How to stop squirrels from eating pumpkins – 3 genius ways

Save your fall pumpkins from squirrels and pests by deterring them with these genius hacks. Using vinegar, peppermint, fur and more...

Pumpkin
(Image credit: Briana Tozour for Unsplash)

Pumpkins are the real MVPs of our homes in fall but all too often do we spot squirrels eating pumpkins, 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 gourds into spooky Jack-o-lanterns. Then we enjoy heritage pumpkins, classic orange, and every kind of gourd all the way through Thanksgiving.

And no fall porch decor would be complete without a gourd or five, but hungry squirrels that will squash (see what we did there?) those dreams of enjoying beautiful pumpkins and gourds all through the season. The trick is to repel these pesky creatures before they start munching on your decor. 

Josh Tesolin, co-founder of Rusticwise says 'If squirrels have started nibbling on your vegetables, it's difficult to get them to stop. They are very smart and crafty. Squirrels are territorial—the chatter you hear is often them fighting to protect their space or tree. Fortunately, if you only have a few trees or living spaces (such as a small shed) around your garden, you'll only have one or two squirrels causing you trouble.' 

And, keeping your fall decorating ideas looking fresh all season doesn't have to be too arduous. These are the best hacks to stop squirrels from eating pumpkins.

How to stop squirrels eating pumpkins – 3 ways

1. Repel their taste buds

Okay, let's get science-y here for a second. Squirrels are vegetarians, and they cannot eat spicy things. (Flag this for your spring bird food mixture — just add some red pepper flakes to deter squirrels.) With that in mind, here are a few ways you can keep them off your pumpkins:

  • Hot Sauce: In a large spray bottle, combine a small bottle of hot sauce, water, and a squirt of 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 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 are vegetarians, so they will not like this smell. Sprinkle some around your pumpkins.
  • 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 can also damage it and lessen its lifespan. 
  • Animal Repellent: Head to your local home improvement or garden store and pick up animal repellant. These sprays contain things like peppermint, garlic, and eggs with unappealing smells. 
  • 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 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 or vapor rub. 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.
  • Lacquer Spray: DIYers, head into your craft closet and grab the lacquer spray. Coat your pumpkin in the spray and let 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.
  • 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. 

3. Give them 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 dogs that shed, place your pumpkin on a blanket of dog hair. Dogs are predators to squirrels, and they may be frightened by the smell of a canine around. You also might let Fido mark his territory near your front porch. ' Another great trick is to actually to grab some of your pets hair that’s been left around the house and stash it under the pumpkin, this works especially well with cat hair as squirrels are instinctively scared of them, they’re considered natural predators.' Says Leslie Vincent, Horticulturalist & Gardening Expert from Atkins Garden Centre.
  • Owl Statue: Not only are they adorable harvest decor, but an owl statue can help keep squirrels at bay. Place them along the perimeter of your yard. 
  • Sprinkler: Motion-activated devices like a sprinkler 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. 

How do you stop squirrels from eating pumpkins?

Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love, opts for the scare method – perfect if you're into DIY halloween decorations

'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 is 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 @ 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. 'No, they don't. They just do random damage, a nibble here and there. It's just a light snack of the day, it's not storage food. The squirrels main goal during storage season is finding storage food like nuts and seeds.' According to Tesolin.

'Squirrels can eat every part of a pumpkin. They usually will avoid the stem, however.' Adds Yamaguchi.

Mitchell agrees, saying 'Squirrels will eat an entire pumpkin, minus the stem. They love nuts and seeds and sweet things, making a pumpkin the perfect snack.'

How do farmers keep squirrels away from pumpkins?

'Many farmers and commercial pumpkin growers use motion-sensor sprinkler systems to deter squirrels.' Says Tesolin.

'Oftentimes farmers will use traps to get rid of unwanted wildlife near their crops, or use a special spray to keep squirrels away. Although these are also options for non-farmers as well, they are not humane and might harm other vulnerable creatures.' Notes Mitchell.

Does vinegar keep squirrels from eating pumpkins?

'Squirrels do not like vinegar either, and can be used to spray pumpkins to keep them away... However, I personally don’t love to use vinegar because I feel I can smell it when I am on my porch.' Adds Mitchell.

However whether this method works or not can depend on the type of vinegar you use also. 'Vinegar does deter squirrels from eating your pumpkins as squirrels do not like the smell of it. Acetic acid is what squirrels do not like. Apple cider vinegar works much better than regular vinegar, but distilled white vinegar works just as well if this is not available.' Notes  Tony O'Neill, a gardening expert from Simplifygardening.com.

Ann Loynd Burton
Ann Loynd Burton

After serving as an editor for luxury publications for nearly a decade, Ann Loynd Burton struck out on her own as a freelance writer covering design and lifestyle. Along with her work highlighting decor trends for Real Homes, Loynd Burton has covered interiors for such publications as Apartment TherapyAspireCottages & Gardens, and Galerie

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