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There are a number of ways in which you could potentially try to kill squirrels in the yard, but more often than not, your plans will not go quite as you'd … well, planned.
Option 1: You can trap the animal, using live cage traps, with the intention of killing it via one of the following means:
b) CO2 chamber
Option 2: You can use snap traps to kill squirrels. These are similar to rat traps — body grip traps — that are designed to capture the squirrel and kill it, all at once. The instant death would make it a humane choice, and doesn't leave you with the task of locating the body, a problem that often comes with option number 3.
Option 3: You can use poison to kill squirrels. There isn't a registered poison to kill squirrels in the USA, which means that you would need to get inventive. Using rat or mouse poison is not exactly a recommended decision — you would need larger amounts of the poison to kill a larger animal than a rat or mouse, which then puts other animals and people, particularly kids and neighborhood pets, in great danger.
Option 4: You can attempt to shoot squirrels as they run wild. You would need to be a pretty good shot to make sure you hit the animal, and you will also need to make sure that you're not breaking laws by using firearms in urban or residential areas.
Option 5: You call upon the professionals. Wildlife rehabilitators usually have the right kind of tools (such as a carbon dioxide chamber) to humanely destroy an animal that has been trapped in a cage.
Problems & Considerations
You will need to check the rules for trapping and destroying squirrels in your town, city, county or state. You will need to know the species of the problematic squirrel on your property; there are a few species on the threatened and endangered list and these should be protected. It is unlawful to even attempt to move these animals, let alone kill them.
Different areas will have different requirements for squirrel killing. In some states they are considered to be game animals and will, therefore, fall under the same laws as game animals — hunting seasons, specific kill methods, etc. You will find that many of the requirements change from place to place, including the need for permits or licenses, the damage or annoyance level the animal has displayed will play a part, and even what you plan to do with the squirrel is important.
You will want to make sure you know the squirrel species before you purchase any kind of trap. Smaller traps will suit smaller squirrel species, but larger squirrels, such as the Eastern Gray Squirrel (the most common one), will require a larger trap. Larger traps may come with larger grids, and smaller animals, including small squirrels, might just squeeze through the gaps.
Test Trap Nights
Before you set your traps properly — with bait — you should have a few test nights. You will put the trap along the squirrel's route, just as you would if you were actually setting it, but without setting the trap or baiting it.
This might seem like a pointless action, but the squirrel will become accustomed to the new metal contraption in its way. Squirrels that have been captured and released already may understand that traps are bad news, avoiding them. Squirrels are pretty smart creatures, so there is a chance that they will learn from the experience if they were to watch a squirrel-friend or mate become trapped. Even if a squirrel has had no experiences with traps before, there is still a chance it will be cautious around the new device. By allowing for a few test nights, using not set and un-baited traps, you have less chance of battling a super shy, trap-aware squirrel.
Bait isn't half as important as you might think, but placement of the trap is. If you don't put traps along the regular route of the squirrel, there is a chance it won't come across or see the trap at all. Even the tastiest bait can't work to lure a squirrel in when it is in a place the animal never goes, and that animal already has a safe and reliable source of food elsewhere.
You forget: food is probably what attracted squirrels to your property in the first place. Your garden has plenty of “natural” food sources that the animal has already taken full advantage of.
Squirrels love seeds and nuts, so anything but based, including peanut butter, is a great food choice for bait. You can buy synthetic squirrel baits for traps, but there is usually no need to buy something; squirrels eat a wide and unexpected array of foods, including leftovers in your trash can. You could probably throw leftover dinner in the trap and have great results.
Any trap that has been set must be checked regularly. You mustn't leave bait in the trap for so long that it has a chance to turn bad. If food has time to turn bad, a squirrel has time to die. Ignoring a squirrel in a trap will lead to the inevitable death of the animal. Food that has gone bad is also going to attract other pests that you wouldn't want around, including rodents and insects.
If you are lucky enough to capture a squirrel (and it's usually not so difficult), you MUST wear thick gloves when you get close. Teeth and claws should be watched, and feces and urine should be kept at a distance too. Wild animal waste can be (and usually is) riddled with disease.
What Happens Next?
Squirrels that you plan to destroy must be destroyed in a quick, effective, and humane method. A carbon dioxide chamber is usually the best option, although, unlicensed people are not going to have one of these hanging around in the shed. It's hardly part of the homeowners must-have list.
Squirrels that you plan to release must be done so lawfully, in a new habitat that best suits them, along with and at the same time any family members (baby squirrels) that it probably has in tow. You will rarely have just one squirrel in an invasion. More often than not, the one squirrel that you can see, is actually one mother squirrel plus four or five youngsters in the nest.
For more information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How much does squirrel removal cost? - get the lowdown on prices.
How to get rid of squirrels - my main squirrel removal info guide.
Example squirrel trapping photographs - get do-it-yourself ideas.
Squirrel job blog - learn from great examples of squirrel jobs I've done.
Squirrels in the attic - what to do to solve the problem.