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How to Get Rid of Squirrels

June 28th, 2024 | 6 min. read

By Louis Greubel

A squirrel peeking out of a roof. The critter has chewed through the shingles and the wooden frame of the house.

This piece was written in collaboration with Carl Johnson from Great Lakes Nuisance Animal Control.

As small, skittish, and harmless as they may seem, squirrels can make a lot of trouble. They cause millions of dollars in damages to homes and businesses every year. With squirrels in your attic or yard, your electrical wires, drywall, joists, insulation, and more are all at risk.

We’re no stranger to these problems. At HY-C, we manufacture a line of nuisance wildlife control products under our HY-GUARD EXCLUSION brand. We’re also a partner of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association and National Pest Management Association. And in this guide, we want to tell you exactly how to deal with a squirrel problem in your home.

We’ll cover different types of squirrels you’re likely to encounter, how they get inside your home, how to detect them, and how to get (and keep) them out.

By the time you’re finished here, you’ll be armed with the information you need to face your squirrel problem head-on.

Table of contents (click to jump to a section):

Squirrel Types

The type of squirrel you have in your house may seem unimportant at first. After all, you’re simply worried about getting rid of the problem, not learning the genus or species of the thing that’s burrowed in your attic insulation.

But the type of squirrel you’re dealing with is very important. It can tell you a lot about how the animal got in, how many of them you may be dealing with, and where they may be hiding.

And while there are hundreds of squirrel species, in this guide, we’ll narrow them down to two types: tree squirrels and ground squirrels.

Tree Squirrels

A four-panel image showing a flying squirrel, a fox squirrel, an American red squirrel, and a gray squirrel. Each squirrel is labeled.

As their name implies, tree squirrels live in trees. They’re much more likely to invade homes than their ground squirrel counterparts. There are over 100 species of tree squirrels, but in the United States, these four are the most likely to get into your home:

  1. American red squirrels
  2. Flying squirrels
  3. Gray squirrels
  4. Fox squirrels

American Red Squirrels

American red squirrels are found throughout most of the U.S. They’re a relatively small type of squirrel characterized by their reddish hue. They’re an aggressive, territorial species, and they do more damage to homes than any other type of squirrel.

American red squirrels are cache hoarders. This means they gather food (like pinecones, acorns, nuts, etc.) and store it to eat later. They tend to be active during the day, hauling more and more food from the outside into attics and crawl spaces.

Flying Squirrels

Flying squirrels don’t actually fly. Instead, they have a membrane called patagium — a flap around their body that allows them to glide. Unlike American reds, flying squirrels don’t hoard food. Instead, these nocturnal critters go out to forage at night.

They also tend to live in colonies, meaning that if you have one, you likely have another (or several others). Flying squirrels are typically found in the eastern half of the United States.

Gray Squirrels

There are two types of gray squirrel: eastern and western. Like American red squirrels, they’re cache hoarders. They’re not as aggressive as American reds, but they are known to nest in homes, causing plenty of damage.

Fox Squirrels

The largest species of tree squirrel, fox squirrels are also cache hoarders. But, unlike gray and American red squirrels, fox squirrels generally don’t invade houses (although it’s certainly not unheard of). A true tree squirrel, they tend to remain in trunks, on branches, and in canopies.

Ground Squirrels

A squirrel peeking out of a hole in the ground. It is surrounded by dirt.

There’s no shortage of ground squirrel species in the U.S. From the thirteen-lined ground squirrel to California ground squirrels, there are 62 known species on the books. Unlike tree squirrels, though, ground squirrels tend to stay out of homes. They may still cause property damage, though, tearing up yards and flower beds.

The one exception to this rule is the chipmunk (which is, indeed, classified as a type of squirrel). And the first step to dealing with chipmunks or any other type of squirrel which may have found its way inside your house is understanding how they got in to begin with.

How Do Squirrels Get into Homes?

A squirrel peeking out of a soffit. The soffit wood has been thoroughly chewed.

Squirrels are small critters, and the gaps they can squeeze into may surprise you. What may seem to be a completely sealed spot to the untrained eye might actually be a wide-open door for squirrels to exploit. Some of the most common include:

  • Gable end vents
  • Soffit vents
  • Roof vents (static vents, powered vents, mushroom vents, ridge vents)
  • Chimneys
  • Bathroom vents
  • Dryer vents
  • Dormer gaps
  • Crawl space vents

All it takes is the slightest bit of wear or damage in any of these areas for a whole colony of squirrels to move into your attic, coming and going as they please.

