How to stop squirrels from eating pumpkins

Save your fall pumpkins from squirrels and pests with these genius hacks.

Pumpkin
(Image credit: Briana Tozour for Unsplash)

Pumpkins are the real MVPs of our fall porch decor. In September, they have a sweet harvest vibe that gets us stoked for the season. For Halloween, we turn them into spooky Jack-o-lanterns. Then we enjoy heritage pumpkins, classic orange, and every kind of gourd all the way through Thanksgiving.

The one problem? 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 fall decor. These are the best hacks to stop squirrels from eating pumpkins.

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. 

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. 

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. 
  • 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. 

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