How to Trap Ground Squirrels Like a Pro: 6 Easy Steps

Last Modified on January 16, 2024 by Zachary Smith

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Are ground squirrels destroying your yard or garden? If so, you don’t have to sit by and watch the damage continue.

By learning how to trap ground squirrels, you can eliminate these destructive rodents and reclaim your outdoor space quickly and easily.

In this blog, we’ll teach you the exact trapping techniques we use in the field, so you can do the same.

What are the Benefits of Ground Squirrel Traps?

ground squirrel

Traps are a safe, eco-friendly option that won’t introduce harsh pesticides.

Here are a few reasons we recommend using ground squirrel traps:

  • Rapid control. While trapping isn’t enough to eliminate ground squirrel populations, it’s an effective way to control small infestations and stop them from getting worse.
  • Pesticide-free treatment. Pesticides, rodenticides, and ground squirrel baits are essential to any ground squirrel control program, but they can be dangerous to use and aren’t recommended for homeowners. Trapping, on the other hand, is a chemical-free control option, which makes it safer for kids, pets, and non-target wildlife.
  • Easy disposal of dead ground squirrels. Ground squirrel traps catch and contain rodents, which makes it easy to dispose of the bodies.

What Type of Ground Squirrel Traps Should I Use?

If you’ve started to research ground squirrel traps, you probably know that there are dozens of models on the market.

But which is best for you, and what are the differences between them?

Here’s a brief breakdown:

1. Snap traps

Snap traps are most commonly used to control rats and mice, but they can be effective for smaller species of ground squirrels, such as the thirteen-lined ground squirrel.

Snap traps like those by pest control brand Victor are popular because they’re affordable, easy to find at local hardware stores, and easy to use.

They’re also available in reusable or disposable varieties. Durable plastic snap traps, like those made by Trapper Mini T-Rex, can be used repeatedly, while you can just throw a wooden snap trap in the garbage after it’s caught a squirrel.

Pros:

  • Instant kill
  • Strong snap
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Only effective on small ground squirrels
  • Dead rodents are highly visible in snap traps
  • Snap traps may present a risk to kids, pets, and non-target species

Best for: Snap traps can effectively remove small infestations of ground squirrels in areas like lawns and gardens.

2. Conibear traps

Conibear traps were initially designed to catch and contain fur-bearing animals.

These traps consist of two rectangular frames with a trigger. When activated, the trigger causes the rectangular frames to close on the animal’s body, killing it instantly.

Conibear traps are effective for use on larger ground squirrel species.

Pros:

  • Effective on larger rodents
  • Quick kill
  • These traps do not need to be baited
  • Reusable

Cons:

  • Dead rodents are highly visible
  • These traps require you to dispose of dead ground squirrels
  • Conibear traps must be placed correctly to be effective

Best for: Getting rid of large species of ground squirrels outdoors.

3. Tube trap

Tube traps are the best option if you’re looking for an effective way to eradicate ground squirrels.

These traps look like a long piece of pipe and are designed to be placed directly in a ground squirrel burrow.

These traps are ideal for larger ground squirrel species and can provide rapid population control.

Since they’re fully enclosed, they also help prevent injury to people, kids, pets, and non-target species. They can be baited with peanut butter.

Pros:

  • Tube traps naturally attract ground squirrels
  • These traps shield dead rodents from view
  • Less of a risk for kids, pets, and non-target species

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to set
  • May cause injury to hands, knees, and fingers while setting the trap
  • Require you to know where ground squirrel burrows are
  • Must be checked and re-set regularly
  • Only capable of catching one squirrel before the trap needs to be reset and re-baited

Best for: Controlling medium- to large ground squirrel species underground

4. Live traps

Live traps don’t kill ground squirrels. Instead, they catch and contain them until you can relocate them or euthanize them humanely.

If you want to use live traps, it’s essential to check the wildlife relocation laws in your area, since relocating trapped wildlife is illegal in many states, including California.

Pros:

  • Humane
  • Chemical-free
  • Easy to use
  • Ideal for controlling many different species of ground squirrels

Cons:

  • May be less effective than lethal traps
  • Live traps must be baited
  • Live traps require you to euthanize or relocate trapped ground squirrels

Best for: Controlling small ground squirrel infestations in states and areas where it’s legal to relocate wildlife.

5. Carbon Dioxide Traps

Carbon Dioxide Traps, like the Goodnature A18 Ground Squirrel Trap Kit, use a carbon dioxide cartridge, which triggers a lethal striker, to dispatch ground squirrels.

When the squirrel enters the trap, the carbon dioxide cartridge deploys the striker and kills the squirrel instantly.

The trap then drops the body out the bottom of the trap, where scavengers can consume it without risk of secondary poisoning.

Uniquely, these traps are good for several dozen kills without being reset.

Pros:

  • Hands-off control
  • Capable of reloading and resetting itself
  • Ideal for long-term ground squirrel control

Cons:

  • The presence of blood
  • Significantly more expensive than other traps
  • You may have to handle dead ground squirrels from time to time
  • You’ll need more than one of these traps to control large populations

Best for: Controlling large populations of ground squirrels without re-baiting or re-setting the trap after each catch.

