If you want to trap a squirrel, using the best squirrel bait is the key to success. And you need to get it right because squirrels may be cute, but a squirrel problem can be destructive for your home and your sanity.
Sure, having a squirrel in your home might sound like an intriguing plot for a madcap movie caper. But in fact, it’s a bit of a nightmare. Squirrels love to make nests inside the attics of homes. And in doing so, they tear up the insulation, make holes in the roof, and can even chew on electrical wires.
So if you have squirrels in and around your home, you need to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Enter squirrel bait.
What is Squirrel Bait?
At its simplest, squirrel bait is simply food that is attractive to a squirrel.
You see, one of the best ways to get rid of squirrels is by trapping them. Whether you use a trap to kill squirrels or one that captures them without harming them so that you can relocate the animal somewhere else, you’ll need something to entice the squirrel to get inside the trap.
Read: What is the best squirrel trap?
Choosing the right squirrel bait is especially important for two reasons:
- Traps are strange. You’ll need a bait that’s tempting enough for squirrels to brave the unfamiliar strangeness of a squirrel trap and venture in to get the prize.
- Bait must be trap-friendly. Ideally, you want to choose a bait that will get the squirrel in the right position to set the trap off.
As you can see, using the right squirrel bait is paramount to success in trapping squirrels.
You can use the most effective squirrel trap and set it up in an area rife with squirrels, but if you don’t offer something delicious that the squirrel can smell and see, your trap is going to remain squirrel-free.
It all starts with using the right bait to entice the squirrel to get inside in the first place. So what should you use?
How to Choose the Best Squirrel Bait?
To choose the best squirrel bait, you’ll need to think like a squirrel for a moment. Here are a couple things about the average squirrels’ diet you’ll need to know.
Herbivores or not?
Most people think squirrels are herbivores. And it’s true to an extent – squirrels do have a mostly herbivorous diet, preferring to munch on plant, fruit and vegetable food sources.
But in reality, squirrels are opportunistic foragers, which means that their diets can be omnivorous when the food supply calls for it. By that we mean, squirrels may prefers nuts, seeds, and fruit but when that isn’t available, squirrels will also eat fungi, shrubs, flowers, and even small insects, bird eggs, nestlings, and smaller rodents.
As you can see, squirrels aren’t too picky. And they can and will adapt when the weather calls for it, which brings us to…
What time of year is it?
There are seasons that present a bounty of delectable foods for squirrels. The summertime, for example, is bursting with fresh fruits for squirrels to nibble on.
Similarly, the autumn presents food opportunities galore, with plenty of nuts and seeds to feast on and gather.
During these seasons where squirrels have plenty of foods to eat, your bait needs to match or even surpass the attractiveness of what nature has to offer. Don’t worry, though, we’ll show you exactly how to make your bait more appealing than Mother Nature’s best.
If, on the other hand, you’re setting squirrel bait during the lean months of a squirrel’s food supply, such as the winter or early spring, you’re in luck. Sure, you’ll still want to offer more than stale chips but most of what you set out will appear plenty appealing.
Is there a water source?
Squirrels have a reputation for loving nuts but there are times of the year when squirrels will gladly choose a water-rich food source over dry nuts and seeds.
Squirrels, like us, absolutely need water and they need it even more when the weather gets hot. Water is also crucial for squirrels during pregnancy and during lactation.
During these times of scarce water, squirrels may be more likely to be tempted by juicy fresh fruits like oranges and apples as well as water-rich veggies like bok choy, lettuce, and broccoli.
Is winter approaching?
As the colder months approach, squirrels are more likely to feel the chills than us larger land mammals are. To keep warm, they’ll be looking to put on more fat.
This is the ideal time to put out fat-rich squirrel bait such as peanut butter, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds.
If you’re trying to bait ground squirrels, one key thing to keep in mind is that this is the only squirrel species that actually hibernates. And to prepare for those months, ground squirrels need to bulk up on body fat to get it through those long months of sleep.
To do so, these squirrels will be most attracted to foods that contain linoleic acid, such as walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, flax seeds, grape seeds, sunflower seeds, and even whole wheat bread.
What is the Best Squirrel Bait?
As you know by now, squirrels eat a wide range of different foods in the wild. But their favorite foods of all are seeds and nuts. Chestnuts, acorns, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and other grains are irresistible to these creatures.
So if you want to trap a squirrel, these are the kind of baits you’ll want to start with.
But, of course, the way squirrel traps are designed can make it difficult to use these baits in their natural form. So here are our top suggestions for the best squirrel bait and how to best use them.
There’s good reason why peanut butter is most often recommended as squirrel bait – it works. Peanut butter is the perfect bait for squirrel traps. It’s made of nuts squirrels are naturally attracted to, gives off a strong and fragrant smell, and is in paste form so squirrels can’t just grab it and run away.
It’s tempting enough to lure squirrels in and difficult enough to take that squirrels will stay in the trap long enough to set it off. Plus, it’s cheap. Result? The ideal squirrel bait.
The only drawback is that sometimes peanut butter is not enough on its own. For example, ground squirrels love peanut butter but tree squirrels prefer their food to have more crunch.
Luckily, peanut butter works really well when mixed with pretty much any other squirrel bait out there. Here’s what we mean…
One of the easiest to use baits is also one of the most effective — whole peanuts in the shell. Squirrels can’t resist these treats, and placing a few inside a trap is the best way to ensure that squirrels go inside and get caught.
However, peanuts aren’t perfect. Depending on the type of trap you are using, squirrels could go inside, grab a peanut, and remove it without setting the trap off. Then they can carry the nut back to the nest and laugh at you while they enjoy their snack.
Being outsmarted by a squirrel isn’t good for your self-esteem, so it’s something you should try to avoid.
