Wondering how to keep squirrels from eating pumpkins? Those round gourds are the real MVPs of our homes in fall but all too often we spot those fluffy-tailed rodents eating our hand-selected squashes, as if we had them on display just to keep them happy.
It's those sweet harvest vibes that get us stoked for the season as early as September. Soon comes Halloween, where we turn our finds into jack-o'-lanterns. However, hungry squirrels can squash those dreams of enjoying beautiful pumpkins and gourds all through the season.
The trick is to repel these pesky creatures before they start munching. Thankfully, when it comes to protecting your personal pumpkin patch, I've got some Halloween decorating tips (or hacks rather) that'll prevent the downfall of your spooky display.
How to keep squirrels from eating your pumpkins
1. Repel a squirrel's tastebuds
Okay, let's get science-y here for a second. Squirrels have nerve receptors that get irritated by spice, such as capsaicin in red pepper. Some people choose to put this in their spring bird food mixture — just add some red pepper flakes (available from Amazon) to deter squirrels. That being said, there are questions about whether it irritates birds' eyes, so use it mindfully if you choose to. With that in mind, here are a few ways you can keep them off your pumpkins:
- Hot sauce: In a spray bottle (I like this glass one from Amazon), combine a small bottle of hot sauce, water, and a squirt of dish soap. For a little extra heat, add red pepper flakes. Coat the pumpkin inside (if it's carved) and out. Squirrels can't handle spicy things, so they'll quickly be deterred from munching on your extra spicy, flaming-hot gourd.
- Blood meal: This one sounds really appropriate for Halloween. Head to your local garden store and purchase this fertilizer made with, you guessed it, blood. Squirrels will not like the smell. Sprinkle some around your pumpkins. You can also grab bloodmeal for under $10 at Amazon.
- Vinegar: Vinegar can do double duty, as it also deters ants and insects. Its potent smell can be too much for squirrels and their sensitive noses. The best way to use vinegar is to spray it around your pumpkin. Applying vinegar directly to your jack-o'-lantern can also damage it and lessen its lifespan. It's as cheap as $2.70 if you buy distilled vinegar from Amazon.
- Animal Repellent: Head to your local home improvement or garden store and pick up animal repellent. These sprays contain things like garlic and eggs with unappealing smells. I like this Peppermint Oil Rodent Repellent Spray from Amazon that mice, rats, and squirrels hate, but doesn't smell awful to humans.
- Windex and Pledge: First spray your pumpkin with Windex, then follow with Pledge. You're not going to love the smell, but neither will the squirrels.
2. Create an unappealing texture
Along with taste, you can also give your pumpkin a texture squirrels won't love. Here are some ways to do it:
- Petroleum jelly: Heavily coat your pumpkin in petroleum jelly. This will use up a lot of Vaseline, but thankfully it typically lasts throughout the season, even if it rains. For jack-o'-lanterns, concentrate on spots with exposed flesh. Just so you know, you don't need to splash out on premium Vaseline. Amazon's own brand of soft paraffin does the job just as well.
- Lacquer spray: DIYers, head into your craft closet (or Amazon) and grab the lacquer spray. Coat your pumpkin in the spray and let it dry until hard. Be sure to coat the pumpkin entirely. The crunchy texture is unappealing to many squirrels, but some hungry critters may choose to tough it out. We love Rust-Oleum, and their clear acrylic formula can be used to upcycle old furniture once you've deterred those fluffy troublemakers.
- Hairspray: Give your pumpkin a sticky texture with aerosol hairspray. Coat your pumpkin all over, inside and out, and be sure to repeat the process every day or so. The drawback of hairspray is that it comes off easily and needs frequent reapplication so there is no point using your spendy stuff. Instead, use something cheap like this Suave Professionals Hair Spray that's under $3.
3. Give squirrels a scare
All tricks and no treats here. Play on your squirrels' animal instincts and let them know there are predators around. Here's how:
- Pet hair: If you have a dog that sheds, place your pumpkin on a blanket of dog or cat fur. Dogs are predators of squirrels, and they may be frightened by the smell of a canine around. It might also be an idea to let it mark its territory near your front porch.
- Owl statue: Not only are they adorable fall decor, but an owl statue can help keep squirrels at bay. Place them along the perimeter of your yard. This one from Amazon is giving real Hedwig from Harry Potter vibes.
- Sprinkler: Motion-activated devices like this sprinkler from Amazon can startle squirrels. Put it on a timer or turn it on when you see them nearby. You can also invest in a motion-activated air blaster, which will shoot off some air when the critter comes near your sensor.
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How do you stop squirrels from eating pumpkins?
"If you have any pets that shed, gather up a little bit of their hair and put a layer around the pumpkins. It doesn’t have to be a lot of hair - the smell and presence of another predatory animal will scare off the squirrels. You can also buy an owl statue to scare them off, and since it’s fall/Halloween season, that can fit right in with your decor!"
Nora Mitchell, editor-in-chief of Household Advice shares: "One trick I learned a few years ago to keep squirrels away from eating my pumpkins is to coat the pumpkin in a mixture of water and peppermint essential oil. Rodents do not like the smell of peppermint, and they can often smell something off with the pumpkin. This has helped so much in keeping them at bay. It also makes my porch smell amazing!"
Chris Alexakis, co-founder at CabinetSelect says, "Start by making sure you remove all seeds and "guts" from the pumpkin. These are the parts of the pumpkin that squirrels are actively looking for, giving them one less reason to meddle with them. Follow up by placing decoys of birds of prey that can also complement your Halloween decoration,"
"If nothing else works and you have run out of options, you can try to feed them on your own terms. Place seeds and treats far away from the pumpkins as a distraction to ensure their attention is somewhere else."
Do squirrels eat the whole pumpkin?
This depends, squirrels can eat most of a pumpkin but they may not necessarily eat the whole thing either if they have other food sources around. "Squirrels can eat every part of a pumpkin," says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love. "They usually will avoid the stem, however."
And if they've started, it'll be hard to get these smart creatures to stop, according to Josh Tesolin, co-founder of Rusticwise. "Squirrels are territorial — the chatter you hear is often them fighting to protect their space or tree," he explains. "Fortunately, if you only have a few trees or living spaces (such as a small shed) around your backyard, you'll only have one or two squirrels causing you trouble."
How do farmers keep squirrels away from pumpkins?
"Many farmers and commercial pumpkin growers use motion-sensor sprinkler systems to deter squirrels," says Josh Tesolin, co-founder of Rusticwise. There are other methods, too, according to Nora Mitchell, editor-in-chief of Household Advice. "Often, farmers will use traps to get rid of unwanted wildlife near their crops or use a special spray to keep squirrels away," she says. "Although these are also options for non-farmers as well, they are not humane and might harm other vulnerable creatures."
If spooky season has meant more creepy-crawlies have made a cameo appearance in your home, our guide on identifying bugs in your home can help you to get rid of them for good.