Squirrels and rodents are some of the most adaptable creatures on earth. No matter what we build, they somehow find a way to continue to thrive and change with us. This stubborn animal aspect of nature is amazing, but it can be quite cumbersome when it comes to keeping squirrels out of our bird feeders and gardens.
I think it’s safe to assume that most people and pets enjoy squirrels in our yards and around our homes. But just like with all wilderness corridors, boundaries are key for a long-term symbiotic relationship. Some methods of keeping squirrels out of your house and garden are friendlier than others, like cinnamon!
How Can You Use Cinnamon To Keep Out Squirrels?
Cinnamon has a strong scent that is spicy, irritating to nasal passages, and masks other odors. Squirrels rely heavily on their sense of smell to find food and stay safe from predators. If a squirrel smells cinnamon, it will turn away for several reasons.
Squirrels use their eyes for fast-moving visual cues like following birds or passing cars. Both tree squirrels and ground squirrels do most of their getting around using their noses. To find their nests and burrows and locate garden plants, potted plants, bird seed, and any other food source, squirrels use their sense of smell exclusively.
Squirrels roam from underground to the tippy top of pine trees and collect food from every ecosystem in between. This requires thorough profiling of food smells and a nose that remembers where it’s found. Squirrels will eat or destroy:
- Beneficial insects and other bugs
- Entire plants in garden beds
- Bird food
- Pine nuts and other tree nuts
Warning of Danger
Squirrels are extremely sensitive to the smells of predator urine. Natural coyote urine, fox urine, and other pungent scents can ward off many types of squirrels and rodent family members. They can smell predators from a great distance and will avoid areas where their scent is detected.
Is Cinnamon Harmful To Squirrels?
People have a big issue with squirrel traps and repellents because they do not want to harm the squirrels. Cinnamon is not harmful to squirrels and will only cause minor, temporary irritation of their nasal passage. How the cinnamon is applied can determine if any harm may be caused to a squirrel with cinnamon.
Powder: The most common way cinnamon is applied against pests is in powder form. Ground cinnamon can be sprinkled in hard-to-reach places where the smell of cinnamon will drive pests out. It can also be placed under plants and around trees to discourage habitation in unwanted spaces in your yard.
Since cinnamon is one of the scents squirrels dislike, sprinkling ground cinnamon around your garden and plants can be a humane pest control method. As a natural rodent repellent, it works great in flower pots and inside bird feeders. Birds cannot smell cinnamon and will not be driven away if it or pepper is mixed in with bird seed.
Stick: More of a bark than a stick, cinnamon in this form can be used in several ways. Like the powder, it can be placed in the path of pests to deter them from entering an area. It is less effective than the powder for this task and will not keep squirrels at bay for very long. If placed in a bird feeder, it can repel longer than placed directly on the ground.
The cinnamon stick can be placed in a spray bottle with water to create a cinnamon spray. The more sticks you put into the spray bottle, and the longer it steeps, the more concentrated the original scent will become. Spray areas of your property that you want to expel squirrels from with the cinnamon concentrate and mix soap, like Irish Spring, to help it stick onto surfaces for longer.
Oil: Cinnamon oil can be used to make a spray repellent. Put up to 10 drops of oil per cup of water to make a natural squirrel repellent. Another use of the oil is to dilute it in water and then soak a cloth. Hanging that cloth along trees and fences that squirrels use will stop them and encourage them to go elsewhere. These clothes also work well placed in workshops and attics to keep pests from nesting there during the rainy or winter months.
How Squirrels Use Their Senses
Unlike humans, who rely most heavily on sight, A squirrel’s main sense is its hearing. Understanding how squirrels use each of their senses can help you safely manage them in your yard around your property.
|Sense||How Reliant on the Sense||Main Uses|
|Sight||Very Reliant||Movement accuracy and warning of immediate danger|
|Touch||Somewhat Reliant||Used to tell items apart and distinguish the weight of food|
|Sound||Somewhat Reliant||Warn of danger and communication|
|Smell||Very Reliant||To find food, mates, and identify other squirrels and immediate dangers|
Gray squirrels use their eyes to look out for what’s happening above, ahead, and below them simultaneously. This is important for foraging animals that must be constantly on the lookout for dangers all around. Tree squirrels can see clearer in bright light due to vision adaptations.
They also use their sight to judge distance, the velocity of moving objects, and other details needed to move as gracefully as they do. It doesn’t appear that squirrels rely on their eyes to find food or mates but rather enhance their awareness of their surroundings.
Red squirrels, a type of squirrel that relies on their sense of touch to tell apart different types of seeds and kernels when storing away grains, are not unique in the rodent kingdom. This use of touch can help squirrels remember what food is buried, where, and how to get to it. Squirrel activity in social settings involves a lot of touching and maneuvering, so it must also be important for mating.
Gray squirrels are equipped with tiny hairs called vibrissae. The main concentrations of these hairs are in the whisker area and along the wrists of the forearms. Like cats and other rodents, these hairs are sensitive to the slightest vibrations and give the squirrels a 3D mental map of the surrounding terrain.
