A thriving garden is built in harmony with the surrounding environment, including the wildlife local to your area. From flowers for hungry bees to bushes fit for nesting birds, your garden is part of the landscape you call home, and making room for the comings and goings of certain creatures can actually benefit the vitality of your outdoor space.
Squirrels are among these creatures, and most are welcomed guests to gardens across the UK. But, if left unchecked, they can pose a series of problems, and negatively impact the health of your lawn.
In this guide, we’ll lay out the risks of welcoming too many squirrels into your garden, as well as actionable steps you can take to deter their numbers and protect your lawn in the long run.
How to Recognise Squirrel Damage
Before you can resolve potential squirrel-related problems, you need to be able to identify the signs that squirrels are causing them in the first place. Plenty of other animals will come and go from your garden, but squirrels have specific telltale signs.
The most common squirrel in the UK is the North American Grey Squirrel, which is a breed that has become completely naturalised over here. Signs that you may have a problem with this type of squirrel include:
- Tree Bark Damage: Squirrel claws are sharp, and help them to scale trees quickly and easily. But this can damage the surface of softer woods and leave them prone to the intake of disease.
- Crop Damage: Your home-grown produce is at risk from all kinds of creatures, not just squirrels. So it is worth bearing in mind that although missing crops and bite marks in what is left behind can be a sign of squirrel damage, this is not always the case.
- Damage to Plants: Flowers and shrubs can also fall prey to ravenous squirrels. Certain petals and leaves are favourites of garden-dwelling squirrels, so keep an eye out for bites and damage to their stems and buds.
- Compromised Bird Feeders: Bird feeders are usually only accessible to birds, as they are traditionally hung in a tree or on a tall feeding pole. But squirrels are incredibly agile and often able to access these feeders. Signs of this will be scratches in wood or broken plastic netting.
- Holes in Rubbish Bags: Squirrels are always after food, and like other rodents in their family they are not opposed to raiding your bins. Holes in bin bags left outside can be a sign of squirrel damage, and for this reason, they should not be left exposed or unattended for long periods.
- Holes in the Lawn: One of the most common signs of squirrel intrusion is holes in your lawn. These wide open spaces are perfect for hiding nuts and seeds for winter, and most will come back to do so time and time again, putting your lawn at risk of further damage and decay.
Why Are Squirrels Digging up Your Lawn?
The primary reason squirrels dig up lawns is to store their food for winter. Although one or two buried nuts are nothing to worry about, squirrels have a tendency to forget where they have buried items, and so spend a lot of time digging empty holes in search. If left unchecked, these holes can grow in number and hinder your lawn’s ability to heal.
How to Stop Squirrels Digging up Your Lawn
Squirrels in the UK have become incredibly efficient at taking advantage of our gardens. They are highly invasive and their population is ever-growing, which makes ridding them from your local area almost impossible. However, you can put certain measures in place to prepare your outdoor spaces against the worst of their intrusions.
1. Avoid Feeding Them
Some people find themselves with a squirrel problem simply because they started feeding them. If food is made readily available, squirrels will not hesitate to return more frequently and in greater numbers.
2. Seal/Remove Rubbish Bags
Stray waste left outdoors will attract squirrels and other scavengers to your garden. Keep your rubbish in sturdy bags and try to keep them in sealed containers. When this is not possible, avoid leaving them unattended for long periods of time.
3. Take Away All Food Sources
Pet food left outside and bird feeders are prime targets for squirrels, as they are easily accessible and refilled regularly. Move dog and cat food indoors and opt for more robust bird feeders that can withstand a squirrel’s efforts.
4. Protect Soil Beds
If you are trying to grow plants or food in your garden, you may want to lay mesh netting down in the early stages of growth. This should make it more difficult for squirrels to dig up bulbs and roots as they attempt to hide their food, and encourage unhindered growth.
5. Install Fake Predators
Squirrels fall prey to various predators, but when populations rise this could mean a decline in these natural resistances. Animals such as owls and foxes are common enemies of rodents such as squirrels, and placing realistic models in your garden or spraying scents that mimic their presence could help to keep squirrels at bay.
6. Block Access to Your Home
In extreme cases, squirrels will turn to your home, such as when food sources in the garden are removed or access is made more difficult. Keep your windows closed when you are not home to keep them from entering and distressing your pets or contaminating your food.
7. Get a Dog or Cat
These popular household pets love nothing more than chasing squirrels. This is especially true of dogs, and if you are already considering a pet this could be the perfect solution to your squirrel problem.
8. Utilise Strong Odours
We mentioned using sprays that mimic animal scents above, but if these are unavailable or not working well enough, you can experiment with other options. Common scents that squirrels dislike include:
- Black pepper
- Chilli pepper
- Cider vinegar
9. Plant Natural Repellents
Scent is a powerful deterrent, but if you are opposed to spraying your lawn with pungent odours, you could instead opt for plants and flowers that squirrels dislike. The benefit of this solution is that these species double as attractive editions to your garden.
To stop squirrels from digging up your lawn, try planting:
- Choisia Ternata
- Lemon balm
- Penny Royal
An Important Note on Trapping
Some households may opt for more extreme measures, by trapping or even humanely disposing of squirrels that enter their garden. This is not something we suggest or recommend, especially as certain species of squirrel are protected by various laws.
The red squirrel, most common in areas of Scotland, is an endangered species, so trapping or dispatching of them is punishable by law. The grey squirrel, which is far more common across the UK, is not endangered and is instead considered a pest species, which means it is illegal to release one that has been trapped.
This is the main reason why we should avoid trapping as your method of eradication, as all grey squirrels must be humanely dispatched if trapped successfully. Instead, try some of our suggested deterrents above and, if the problem persists, contact your local council or call in pest control to handle the situation safely and efficiently.