Squirrels are tree-dwelling rodents with huge bushy tails that are well known for digging. They will often scour the floor for any nuts and seeds that they can find and then bury them for a later date when food sources become a little scarcer. Although many people generally consider squirrels to be cute little animals, grey squirrels are an invasive species that are considered vermin due to the wake of destruction that they leave behind. Grey squirrels were introduced to the UK in Victorian times and are the primary cause of the native red squirrel’s decline. This is down to not only the grey squirrel outcompeting the red squirrel but, is also due to the transmission of squirrel pox to which grey squirrels are immune. Read on to see our 6 top tips on how to stop squirrels from digging up your garden.
Why Do Squirrels Dig in Lawns?
Squirrels are natural foragers, and their digging behaviour in lawns can be attributed to several instinctual and survival-driven reasons:
One of the primary reasons squirrels dig is to bury food, such as nuts and seeds, for later consumption. This behaviour, known as caching, ensures they have a food supply during times when food is scarce, especially in the colder months. This natural behaviour is what leads them to bury things that they won’t eat such as conkers!
Just as they bury food, squirrels also dig to retrieve food from their previously stored caches. Their keen sense of smell helps them locate these buried treasures, even under a layer of snow.
Squirrels are opportunistic feeders. While searching for food, they often dig small holes in the ground to uncover roots, bulbs, or insects that make up part of their varied diet.
Female squirrels sometimes dig to create nests, known as “dreys,” for their young. While trees are the preferred nesting sites, they might occasionally choose ground locations, especially if there’s a lack of suitable trees.
Young squirrels, being curious and playful, might dig out of sheer curiosity or playfulness while they explore their environment.
How to Stop Squirrels Digging in Your Lawn
We are going to look at a range of squirrel deterrents to keep squirrels from digging in your lawn. Trapping them is also an option but once you have trapped a grey squirrel, it is against the law to release them again – unfortunately, they must be destroyed albeit in the most humane way possible.
If you do not think that you are able to do this, it is best to call in a pest professional who can do it for you, or you could try one of our squirrel deterrents below.
1. Get a Dog
First on our list involves another animal and another mouth to feed.
A dog is a great deterrent to squirrels as they are not likely to want to be around when the dog is there. Along with the dog’s presence, the scent of the dog’s urine will be off-putting for the little pest too. Just about any dog will do but a dog that is fast and full of life is best. I have a boxer that chases squirrels as soon as he sees them, not because he wants to eat them but because he wants to play but the squirrels don’t know that!
2. Fake Predator
This one seems a little bit out there, but it really works. Get yourself a fake owl (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) and occasionally move it to different positions around the garden.
Owls are natural predators of squirrels and they will stay away from an area if they think there is an owl watching them. I have not tried this before but went on a tour of Stamford Bridge once during the close season and where the new seed had been laid at either end, they had huge owl statues to keep the pigeons from eating the seed.
3. Predator Scents
Like owls, foxes are predators of squirrels and the scent of a fox (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) can be enough to keep squirrels at bay and keep them out of your garden.
You are able to purchase fox scents that can be sprayed on the lawn which will make squirrels think twice before using your garden to bury their food. The added bonus, if you use a product like Scoot, it will also keep foxes away!
4. Wire Mesh
Okay, this will not protect your lawn but if squirrels are being a nuisance and digging your flower beds looking for bulbs, then laying some wire mesh (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) may be the way to go.
Wire mesh can be laid over the flower bed before the first shoots appear to prevent squirrels from getting at the bulbs. The good thing about this is that your plants and flowers will not be affected as they will continue to grow regardless. This is also a fantastic deterrent to badgers but is also a nuisance when it comes to planting new bulbs.
5. Strong Odours
Squirrels have an exceptional sense of smell and are easily deterred when they smell something they really do not like.
Chillies and garlic are 2 things that squirrels really hate and you can easily make a natural remedy to spray on your lawn. Our tried and tested favourite is to boil some garlic and chillies, blend them together and spray liberally on the lawn.
6. Electronic Devices
There are various electronic, motion-activated devices (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) that are known to prevent squirrels from digging in your lawn.
The success of these devices is certainly up to you and they are not a simple ‘turn it on and leave it’ solution as squirrels are too clever. In the beginning, you are likely to see success straight away when the squirrel is a little skittish about something new, but they will soon learn that the noise or water jet poses no real danger and that is where you come in. If you use a combination of noise or water and activate them at different times so the squirrel remains unsure, they are likely to find somewhere safer to dig.
Things to Consider When Trying to Keep Squirrels Away
There are other things that you will need to think about to keep squirrels away from your garden and if you are vigilant, they will soon find your lawn a much less appealing place to dig.
Squirrels will definitely scavenge what they can and going through your rubbish bins is not limited to cats and foxes, squirrels will do it too. If you have a problem with squirrels you will want to ensure that you use a wheelie bin or bin cupboard to ensure that no animals can rifle through your rubbish looking for scraps.
Keep the Lawn Clear
One of a squirrel’s favourite things to eat is acorns. If you have an oak tree, it will drop its acorns and the squirrel will love to gather them up and store them for winter. Ensure that when your oak tree or whatever tree you have is dropping its seeds, you are clearing them away as quickly as possible. If there is not enough food, the squirrel will move on.
Bird food is especially enticing for squirrels as it usually contains all the nuts and seeds that a squirrel loves to eat. You could invest in a squirrel-proof bird feeder or you could purchase a variety of seeds that birds will eat, and squirrels will not such as safflower.
As you can see, squirrels can be a nuisance and will dig holes to store or recover food, or even to get at your prized bulbs. If you want to stop squirrels digging up your garden, you can employ a range of tactics, some may be successful on their own and others may need to be used in conjunction with each other. Remember that trapping is not always a great solution as it is illegal to relocate squirrels. We do not recommend trapping squirrels unless you are able to destroy the squirrel humanely, if not, there are trained professionals that are able to do that for you.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Peppermint essential oil is a well-known natural squirrel repellent – add a few drops to some water and spray over the problem area – squirrels hate it!”
“When using scent-based deterrents, remember to respray it after it rains to keep the scent from being washed away!”
“If you purchase a decoy owl, do not forget to move it around every other day or two. Squirrels are very clever and will soon suss it out if you don’t!”
“If squirrels decide to take residence in your home, particularly the loft, call a pest control expert immediately as squirrels will cause havoc and destruction like you have never seen!”
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to repel squirrels?
The best way to repel squirrels is by using a large decoy owl. Owls predate squirrels so squirrels fear them. Just remember that you will need to keep moving the decoy owl as squirrels are very intelligent and will soon figure it out if you don’t.
What smells deter squirrels?
There are various odours known to deter squirrels, peppermint, chilli, pepper, garlic. Other odours known to keep squirrels away are the odours of squirrels’ natural predators such as foxes.
What are squirrels afraid of?
Squirrels are afraid of their natural predators such as owls, foxes, hawks, eagles, badgers, and weasels. Squirrels are also afraid of more domesticated animals such as dogs and cats or anything else that may do them harm.
Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.