Pesky squirrels in your garden


OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer


I have enjoyed watching squirrels in our yard for years.

Because my succulents keep disappearing and our landscape seems to be going through some interesting “changes,” however, I decided to do a little investigating.

Squirrels belong to the family, Sciuridae. This family refers to small and medium rodents, and includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels and prairie dogs.

Squirrels nest in tree cavities, leaf nests or in handmade squirrel boxes.

Identifying the types of squirrels can be fun and informative. The fox squirrel is mostly brownish-yellow (fulvous), with grayish coloring on its back and sides. It weighs about 1 to 3 pounds and is the largest of the tree squirrels and is 19- to 22-inches long.

The red squirrel has bright red on its upper tail, a black line along the side, and a white belly. There are also noticeable white rings around the eyes. The red squirrel weighs 4 to 8 ounces and measures 11 to 13 inches.

The southern flying squirrel has grayish brown hair on the back and a white belly. It is about 1 to 3 ounces and about 8 to 10 inches long. The northern flying squirrel is dark brownish-yellow on its back with slate color on the belly. The northern is a bit heavier and about an inch longer.

The belly of the gray squirrel is white or light gray. The tail is sometimes tipped with white. The “black phase” of the gray squirrel has a black body with some dark gray underneath. The gray is 12 to 24 ounces and is about 16 to 20 inches at adulthood.

Squirrels normally breed between January and March and again from June to July. They will eat a variety of foods, but rely on acorns, nuts, seeds and insects. They also eat tree buds, flowers, fruits, berries and succulents.

Damage control can include exclusion (blocking entrances), repellents, trapping and using licensed pest-control operators. To prevent squirrels from entering the attic where they will build nests and damage insulation and wiring, close any openings they may find. Trees and limbs should be trimmed back 6 to 8 feet away from the building to discourage them from entering the home.

Bitter and peppermint-flavored liquid around plants may deter the squirrels.

To learn about the types of squirrels in Ohio, go to:

For specific rules on trapping wildlife in your yard, go to