also suggest other ways to prevent more squirrels from trying to enter your home or property.

If you need assistance removing unwanted squirrels from your home or property, consult a professional pest control expert near you. The pros are trained in the best techniques and are equipped with the right tools, so they can get the job done as quickly as possible while keeping things humane and safe.

Make sure that whoever you hire is licensed and insured, has experience dealing with ground squirrel problems, uses humane methods of trapping and release (or euthanasia), will handle any damage caused by the animals (including cleaning up waste), and provides an iron-clad guarantee against re-entry. 

In my experience, pest control experts typically use the following two techniques to get rid of ground squirrels. 

Baiting

What they usually do is set a trap in the evening. The best time is right before dark when ground squirrels start to come out of their burrows. They normally place it as close as possible to a squirrel burrow or somewhere you’ve seen them in the past. If you can find evidence of their eating habits (such as chewed nuts), that’s a great spot.

Once the trap is set and baited, you’ll need to wait for at least an hour before coming back to check it again; they’re small creatures who are cautious by nature (and who would be very surprised by all this human attention), so they need time to gain confidence enough to approach anything with peanut butter on it! 

Fumigating

Fumigating is a sure-fire way to rid your yard of ground squirrels. The process involves pumping in smoke or gas through tubes that are placed in the ground. This creates a vacuum, which draws the gas into tunnels and dens where the squirrels live. The fumigant kills them by suffocation or poisoning.

Here is a list of the most common fumigants used for killing rodents:

  • Aluminum phosphide
  • Magnesium phosphide
  • Sodium nitrate/nitrite

I always prefer removing squirrels in a humane way that doesn’t involve killing them. But, if you’ve exhausted all of the other methods above and still can’t get rid of the ground squirrels in your yard, then fumigation will certainly do the trick once and for all. Always seek professional advice before getting started.

How to Keep Squirrels Away

Once you’ve removed the ground squirrels from your yard, your work isn’t over. Now you’ll need to take action to prevent them from simply returning again in the near future. 

I’ve learned a few things about this through trial and error, and in my experience, the best way to keep squirrels away from your yard is by using exclusion techniques. 

That said, it’s also important that you keep your yard clean and tidy. A messy yard can make it easy for squirrels and other rodents to thrive. 

Squirrels like hiding in bushes, tall grass, or areas with plants or trees. Therefore, you should cut extremely long grass regularly and remove any debris that might be lying around. 

Alternatively, you can also use commercial repellents. There are many squirrel repellents available that are safe for humans as well as pets. These repellents include predator decoys, ultrasonic devices, predator urine, and spices such as cayenne pepper. 

You can use these tools around the perimeter of your yard to stop a squirrel invasion in its tracks.

In addition to the above methods, you could also build a purpose-made fence around your yard. To be honest, that’s my least preferred option and one I don’t often recommend. It can cost several hundred dollars and is often ineffective in the long run. Squirrels are proficient climbers, and they can easily make their way over a fence one way or another.

Verdict: How to Get Rid of Ground Squirrels

As you can see, there are many options for how to get rid of ground squirrels. When using poison, by far the most effective method for getting rid of ground squirrel infestations is fumigation with aluminum phosphide tablets. Though it’s also the most dangerous and not one to try out without calling in the professionals.

If you would rather “play it safe” with non-lethal methods (and if you don’t have too many to get rid of), trapping and relocating them may be a better solution; however, relocating them will involve driving out of town to release them back into nature.

So, there you have it. That’s just about everything I know about getting rid of ground squirrels. I hope you find this advice useful, and I’m sure that if you apply the tips and tricks in this article, you’ll be able to get rid of those pesky ground squirrels in no time. Good luck!

FAQs Getting Rid of Ground Squirrels