Attracting and Controlling Squirrels in Your Garden

Humans have a love-hate relationship with squirrels. They are one of the most successful and widespread species in the world and are known for their high reproductive rate. Each litter produces 2-4 young, and squirrels breed twice each year. Squirrels naturally live in trees. However, they\’ve become adapt with using man-made nesting boxes. It\’s fairly easy to attract squirrels, provide them with food (they will even come dine with the birds if you left food out to attract birds), shelter and water and it won\’t be long before you see these four legged friends scurrying and scampering around your garden. There is however one thing that you should be mindful of if you want to attract squirrels to your garden: How to control their numbers.

Attracting Squirrels with Food

Eating Habits

Squirrels are for the most species, vegetarians. They will forage for plants but their main staple are fruits and nuts. Come autumn, squirrels will forage and store acorns (think Ice Age) near oaks, hickories as well as pecans. Seeds and nuts from trees are the choice food of a squirrel\’s diet. They will also eat rose hips, catkins, shoots and bark. This, of course, spells trouble for some gardeners. Don\’t be surprised though to find that eggs and the young nestling of some bird and insect are eaten by tree squirrels.

You may also feel a bit frustrated if you have a bird feed that gets emptied out as quickly as you put them in because you have a resident squirrel. Not all is lost however for our little furry friends as squirrels are very much part of the natural ecology of an area. Winter will definitely see a drop in garden activity and the squirrel\’s presence keeps the wildlife alive as they don\’t hibernate, providing you with a little bit of entertainment when they forage for food.

If you decide to attract squirrels to your garden, you can opt for the above mentioned fruits and nuts. You can also try using peanuts. However, DO NOT feed raw peanuts to squirrels or any other animals for that matter because it is bad for their diet. Peanuts are a great source of protein but they have the high probability of carrying aflatoxin which is a type of fungal toxin. It is a carcinogenic matter that can cause liver damage.

You can reduce (but not eliminate) this contaminant by roasting the peanuts. Raw peanuts and other legumes also contain a trypsin inhibitor that prevents the pancreas from producing trypsin which is an enzyme that is important for the absorption of protein by the intestine. Raw peanuts also contain mycotoxins that can cause liver, kidney, and brain diseases. Again, should you decide to use peanuts, consider roasting them first before feeding them to wildlife. Roast hulled raw peanuts for 20 to 30 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit so that they will be suitable for feed. Of course, you can also opt to just buy roasted peanuts, make sure they are the unsalted variety.


Like birds, butterflies and other creatures, water attracts squirrels. Put out some water in a terracotta bowl or in a bottom half of a milk jug hung on a tree. Water keeps squirrels hydrated and is a sure fire way to attract them. Make sure that you clean out the bowl once every two days or so, to keep the water fresh and avoid accidentally breeding mosquitoes because of stagnant water.


Squirrels are very adaptable little fellas. They naturally live in trees but will more than likely be able to live in urban areas just as well. Trees provide them with shelter and food to forage for, such as nuts and berries. If you want to attract squirrels, oak, hazel or sycamore trees are great places for them to live in. Be mindful though that squirrels are just as comfortable taking residence in a loft in the roof area of your home and this is when a little friend will turn into a foe.

Controlling Squirrels in Your Garden

Because of the adaptability of squirrels to their surrounding, they will be able to live in many different places so long as their food, shelter and water available. Squirrels tend to go where these three sources are. So if you\’re a home owner who\’s trying to attract other creatures like birds and butterflies, you\’re also more than likely going to attract squirrels in your garden. Stopping squirrels from foraging in your garden is near impossible. Instead of trying to eliminate their presence, take steps to discourage or reduce their presence instead.

Choose seeds that squirrels don\’t like. You can fill bird feeders with safflower seeds as these are seeds that squirrels don\’t have a particular liking for. Safflower seeds will attract cardinals, chickadees and house finches.

You can TRY using “squirrel-proof” method on feeders, such as placing a wide platform on a pole with the underside lathered with Vaseline and hot pepper. Place this platform far from any possible jumping points that squirrels can use to get to the top of the platform.

Alternatively you can also purchase squirrel-proof birds feeders from the market that discourages squirrels from foraging from your bird feeders.

If you can fight them, join them? Provide these squirrels with their own feeding station so that they will not mess with the bird feeders.

One man\’s friend is another man\’s enemy. Squirrels have suffered the bad rep of being a pest in the home garden because they are just doing what naturally comes to them and that\’s foraging for food. Their negative image also comes from the fact that they do inflict damage in the area such as roofings or your garden. They will also peel off the bark of trees to get to the sap, causing branches to die and exposing trees to insect and fungal attack. Be mindful though that many of the problems caused by squirrels are more to do with our own inability to overcome these opportunists. A roof in need of repair would not be attractive to squirrels if it had been repaired as required. We\’re pretty much occupying nature\’s domain by destroying it to build our home. Treat all creatures with respect. With enough food and space to go around, you may just be able to realize how every species, including squirrels, can live together in harmony.

More Reading:

How to Attract Squirrels to a Yard

Squirrel Food:

Squirrels love Variety: