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Tips to keep squirrels from destroying pumpkins

Tuesday - 10/9/2012, 2:36pm  ET

Pumpkins.jpg
WTOP Garden Editor Mike McGrath advises using hot pepper spray to keep squirrels away from pumpkins. (ThinkStock)

WASHINGTON - Decorating for fall should not provide pesky squirrels with a free meal. There are numbers of ways to keep squirrels from eating pumpkins.

WTOP Garden Editor Mike McGrath recommends using everything from hot peppers, to deer repellent and dog hair.

Deer and squirrels hate dogs. McGrath says squirrels will avoid pumpkins placed on top of dog hair.

Both creatures also hate the smell of rotten eggs. Look for deer repellent with high concentrations of the active ingredient "putrescent whole egg solids." Do not worry about the smell lingering. McGrath says human noses will not detect the odor after the spray dries.

Hot peppers also work to repel squirrels. McGrath recommends using the hottest peppers available and blending them with just enough water to create a sprayable solution. Add one drop of washing liquid and one of cooking oil. The oil and soap will help the pepper concoction stay on the pumpkin.

McGrath says not to worry about burning a fuzzy creature's mouth with the pepper solution. He believes all bets are off in what he calls the never-ending battle against "evil squirrels."

McGrath warns against trying a squirrel-fighting suggestion that involves spreading used kitty litter around a pumpkin.

Cat waste is a source of toxoplasmosis, which is an infection caused by a parasite. It can can cause health issues affecting the brain, lung, heart, eyes or liver. Toxoplasmosis can be especially harmful to people with suppressed immune systems, and infected pregnant mothers can spread it to their babies through the placenta.

McGrath says it is a bad idea to use kitty litter for pest control.

WTOP's Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow Kristi King and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)