Outdoor lights can add a touch of ambiance to your backyard, whether you’re a year-round lantern fan or just like breaking out the fairy lights at Christmas. Squirrels disagree, however, and will often chew through the wires of string lights and even steal bulbs from your display.
The best way to avoid endless repairs is to squirrel-proof your outdoor lights, and here are the best ways to do so.
Why do squirrels eat Christmas lights?
Squirrels are well-known for attacking the wires of outdoor lighting, but why do they do it? They’re not protesting your taste in decoration (honest); their reasons are probably more to do with their natural chewing behaviors. Like other rodents, squirrels have teeth never stop growing, and must be constantly worn down so they don’t get too big. Squirrels do this by gnawing on anything and everything, including the wires of your Christmas lights.
Some people have noted that squirrels seem to target the bulbs in outdoor lights, and have speculated that they are mistaking them for nuts. A lot of modern electrical wires are also coated with a soy-based material that rodents enjoy eating. When the only other alternative is twigs, it’s hardly surprising that squirrels choose to gnaw on our lights.
How to stop squirrels from chewing your Christmas lights
Encase your wires in PVC plastic
If you haven’t yet picked out your Christmas decorations, look for lights that have their wires encased in PVC plastic. This may help to deter squirrels from chewing through them. If you’re trying to protect a set of lights you already own, you can make a homemade version of this by slipping the light cord through a PVC pipe with slits cut to allow the lights to stick out.
You can also try wrapping the wires in duct tape or electrical tape. Alternatively, you can try covering them in a soft insulation material, which isn’t as appealing for rodents to gnaw on. This may not stop the squirrels from chewing on your wires altogether, but it will delay the damage while you try out other solutions.
Coat your lights in squirrel repellent
Try spraying your outdoor lights with something to deter squirrels and other rodents from chewing.
Ready-made squirrel repellents are available for purchase, or you can try out a homemade alternative such as pepper spray, minty mouthwash, garlic, apple cider vinegar, or citronella solutions. These will make the wires taste bad to the squirrels, and may help to discourage gnawing.
Use peppermint essential oil
Rodents dislike peppermint oil, so it may help to keep squirrels away from your outdoor lights. Drop cotton wool balls soaked in peppermint oil around your lights to help deter squirrels, refreshing them every few days or as needed.
Spray predator urine around your backyard
The urine of certain natural predators (like red fox or coyote) has been found to effectively repel gray squirrels. Predator urine may also repel other rodents just as well, so spraying it over your Christmas lights could be the best way to protect the wires from damage. However, for obvious reasons, this approach may not appeal to everyone.
Use an owl decoy
Owls are a natural predator of squirrels, so squirrels are naturally afraid of them. You can try to encourage more owls into your backyard by installing an owl nesting box and making sure they have adequate shelter and water sources.
Alternatively, you can place an owl decoy near your outdoor lights to scare squirrels away.
Install motion detector lights
The sudden glare of a motion detector light can help to scare squirrels (and other nocturnal visitors) out of your backyard.
Let your dog help out
If you have a pet dog, let him do his thing! Lots of dogs love to chase squirrels, and this will discourage them from coming into your garden and attacking your Christmas lights. Even if your pooch is past his squirrel-chasing days, his mere presence in your backyard may be enough to keep squirrels at a safe distance.
Get rid of your bird feeder
You may be unknowingly attracting squirrels into your backyard if you regularly leave out food for the birds. Squirrels love birdseed just as much as sparrows do, and if you’re leaving a steady supply of it out in the open, you’re bound to encourage them into your garden.
You can either stop leaving out birdseed altogether or find a squirrel-proof dispenser to reduce the number of squirrels hanging around your house.
Call in the experts
If your garden is overrun with squirrels, you may need to call in the help of an expert wildlife trapper. Many wildlife removal services can trap and remove animals safely and humanely, so they can find a new home away from your outdoor lights.
Humane squirrel traps are also available for home use and are largely safe and easy to operate. However, you will likely have to drive the squirrel quite far away before releasing it to make sure it doesn’t return to your backyard.
As the Christmas season creeps closer, households up and down the country are preparing to festoon their homes and gardens with lights. Many will also be preparing for their annual battle with the squirrels who, like other rodents, love to chew through electrical wires.
The most reliable way to protect your outdoor lighting from squirrels is to choose models that have a plastic casing around the wires, making it hard for rodents to chew through them. Alternatively, you can try using squirrel repellent, pepper spray, minty mouthwash, garlic, peppermint oil, apple cider vinegar, predator urine, or decoys to deter them from gnawing.