To prevent squirrels from simply grabbing peanuts out of the trap, you can paste them in place using peanut butter. This will help the nuts stick and is also in itself attractive to squirrels. Combining unsalted whole peanuts and peanut butter in this way is about the best squirrel bait you can find. And it’s cheap, too. Chances are good you already have peanut butter in your home, given that it’s delicious.
The combination of whole peanuts and peanut butter is something most squirrels go crazy for. Yes, I know I could have said that they go nuts for it. I’m happy with my decisions.
Sunflowers seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, grape seeds…you name it, squirrels love it. But seeds are tricky to use inside of a squirrel trap. They’re small enough to fall through the gaps in most traps.
Plus, depending on the trap you use, it may be possible for squirrels to reach into the trap from outside and remove the seeds. Squirrels use their front paws almost like hands sometimes, and are smart enough to remove small items of bait from a trap without going inside.
The solution? Peanut butter to the rescue. You can create a mixture of seeds and peanut butter. And because peanut butter isn’t solid, you can spread this mixture around inside the trap. Smear it over the trigger to make sure that squirrels set off the trap’s mechanism.
They won’t be able to remove the seeds from the peanut butter from outside the trap, and therefore have to go inside to get it.
During the months when water can be scarce, fresh juicy fruits can be very enticing for a squirrel. Ditto for mother squirrels who need the extra water for pregnancy and lactation.
Ripe, juicy fruits work well – think oranges and apples. Melons and berries are great, too. To hold them the fruit in place, peanut butter works well.
It’s a rare squirrel who can pass up a nibble on fresh, water-rich, and crunchy vegetables. Leafy greens are best, especially water-rich ones like bok choy, lettuce, and broccoli.
To add more temptation into the mix, smear a bit of peanut butter on the veggies and set your trap.
Bread can be an attractive squirrel bait. Whole wheat bread, in particular, has a high linoleic acid content that can be particularly appealing during the colder months when squirrels are trying to put on more fat.
It’s also easy to smear peanut butter onto the bread to scent it and provide a bit of stickiness.
Marshmallows are an underrated squirrel bait that both appeals to squirrels and can be used as an adhesive much like peanut butter. You can melt it onto bread or use it to mix with various seeds and nuts.
Last but not least, there’s that store-bought birdseed that squirrels keep on stealing from your bird feeders. If you have it lying around already, you can also use it as an attractive bait for squirrels.
However, it can be messy to use in a trap and has the same downsides as using any sort of loose seeds or nuts.
So what do you do? You have three great options when it comes to using birdseed as squirrel bait:
- Mix it with peanut butter or marshmallows
- Place the birdseed in an envelope inside the trap so squirrels need to go all the way inside the trap to get at it
- Use the birdseed as a lure to entice squirrels closer to your trap by sprinkling little bits of birdseed around the entryways of the trap
How to Make Squirrel Bait More Appealing
Armed with the above squirrel bait, you’re already the Pied Piper of squirrels. But what if you want to go a step further? What if you want the best of the best squirrel bait that no squirrel can resist?
Here are a couple top tips.
Oils and Extracts
You want squirrels to notice the bait you’ve laid out for them in the traps. The best way to do that is to appeal to the squirrels’ sense of smell.
The easiest solution? Sprinkle a couple drops of nut oils or extracts on your already attractive squirrel bait. This works beautifully if you’re using bread – a couple drops of walnut oil or almond extract can help spread the olfactory news that there is yummy food around.
When there are lots of attractive food sources available to the squirrels in your area, you’ll have to figure out a way to out-do Mother Nature.
The best way to do this? Offer something that is not readily available. Squirrel haute cuisine, to be exact.
So what can you use? Macadamia nuts are a great choice – these mostly hail from Australia so unless you’re living down under, this presents a rare and valuable food opportunity for the squirrels in your area. Ditto for pistachios.
Black oil sunflower seeds are another rare treat that squirrels will love. These are larger, easier to open and have more calories and fat content per seeds – something squirrels value.
How to Bait Squirrels: Bait Placement
Squirrels are wary animals. When using bait to entice them into a trap, you’ll want to put the bait all the way at the back of the trap. This is to make sure that the squirrel comes in contact with the trigger mechanism that sets the trap off.
Here’s a very helpful video to show you how it’s done:
If you put the bait too close to the entrance of the trap, the squirrel may be able to get to the bait without touching the trigger. All you will be left with is a red face and an empty squirrel trap.
What About Poison Bait for Squirrels?
Using poison for squirrels is a tricky topic.
Different municipalities have different attitudes toward squirrels. While some consider them a wildlife species and don’t let you harm them in any way, others are less concerned about squirrel welfare. In some areas, you may be allowed to poison squirrels.
However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Some people like to use poison as bait inside a squirrel trap. The logic is that if the squirrel eats the poison and somehow escapes the trap, it will still die. But this isn’t a good idea.
For one thing, if a squirrel knocks over the trap, it can spill the poison, and it can be hard to know where it will end up. Squirrels are mammals just like us, and anything that kills them can also harm people and pets. The last thing you want is for some squirrel poison to make its way to where your dog or kids might find it.
If you’re going to use poison for squirrels, bait boxes are an absolute must.
Also, if a squirrel eats the poison and escapes the trap, it could die almost anywhere. The last thing you want is a squirrel dying inside a wall where you can’t get to it. For such small creatures, dead squirrels make a real big stink. And you don’t want to have to start cutting open the walls of your house to find a decomposing squirrel.
The best way to trap squirrels, then, is to use a combination of unsalted whole peanuts and peanut butter set well back in a trap behind the trigger mechanism. This not only gives you the best chance of catching squirrels but also avoids the pitfalls that can come with poisoning them.