BONNIE’S GARDEN – 10 Interesting Facts About Squirrels

January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day. So here are some interesting facts about these cute (and sometimes annoying) little critters.

  1. A squirrel’s front teeth never stop growing.  This is true of many rodents.  As a matter of fact, the word “rodent” comes from the Latin word “rodere” which means to gnaw.
  2. A group of squirrels is called a “scurry” (a Scurry of Squirrels—appropriate).
  3. Squirrels can smell food under as much as a foot of snow.
  4. Squirrels actually put on weight in autumn to bulk up for winter.
  5. A squirrel can leap up to 10 times its body length.
  6. A squirrel eats its own body weight in food every single week.
  7. A squirrel’s eyes are positioned so they can actually see behind them.
  8. The word “squirrel” comes from the Greek words for “shadow” and “tail.”
  9. The smallest squirrel is the African Pygmy squirrel which measures about 5 inches from nose to the tip of its tail—that’s about the size of a mouse.
  10. The largest squirrel is the Indian Giant squirrel which is about three feet long.

Squirrels are fun and curious—and, in my garden, annoying! I have found a few things that can help keep them from becoming too much of a problem, however.

  1. Squirrels don’t like crushed pepper flakes. If they come along behind you and dig up the seedlings you just planted, sprinkle red pepper flakes around on the soil. Stops them every time.
  2. Squirrels don’t like strong smelling herbs, like lavender, rosemary, oregano, sage.
  3. Ever wondered what to do with all that extra cat or dog hair you routinely vacuum off the furniture or out of the carpet? Save it and sprinkle outside in areas where squirrels are a problem.
  4. Clean up fallen fruits, nuts or acorns from your yard. Less available EASY food=fewer squirrels.
  5. There are commercial repellents available on the market. You can find recipes online for home-made repellents but I found the thought of chopping and pureeing all those nice hot peppers (and the resulting burning eyes and runny nose) off-putting so I prefer to buy them.
  6. If squirrels are stealing your green tomatoes, I’ve got the solution! Squirrels actually don’t eat tomatoes—ever notice they just take a bite and drop it? They’re after the moisture content. That’s why you don’t usually notice the problem until mid-summer during a bit of a dry spell.

Spray your tomatoes with a hot-pepper spray (either home-made or commercial) then provide an EASILY accessible water source 15 or 20 feet away—a birdbath, fountain, even a plastic saucer filled with fresh water. Problem solved. I do this every summer in my garden—and it works!

When you’re not worried about them getting into stuff you don’t want them getting into, spend a few minutes watching them. They are inventive, agile, and creative. Yes, they can sometimes become a problem in the garden, but they’re still remarkable and entertaining. And remember, the nuts and seeds they bury and forget about, sprout and become new trees or plants. In this way, squirrels help disperse seeds for future trees.

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10 thoughts on “BONNIE’S GARDEN – 10 Interesting Facts About Squirrels”

  1. This is a very informative article on squirrels, but tell me what to do about chipmunks. I have radiant heating in my floors and as a result with a floating slab, the heat warms areas outside close to my house . One actually dug through to my dining room and left waste in a neat little pile. Fortunately, it went back outside.

    Thank you for your response.

    • Hi Joan, Basically, the same things you do for squirrels should work for chipmunks–again eliminate food sources, for one thing–even keeping bird-feeders away from the house. You also wan to make sure you keep wood piles and other places they can hide away from the house. I’ve also attached a link below to the Humance Societies list of suggestions. Hope some of this helps

  2. Thank you for great info on protecting by flower bulbs from the hungry squirrels. They tore out my pansies to get to the bulbs – after the pulled at the mesh enough to pull up the stakes and expose the pansies. One was tearing through a large planter and would occasionally look up at me – I had to walk outside and near the planter for him (her?) to stop digging and go away. Pansies are done for but I’m planting more bulbs, with heavier wire on top(weighed by rocks) and using your tricks.

    • Hi Elaine. Depending on the kind of bulbs you’re planting, there are a few other tricks. Tulips are totally edible–but they can also handle being planted 10″ deep. Now squirrels are diggers–but they aren’t tunnelers! Plant them DEEP and the squirrels can’t get to them. Ever. Now, bulbs like daffodils and hyacinths can’t go that deep—but they are toxic and squirrels don’t eat them anyway. They might come behind you and dig in the same spot, but it’s because the soil is nice and loose to dig in. That’s when you use the pepper flakes. Seriously, I’ve never used wire at all because I’ve gotten great results from the crushed red pepper flakes.


  3. How should I address squirrels living in a very tall tree knothole near my home? They drive my dog crazy plus I’m afraid they are compromising the tree, creating a legitimate danger to my home?

    • Kathy, this question might be better addressed by an arborist, in case the tree is already compromised. A good company to call would be Arborscapes.


  4. In the interest/protection of the birds, should I be concerned about sprinkling the hot pepper flakes near my bird feeders?

    • Kathie–birds do not have the same type of taste receptors as do squirrels so the heat doesn’t bother them. Some people even mix pepper flakes into the birdseed when putting it in the feeders.


  5. Not sure about squirrels and hot pepper flakes. I spread quite a bit around the base of a bird feeder, and they are sitting in the flakes and eating the fallen seed, which is covered in hot flakes. Reaper, Ghost, habanero, etc, not light weight peppers…?

    • Your squirrels must be hardier than mine are–works great in in my yard. If you can get your hands on some seriously hot pepper then try those….

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