How to get rid of squirrels? It’s a question that many homeowners will ponder the day these bushy-tailed critters start causing problems—no matter how cute they look in Disney movies. And they can do a lot of damage. They might munch on vegetables in your garden, bully birds at your feeders, infiltrate your attic—and that’s just before lunch. So if you’re ready to banish these bad boys, here’s how to get rid of squirrels in your yard, home, and anywhere else they may be causing a ruckus.

How to keep squirrels out of your garden

While people swear by adding cayenne pepper to the soil or hanging up shiny CDs nearby to scare them away, the truth is that getting rid of squirrels is a trial-and-error process—what spooks one might be ignored by another.

And while some suggest that dogs and cats can scare away squirrels, that’s not a reliable method.

“It depends on your pet and how active they are when it comes to hunting,” says Jamie Nichols, manager of Arrow Exterminators, in Atlanta. “Generally, having pets doesn’t make a huge impact on keeping squirrels away, due to their aerial nature—but leaving pet food out will attract them.” So keep the food bowls inside.

The best way to keep squirrels out of a garden is to create a physical barrier such as wire mesh with quarter-inch squares arcing over and around your plants. You don’t want to cover up those pretty planters, you say? You just have to keep trying to see what works. You can plant certain types of flowers squirrels tend to not eat (lilies, marigolds, hyacinths, and daffodils, for example), but their dining preferences will vary depending on the area and the types of food they’re used to.

So all in all, be prepared to lose some blooms and veggies as you figure out what your own critters can’t stomach.

How to keep squirrels off a bird feeder

Since squirrels can jump 10 feet or higher, your best bet is to place bird feeders as far away from your house and trees as possible. Nichols suggests using a metal pole (typically too slippery for a squirrel’s grasp) anchored into the ground with the feeder attached at the top.

“Squirrel-proof bird feeders” abound as do other tools like high-frequency sound devices, but they aren’t foolproof. Where there’s food, squirrels will often find a way, so try everything until something works.

How to keep squirrels out of your home

Squirrels in your plants and birdseed are one thing, but having them camp out in the walls of your home or attic are another. So if you hear some scurrying up there and want to get to the bottom of it, check your insulation for signs it has been matted down or that trails have been made. Also look for any signs of chewed wires and debris such as leaves or sticks that squirrels might have brought in.

If you have squirrels in your home, you’ll need to hire an exterminator or buy or rent a squirrel trap. Humane traps that capture them alive enables you to release them elsewhere, but afterward how do you keepthem out? You’ll need to fortify your home’s squirrel defenses and remove any welcome mats you might have unwittingly laid out.

“The biggest mistakes people make are having bird feeders close to the house and having tree limbs growing into the house or roofline,” Nichols says. “The feeders attract wildlife closer to the home, and limbs provide easy access onto the roof, where squirrels will inevitably begin looking for an entry point into the home.”

The National Pest Management Association offers the following additional tips to keep squirrels out of your house:

  • Seal all possible points of entry around the house using a silicone-based caulk, steel wool, or a combination of both.
  • Cover exhaust fan openings, soffits, and attic vents.
  • Install chimney caps.
  • Keep tree limbs cut back 6 to 8 feet from the roofline.
Julie Ryan Evans is an editor and writer who has covered everything from politics to pop culture and beyond. She loves running, reading, cold wine, and hot weather.