How to Trap a Ground Squirrel: A Step-by-Step Guide

how to trap ground squirrel

Want to use ground squirrel traps as effectively as possible?

Follow these steps:

1. Identify ground squirrel burrows

Ground squirrel traps are the most effective when set in or near the entrance to ground squirrel burrows.

To identify active burrows, look for mounds of discarded dirt in your yard or garden. These mounds usually mark the entrance of active burrows.

Most burrows are about 4” in diameter and between 5-30’ in length. Most burrow systems sit within 2 feet of the ground’s surface, although they can sometimes be as much as 6’ below the surface.

2. Place your traps

Next, set your traps in the areas where they’ll be most effective. You can determine where to place traps by reading the directions on the trap’s box.

Where possible hazards exist, such as threats to birds or non-target species, we recommend placing traps directly into ground squirrel burrows or into bait boxes, according to label directions.

If you’re using snap traps outdoors, cover them with a box to prevent harm to non-target wildlife.

3. Bait the traps

Bait your traps according to the season and the type of ground squirrels you’re targeting.

Baiting traps with treated grain is the best choice during the summer and fall, when squirrels are feeding on seeds.

During the late winter and early spring, ground squirrels are feeding on green forage, so you’ll need to adjust your choice of bait accordingly.

4. Check your traps

Once you’ve set your ground squirrel traps, check them at least once a day. Dispose of any dead ground squirrels, clean and sanitize reusable traps (if necessary), and re-set traps.

If you’re using automatic carbon dioxide traps, you won’t need to reset the trap, but you may need to remove dead ground squirrels.

Once your traps have started to catch ground squirrels, continue to set them until signs of ground squirrel activity ceases.

5. Safely dispose of dead rodents

Dispose of dead ground squirrels safely with these tips:

  • Always wear plastic or latex gloves when handling or disposing of dead ground squirrels.
  • Place single-use wooden snap traps in plastic bags and dispose of them in an outdoor trash can with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Double-bag all dead rodents and dispose of them in an outdoor trash can.
  • When you’re done handling the dead rodent, throw away your gloves immediately and wash your hands in hot, soapy water.

6. Contact a pest management company

If your DIY ground squirrel trapping efforts don’t work, you may need backup. If this happens, contact a professional pest control service like Smith’s Pest Management.

Our team will inspect your property, identify ground squirrel burrows and feeding areas, and develop a customized trapping program to get rid of ground squirrels for good.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area or Central Coast, contact us at 408-871-6988 to request a free quote.

Safety Tips for Handling Ground Squirrel Traps

safety tips for handling ground squirrel traps

While traps are safer to use than chemical baits, they’re not totally risk-free. Here are a few tips for handling traps safely:

  • Wear durable latex gloves to set or dispose of traps or to handle dead ground squirrels.
  • Read trap directions, follow all label directions carefully, and familiarize yourself with trapping regulations in your area.
  • If you’re using snap traps, prevent accidental snaps by using a stick or your foot to arm the traps.
  • Disinfect and sanitize reusable traps before re-baiting and re-setting them.
  • Never set traps in residential settings where they’re visible to kids, pets, or non-target species.

How to Keep Ground Squirrels Away From Your Home

  • Secure outdoor garbage in trash bags inside of garbage containers with tightly-fitted locking lids.
  • Clean up food spills after outdoor gatherings or dining.
  • If you have plants with nuts, berries, or vegetables in your garden, clean up ripe produce as quickly as possible.
  • Rake your yard at least twice weekly in the fall to remove dead leaves and ground squirrel hiding areas.
  • Remove water sources on your property.
  • Keep your grass trimmed short and remove clutter, like rock and log piles, in your yard.
  • Install ground squirrel-proof fencing or netting around gardens.
  • Use squirrel-proof bird feeders in your yard.
  • Spray store-bought ground squirrel repellents containing castor oil or hot pepper extract around high-interest areas.

Have a Ground Squirrel Problem in the San Francisco Bay Area? We’re Here to Help!

You don’t have to share your yard with ground squirrels.

Need some additional help?

Contact us today at (408) 471-6988 to learn more about our ground squirrel control services and how we can help you reclaim your rodent-free outdoor space.

FAQ

What is the best bait for ground squirrel traps?

If you’re setting ground squirrel traps, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, oats, barley, and fruits and vegetables are ideal baits. Baited grain may also be an effective bait during certain times of the year.

Do rat traps work on ground squirrels?

Yes – rat snap traps can be an effective way to control small ground squirrel species, including the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. These traps may not work, however, on larger ground squirrels.

What time of day are ground squirrels active?

Ground squirrels are most active when the temperatures are cool – during the morning and late afternoon.

Author Bio: Zach Smith

Landscape Pro Turned Gopher Pro: Owner, Zach Smith, graduate of Cal Poly’s Horticulture program worked nine years as a landscape professional- dealing with gophers, moles, and ground squirrels and was quickly recruited by other local gardeners. Fast forward to the past 15+ years, where Zach and his team trap and remove burrowing pests from residential, municipal and commercial properties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, from Marin to Monterey.