As an owner of a house with a yard, rodents are going to be interested in your property. Mice and rats are pests and there are various ways to get rid of them and also keep them out for good. Squirrels, however, are wildlife. The rules about handling squirrels are slightly different.
In this article, the Fantastic Services team will explain how to prevent squirrels from digging up the lawn you’ve been taking care of so meticulously.
Why Do Squirrels Dig Holes?
Squirrels spend most of their lives foraging for food. They eat all kinds of nuts and seeds and a lot of those are found on trees and on the ground. They don’t use the holes for nests, as that would expose them to predators. However, a lot of these holes are used for food storage.
Our urbanised environment has presented squirrels with more things to look out for, like passing cars but also more sources of food. Even if you don’t have a food garden in your yard, the water from your lawn sprinklers and fallen fruit under the nearby tree would easily attract them to your home.
How Do You Know Your Lawn Is Targeted by Squirrels?
Lots of animals dig holes in the ground. It’s easy to know which one was made by the neighbourhood dogs or cats, mostly because they would often come back and you may spot them doing it. Squirrels, however, can be very stealthy. If you don’t happen to catch one in the act, you’ll have to identify the redecorating they’ve made in your yard.
Squirrel holes are usually five centimetres in diameter and quite shallow. There’s usually no soil surrounding the hole. There might be some food inside, stored for the cold winter. Still, there are a few species of squirrels that dig a lot deeper and even create a tunnel system in the soil. They even use it to make their nests inside.
How to Distinguish Burrowing Squirrels from Moles and Gophers
A few species of squirrels make tunnel systems in the soil, just like moles and gophers. The main difference is the size of their little living project. Gophers and moles are able to dig tunnels up to 600 square metres. They also cause soft spots in the lawn. Squirrel tunnels are up to 12 square metres. All three of these pests would leave troublesome mounds at the entrance of their tunnel system.
Another way to find out the culprit behind the holes is if your yard has a food garden. Contrary to some belief, squirrels rarely attack plants, since their diet is mostly nuts and seeds. Of course, it doesn’t mean that a squirrel won’t eat fruit if there isn’t another option. But, vegetables are not their first choice, unlike with moles and gophers.
Also, keep watch as to when you see the damage occurring. Squirrels (and moles) are diurnal, which means they’re active during the day. While gophers are nocturnal.
The Dangers of Squirrel Infestation
Since squirrels are rodents, many people assume they carry diseases that can transmit to people, just like rats and mice. But, that’s not true. In fact, squirrels are good environmental indicators. If public health specialists observe a sick squirrel population, they’ll set out to look for hazardous concentrations of industrial waste in the vicinity. So, unless you are bitten by a squirrel or got into direct contact with squirrel excrement, there’s little need to worry about disease.
However, the damage they do on lawns can be quite troublesome. On one hand, the holes will disrupt the whole landscape of the yard. The tunnel system will damage the soil, so if you happen to grow something, it will harm the plants. That is if they weren’t already eaten. Squirrels also tend to chew through cables responsible for lighting and other outdoor electrical utilities.
And if they abandon their burrows, the latter might attract other pests to move in there, like gophers and moles. If this happens, the tunnel system would enlarge and you’ll get even more unsightly lumps of soil on your lawn, among other problems.
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How to Prevent Squirrels from Digging up the Lawn
We’ve learned so far that squirrels dig holes in search for food and in order to store food. The best way to discourage squirrels from targeting your yard is to convince them that your yard is hostile.
Killing a squirrel might be a problem because the red squirrel is species endangered and you might get a fine if found out. However, the grey squirrel is invasive and using humane traps that include the release in the wild is a very bad idea. It’s simpler to just keep them all away.
Get an Outside Dog
A guard dog shouldn’t be chained to a dog house, it should roam around free. And bear in mind that not just any dog would work. Squirrels adapt fast to their environment. If the dog is uninterested in chasing squirrels, they would keep causing damage. Most dogs would only play with the squirrel, some would even slow down if they get too close, in order to keep the fun going. Of course, it depends on the dog. Some dog breeds would kill and eat the squirrel. But, even if they don’t, their size and playfulness are enough to keep the pesky rodents away.
Here are other things you can do to prevent squirrel infestation.
- Don’t feed them. Let’s face it, squirrels are adorable and many would fall into the trap of giving them food once or twice. Soon, they will learn to come to you for their daily snack and that’s bad for both you and the squirrel. They’re still wild animals and shouldn’t forget how to live on their own.
- Keep the rubbish bins sealed. Outdoor waste can easily attract squirrels among other scavenging wildlife. Make sure you keep outside rubbish bins tightly closed.
- Keep dog and cat food inside. Pet food, in general, has a heavy aroma and attracts squirrels, raccoons, gophers and many other animals that live by gathering food.
- Lay wire mesh over the soil. It’s a good idea if you have a food or flower garden. The wire can be wide enough for the plants to grow, but it would present a difficulty for the squirrel to dig a hole. However, it’s not a good idea to use it over a lawn, especially if kids want to play on it.
- Dummy natural enemy. Owls eat squirrels and squirrels are afraid of owls. You can place realistic looking plastic owls around your property on high surfaces. Foxes are also natural enemies of squirrels. You can spray around the yard with a scent that imitates fox or wolf urine. Many other animals keep away from the scent so you might be chasing away wild rabbits too.
It’s a good idea to also make sure that the squirrels aren’t attracted to your home instead. If you keep your attic windows open, they might be able to get inside your house by jumping from high branches. To avoid this, keep your attic windows shut.
Things that Rarely Work
You can find many different solutions online that seem to offer similar information. Some of them will not help you. Here is what we’re talking about:
- Certain flowers deter squirrels. Peppermint, daffodils, and others. These have been said to help not just against squirrels, but also against cockroaches, mice, rats, and many other pests. But the truth is, the scent of a flower is almost never enough to deter any animal. There are certain exceptions. For example, lavender is highly effective in deterring moths. But in most other cases, we advise not to rely solely on the scent of a flower to deter any pest.
- Motion-activated movement works. When the squirrel gets in your yard, a motion-activated sprinkler will chase it away. Not exactly. While it might chase away other animals, squirrels are highly athletic and able to make sharp turns. They can easily avoid a sprinkler or any other motion-activated installation that makes the same periodic movement. They’ll get accustomed to it and make a burrow anyway.
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Squirrel infestations in the yard can pose a risk of damage to your property if left unattended long enough. The best way to deal with it is prevention. The more natural it is, the better.
Image source: Paul Reeves Photography/shutterstock.com
Posted in Rodent Infestations
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