Tree squirrels provide entertainment and enjoyment for many rural homeowners, but they can become a nuisance. Squirrels can damage electrical wiring, siding, and insulation. They can eat sweet corn, tomatoes and other vegetables, flower bulbs, and newly planted seeds. They can be a nuisance around bird feeders, frightening birds and scattering seeds.
Excluding tree squirrels from buildings, gardens, young trees, and other crops is the most practical and best way to control damage, says Robert Pierce, Extension wildlife specialist, University of Missouri. Here are a few tips for managing squirrels.
Keep the garden safe
Protect valuable garden crops by building a fence of 1-inch mesh wire. The fence should be at least 30 inches high and extend 6 inches below ground, with an additional 6 inches bent outward at a 90-degree angle to discourage burrowing. Electric fence can also serve to deter squirrels. Place at least two electrified strands about 3 inches away from an existing fence, one 6 inches above the ground and the other at the fence height.
Protect planted bulbs with 1-inch mesh poultry wire. Dig a trench slightly deeper than the desired depth of planting and fi t the poultry wire in the bottom. Add soil and plant the bulbs. Place another strip of poultry wire over the plantings so the bulbs are completely encased and finish covering with soil.
Protect young trees
To stop squirrels from stripping the bark off ornamental trees and shrubs, wrap trees with metal sheeting. Tree wrap keeps squirrels from gnawing on bark by keeping them out of the tree. Wrap all trees within branch-to-branch jumping distance. This method works well on trees near bird feeders or around your house. Remember to allow for tree growth when wrapping. If you have a continuous tree canopy that allows squirrels easy movement, you will have to find another means of control.
Feeding is the easiest way to prevent squirrels from stripping tree bark. Scatter shelled or cob field corn on the ground near the trees or bird feeder, or place it on a shallow feeding platform. Squirrels are fond of sunflower seeds and nuts. Remember that most nuts are buried rather than eaten.
If squirrels are causing problems at bird feeders, you might want to provide an alternative food source. Wire or nail an ear of corn to a tree or fence post away from where the squirrels are causing the problem.
Chemical repellents can be used to keep squirrels from burrowing in trees or gnawing on wood. Repellents will not stop gnawing but can reduce the severity of damage. The best repellent is one containing Thiram, a taste repellent that can be applied to seeds and bulbs. It can also be applied to flowers, trees, shrubs, fences, siding, and outdoor furniture.
Polybutenes are sticky materials that can be applied to buildings, railings, gutter downspouts, and other areas to discourage squirrels from climbing. Because these materials can be messy, a preapplication with masking tape is usually recommended.
Squirrel Away is a deterrent that can be used to help keep squirrels from eating birdseed, making a mess at your feeder, and frightening birds away. It is a highly concentrated capsaicin, derived from hot pepper plants. This product is a birdseed supplement and can be an effective deterrent to squirrel activity at your bird feeder.
Be sure to follow all label directions when using any chemical repellent.
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