Using Capsaicin to Deter Squirrels – Yes or No?

Capsaicin is a pepper substance, akin to jalapeno peppers, a natural substance, used in bird seed to deter squirrels from feasting at your bird feeders. While squirrels are mammals and have taste buds, birds do not, therefore, the use of capsaicin supposedly benefits both backyard birders and birds.

Capsaicin works as a deterrent because “…In mammals, capsaicin physically binds to a pain receptor, triggering the same neurological pathway as other painful stimuli (Nagy 1982, Bevan and Szolcsányi 1990,Andelt et al. 1992, Norman et al. 1992, Liu and Simon 1994, Surh and Lee 1995). Capsaicin has many other effects in mammals, including disruption of the thermoregulatory system (Jansco-Gabor et al. 1970, Obal et al. 1981, Szolcsányi et al. 1986), and most mammals find capsaicin repellent (Rozin et al. 1979, Szolcsányi et al. 1986, Mason 1998, Wagner and Nolte 2000)…”. Essentially capsaicin causes pain therefore we can use pain as a method of changing animal behaviour.

Capsaicin products are typically purchased as a seed blend with the interior and exterior of the seed treated with capsaicin or it is sold as an additive that is added to bird seed or the powder is sprinkled or sprayed around the base of your garden plants. As per the Squirrel Proof advertising materials Capsaicin “ …teaches or conditions squirrels to the association between the taste they don’t like and the smell of the food. When you see the squirrels avoiding your bird feeder, you know that the smell of “Treat Your Own” has been learned. Once the smell has been established, squirrels do not need to eat the food any longer as it is the smell that keeps squirrels out of the feeder. This process may take a few weeks, but, once conditioned, you can then use “Treat Your Own” with excellent effectiveness to keep squirrels from other areas of your garden…” (

Do you agree with this line of thinking? I do not! Do your own research.

  • From University of Nebraska – Internet Centre for Wildlife Damage Management

    “Although most evidence to date suggests that birds would be unharmed by eating capsaicin
    treated seed, negative effects have been reported. Injections of capsaicin at doses higher than 0.1% w/v (equivalent to 16,500 SHUs) affect thermoregulation when given intravenously, and eye-blinking when applied as a topical solution (Mason and Maruniak 1983). Austic et al. (1997) found that chickens fed on a mash of 3,500 SHUs for 6 months showed depressed egg production and hatchability. Free ranging birds that supplement their diet with capsaicin-treated seed would not be expected to exhibit these reactions. However, further studies of the long-term effects of birds ingesting hot seed are needed.”

    Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University; Snyder Seed Corporation, Buffalo, New York
    Paul D. Curtis, Elizabeth D. Rowlandy, Gwen B. Curtisz, Joseph A. Dunn

  • From Cornell Lab of Ornithology

    “Squirrels (and other mammals) may be deterred from consuming bird seed treated with capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers “hot.” Many commercial products are coated with capsaicin, but we are unaware of any research examining the affect of capsaicin on birds. The substance may irritate the eyes of birds (as it often irritates the eyes of people filling the feeders). Further, the effects of capsaicin on the digestive systems of birds have not been studied. Although capsaicin may not negatively affect wild birds, we discourage adding any products to bird foods that have not been thoroughly tested.”

    Other Visitors

    “Some bird watchers have been using seeds that are coated with hot pepper or capsaicin products. Theoretically, squirrels avoid the coated seed while birds are unaffected. Although birds naturally eat chile seeds in the wild with no ill effects, no studies have specifically verified that this practice is safe for birds at your feeder”.

    Dealing with Predators and Pests in Your Yard

  • But here’s the clincher!

  • Capsaicin is toxic to bees and other beneficial insects!

    Bees are a main pollinator of plants and we need bees to pollinate our food crops and plants. Be aware that there is serious concern that the honey bee population is in decline. See what “The Nature of Things” has to say.. Based on this information, one should not introduce any substance to your backyard that may contribute to the decline of such an important part of our environment.

And so I ask you, yes or no to capsaicin? I say NO!

One Responseto “Using Capsaicin to Deter Squirrels – Yes or No?”

  1. misdroy says:

    top-notch information! very good tips, will take on board!