Touch is also important for the ground squirrel population that lives underground and can’t rely on sight in the dark passages. Baby squirrels rely on touch until their eyes open, and much of squirrel damage to our garden is their touch of curiosity rather than the satiation of hunger.
Gray squirrels and fox squirrels use their hearing to keep track of others in their community and warn each other of any dangers. Based on a few studies of fox squirrels, the reaction to sound as it moved from left to right was observed. The results showed that squirrels can detect very slight sounds but cannot judge the degree or direction the sound is originating from as accurately as a predator.
Sound seems to alert gray squirrels of loud dangers or sudden environmental changes that warrant quick reactions. Squirrels’ hearing abilities also help them communicate with their friends and families and potentially talk to new mates.
By far, the most important sense for squirrels is smelling. They rely on this to find food, follow companions, detect predators, and remember where they buried winter rations. It is also why cinnamon causes squirrel issues when they smell it.
When a squirrel is going about its day, it is either standing and munching on some nut or seed or else running after a friend or fancy. A male in pursuit will frequently stop and smell the bark and branches where a female has previously stopped. An invisible-to-the-eye trail is being laid out for the male to follow with his sense of smell alone.
A predator, like a cat, sitting completely still will not be detected by a squirrel’s vision. Without movement, no danger will be noticed unless they get a whiff of the predator first. It is often the smell of the predator that moves the squirrel that the dog or cat then gives chase to.
What Other Smells Deter Squirrels?
Knowing that smell is so important to squirrels, we have an opportunity and an obligation to use this info responsibly. Restricting access to precious parts of your yard from squirrels is a nice option to have.
However, some scents do not only repel squirrels; some may cause harm and unintended damage. Hurting animals is never our goal, and unless we have no choice, we should always look for the most humane way to coexist. Though rodents and pests, squirrels should not be tortured just for existing.
Natural Non-Harmful Squirrel Repellents
Black Pepper and White Pepper: Sprinkling some ground black and white pepper and placing it where you want to keep squirrels and other pests out is very effective. The smell of pepper immediately induces sneezing and can irritate nose-dominant pests.
Placing black pepper in a bird feeder can help repel squirrels without bothering the birds. A bird’s nasal passage differs from squirrels; pepper will not send birds into a sneezing frenzy. Placing pepper along fences, railings, and places you don’t want squirrels to play outside can help repel them.
Pepper also works well in attics and tight spaces where rodents might nest. Throwing pepper into these crawlspaces can keep out tons of pests for months. Reapply pepper and other powder deterrents anytime it is windy or rainy.
White Vinegar: White vinegar has a strong scent that makes it hard for animals to deal with. Applying vinegar can be effective in two ways, depending on how you want to repel your squirrels. Diluting vinegar into a spray with water and spritzing it anywhere you don’t want squirrels can be very effective. Don’t spray squirrels or their nests directly.
Another method is to soak a cloth in vinegar and rub down posts, fences, and poles that squirrels frequent. This will deter them from climbing as long as the scent is thick. Vinegar evaporates extremely quickly, so this is not effective long term.
Pure vinegar can be very strong and may cause damage to the sensitive nerves in a squirrel’s nose and eyes. Only use diluted vinegar to avoid causing unintended harm to any animals.
Coffee Grounds: Squirrels like to be able to identify objects by their smells. Knowing if something is food, danger, or fun, all of those deductions come from the sense of smell for squirrels. Coffee grounds have a void smell that puts squirrels off. They are unsure of what it is, so they avoid it and give it a wide range. Adding fresh grounds to your garden every day can keep squirrels out indefinitely.
Garlic Cloves: soaking garlic cloves to make a spray or pressing them for garlic oil are two ways to use garlic to make a pesticide. This natural insecticide works great at killing bugs and insects in your garden. It also has an extremely pungent order. Any animals that rely on smell, like squirrels, will avoid garlic and its stench.
Peppermint Oil: Mint oil, from peppermint to spearmint, has a smell that squirrels dislike. Peppermint seems to be the most effective at keeping squirrels out of your yard.
Use concentrated essential oils diluted as a spray or dip a cloth in them. Spray or wipe any area that needs protection from squirrels. Be careful spraying garden plants as a high concentration of peppermint oil can burn some types of leaves.
Natural Harmful Squirrel Repellents
Hot Peppers: Peppers high in capsicum or other heat-inducing chemicals like cayenne pepper, jalapeno pepper, and chili powder can cause harm to squirrels if they are exposed to them. While chili powder and cayenne pepper may not be as harmful as chemical pesticides, if you’ve accidentally touched your eyes after slicing chilis, you’ll understand why it’s best to not use them on squirrels.
Hot Sauce: Using tabasco or other hot sauce to repel squirrels can cause damage if they touch it directly. It is effective, but the vinegar in it alone would do the same job and save a squirrel from potential pain. Save the hot sauce for tacos and use the friendlier repellents instead.