How to Catch a Squirrel: Homemade and Humane Solutions

By: Contributors  | 
A squirrel on a green garbage bin.
Squirrels can be quite destructive, and are known to chew on a wide variety of materials. TTshutter / Shutterstock

Squirrels may be cute from afar, but if they get inside your attic and start gnawing at the electrical wiring, the tenderness is gone. These rodents can cause extensive damage to your home if left unchecked, but there's no need to take drastic measures by harming them or paying a lot of money for pest control.

If you find yourself in the bizarre position of needing to know how to catch a squirrel, you're not the first! And thankfully, many of these individuals have shared tips on everything from squirrel traps to squirrel repellents. In this article, you'll learn the best approaches for trapping squirrels and releasing them far away from your home.


Why Removing Squirrels Is So Important

Squirrels, while often considered charming with their cute bushy tails, can become problematic when they invade your property. Their natural tendencies to dig and forage can lead to significant damage in gardens and lawns as they search for and store food. This behavior often results in uprooted plants, disturbed flower beds, and unsightly holes in the ground.

Additionally, squirrels are known to chew on various materials, posing a threat to outdoor furniture, house sidings, and even electrical wiring, which can lead to costly repairs and potential safety hazards. In some cases, these agile creatures find their way into attics or crawl spaces, where they can build nests, leave droppings, and cause noise disturbances.


Moreover, their presence can attract other unwanted wildlife and lead to a risk of disease transmission. Therefore, while squirrels are a natural part of many ecosystems, their unchecked activity on residential properties can be problematic, necessitating safe and humane control measures.

Understanding Squirrel Behavior

Before setting out to catch a squirrel, it's crucial to understand their behavior. Squirrels are active during the day, primarily in the morning and late afternoon. They're attracted to gardens and yards with abundant food sources, such as bird feeders, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens.

In advance of setting a squirrel trap, make sure your yard is safe and squirrel-friendly. Remove any hazardous items and keep your pets away during the catching process. This not only protects the squirrels but also prevents any potential harm to your pets.


Know Your Squirrel Species For Best Results

Certain types of traps may be more effective for different squirrel species, mainly due to variations in size, behavior, and habitat preferences among different species. For example, trying to capture flying squirrels requires a totally different approach, since they're nocturnal. Consider the following factors before selecting the best squirrel trap for your situation:

Size Considerations

Larger species like the Eastern gray squirrel may require sturdier and larger traps compared to smaller species like red or pine squirrels. The trap must be big enough to comfortably hold the squirrel without causing harm.


Habitat Preferences

Tree-dwelling squirrels, such as the gray and red squirrel, might be more effectively caught using traps placed at a height or in areas closer to their natural pathways, like along fences or tree branches. Ground-dwelling species, like the rock squirrel, are better trapped using ground-level traps.

Squirrel Bait Preferences

The best bait will vary depending on the types of squirrels you're dealing with. For instance, some species might be more attracted to nuts and seeds, while others may prefer fruits or specific plants. Tailoring the bait to the specific preferences of the species in your area can increase the effectiveness of the trap, while preventing non target animals from getting involved.

Trap Sensitivity

Smaller squirrel species require traps with a more sensitive trigger mechanism to ensure that the trap is activated by their lighter weight.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Always check local wildlife laws and regulations before trapping squirrels, as some species may be protected. Additionally, the use of humane traps that do not harm the animal is highly recommended.

It's important to note that while live trapping can be a method of controlling squirrel populations, it should be done ethically and in compliance with local wildlife regulations. Non-lethal, humane traps are preferable, and a trapped squirrel should be released or handled according to local guidelines. In many cases, focusing on preventive measures like habitat modification and deterrents can be more effective and humane than trapping.


How to Make a Live Trap for Squirrels


  • Plastic tubing
  • Wire mesh
  • Glue or tape
  • Cooking oil
  • Corn or sunflower seeds

Here's what to do:


  1. Purchase plastic tubing. The tube should be 3 to 6 feet (91 to 183 centimeters) long and 5 to 8 inches (13 to 20 centimeters) wide. The tubing should be able to totally contain the squirrel.
  2. Attach wire mesh to one end of the tube using glue or tape. The wire should be held securely enough that the squirrel can't pry it off the tubing.
  3. Coat the inner wall of the tube with cooking oil or cooking-oil spray. This will make it impossible for the squirrel to climb out.
  4. Place the trap in the target area, with the wire mesh on the ground. If you have squirrels in your attic, place the trap where you have found droppings. If you're trapping a squirrel outdoors, place the trap under a tree.
  5. Fill the bottom of the trap with corn or sunflower seeds [source: MDC].
  6. Monitor the trap. It shouldn't take more than a day to catch the squirrel. Once you trap the squirrel, cover the open end of the tubing and carry it to an open field where it can be released [source: WN].


Alternative: Using Water Traps

Here's how you set up this squirrel trap:

  1. Fill a large bucket or tub with water, leaving enough space at the top so the squirrel won't easily escape. Place a plank leading up to the rim of the bucket.
  2. Place bait on the plank and some floating on the water. The squirrel will walk up the plank and lean to get the floating bait, tipping into the water.
  3. Once caught, it's important to relocate the squirrel to a suitable environment. Check local wildlife regulations before doing so. Carry the trap or bucket to the release area, open it, and allow the squirrel to exit on its own.


How to Prevent Squirrels From Visiting Your Property

By implementing certain preventative measures, you can deter squirrels from frequenting your property in the future. Installing motion-activated sprinklers can serve as an excellent deterrent, as the sudden movement and spray of water startle squirrels, discouraging them from returning.

Additionally, utilizing natural repellents such as peppermint oil can be a non-invasive yet effective method to keep these critters at bay. Squirrels tend to dislike the strong scent of peppermint, which acts as a natural barrier.


Another key strategy is to secure your bird feeder and compost bin, as these often attract squirrels in search of food. Ensuring that these food sources are inaccessible or less appealing helps reduce the likelihood of squirrels visiting your yard.

Remove Unwanted Squirrels Safely and Effectively

Catching and relocating squirrels can be done humanely and effectively with homemade solutions. Understanding their behavior, using safe trapping methods, and implementing preventive measures will help you trap squirrels and manage their populations in your yard without harm.

Although squirrels can create costly issues at home — especially if you have a squirrel inside your home — resist any urge to purchase poison baits. They may only create more problems. Also, check your live trap frequently to ensure that any animal inside can be relocated swiftly.


Patience and consistency are key in these endeavors. By following these steps, you can ensure a humane approach to keeping squirrels at bay, maintaining the balance between wildlife and your home environment.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.