Squirrels’ teeth also grow continuously throughout their lives, meaning they need to chew often to keep them under control. Your home’s siding, soffit, aluminum vent covers, or drywall is as good a target as any, and the critters will use these freshly chewed holes as their entry and exit points.

How Do You Detect Squirrels in Your Home?

Obviously, one of the most surefire ways to detect squirrels going in and out of your house is to see them. If you spot them climbing into your soffit or scurrying into your attic, you know you have a problem.

More subtly, though, you may have to keep your ears open. Squirrels tend to make a lot of noise when they come and go, and if you know what to listen for, you may be able to diagnose the problem.

Squirrel Sounds

Squirrels don’t vocalize often. But, when they do, it tends to sound like a squeak or a chirp. It’s how they communicate their emotions to each other. Also, they may make a barking sound to each other to warn about the presence of potential predators.

What you’re most likely to hear if you have squirrels in your house, though, is scurrying or scampering. These sounds may come from your soffit, your attic, or even from inside your drywall.

The time of day at which the noises occur is telling, too. For example, if you hear the sound of critters coming and going during the day, it’s likely an American red squirrel or a gray squirrel. If you hear a flurry of activity at dusk and dawn that ceases throughout the day though, you may be dealing with a nocturnal flying squirrel.

How to Keep Squirrels Away

So, you know what type of squirrel may be in your home, and you’ve detected it either by seeing it or hearing it. The next question is the most important one: how do you get rid of your squirrel problem?

Getting squirrels out of your home involves a two-step approach:

  1. Trapping them
  2. Excluding them

Squirrel Traps

A squirrel caught in a humane trap. It is staring at the camera lens.

Trapping squirrels involves pinpointing the exact entrances and exits they’re using to get in and out of your house. At each of these points, you’ll need to set two-way-traps so you can catch them either coming or going. These traps can be found through retailers like Wildlife Control Supplies or Animal Traps and Supplies.

State laws may vary on what to do with the squirrels after you’ve trapped them. Some require euthanasia, while others may allow for release within county lines. Still others may not allow for trapping at all, instead requiring the use of spring-loaded one-way doors to lock the critters out.

Be sure to check with state and local codes and ensure you stay within compliance when handling squirrels. Before moving onto exclusion, you must be sure that every last squirrel has been evicted from your home.

Squirrel Exclusion

A four-panel image of a foundation vent screen, a Pest Armor guard, a chimney cap, and a dryer vent cover.

After the squirrels are out, the next step is to seal your home to ensure they don’t come back. Remember the common entry points squirrels use to get into homes? You’ll have to ensure each one of those is covered to prevent any future invasions.

Common solutions to keep your home covered include:

The best way to ensure these products are installed correctly is to utilize the services of a professional wildlife control operator. Also, if the squirrels have caused any damage to the structure of your home itself, you’ll need to have that repaired, too, to make sure other critters don’t exploit the damage to gain access.

How Do You Keep Squirrels from Coming Back?

From detection and identification to trapping and removal, this has been a fairly comprehensive guide on dealing with squirrels. But if you’ve had a squirrel problem, the last thing you want is to experience the same thing again in a few months’ time.

So — how do you keep the squirrels from coming back?

Some people may recommend quick, cheap, and fast deterrents like sprays or ultrasonic devices. The truth is, though, that wildlife adapts to these solutions quickly. Their effectiveness (if there is any to begin with) fades away very quickly.

The only way to keep squirrels and other nuisance wildlife from getting into your home is through wildlife exclusion. Exclusion cuts critters off at the source, literally barring them from getting inside.

To learn more about exclusion, take a look at our guide below. It’ll teach you the basics. And from there, you’ll be well on your way not only to keeping out squirrels, but any and all forms of nuisance wildlife.

Carl Johnson

Carl is the founder of Great Lakes Nuisance Animal Control. A second-generation wildlife control professional, he's been involved in wildlife services since 1983. Licensed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Carl and his business provide premier wildlife removal and exclusion services for homes and businesses throughout western Michigan.

Louis Greubel

Louis earned a bachelor's degree in English with a focus in rhetoric and composition from St. Louis University in 2017. He has worked in marketing as a content writer for over 5 years. Currently, he oversees the HY-C Learning Center, helping HY-C subject matter experts to share their decades of home solution products experience with homeowners and sales partners across the country.