Using a fake owl to scare away squirrels has been a method in use for a long time. It’s meant to trick squirrels into thinking there’s a predator nearby. But how well does it work? Are squirrels scarred away at the sight of a fake owl?
Just like all mammals, squirrels have five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. For squirrels, however, some senses work better than others. Squirrels have an excellent sense of hearing. Their hearing is so good that the sound of a large bird’s wings beating against the air can send a squirrel leaping into a nearby tree and running for cover.
Squirrels also see movement really well too. If a bird’s shadow zips across the ground near a squirrel, he’ll quickly turn and dart up a tree. But stationary objects, however, are difficult for squirrels to recognize.
A typical squirrel will most likely be oblivious to a plastic owl set on a roof or fence post. Real owl’s are very much aware of this shortcoming and as a result will sit high up in a tree or on top of a telephone pole in the early evenings, before sunset, looking for unsuspecting prey such as squirrels.
In one experiment, pieces of bread were tossed to squirrels in a park. The squirrels were able to visually follow the path of each piece of bread as it flew from hand to ground. The squirrels were observed turning their heads obviously watching where the bread was going. Once the bread came to rest on the ground, however, the squirrels could no longer see it and instead relied upon their sense of smell to find each piece. They would sniff around in the grass until they located the bread and would then pick it up and eat it. This experiment demonstrated an ability to see movement well but not stationary objects.
In general using a fake owl to scare away squirrels will have limited to no success. But should you decide to do your own experiments, some people have had success with the fake owls which turn their heads and make owl noises. These particular fake owls always get mixed reviews. Some people claim they work great while others claim they don’t. I recommend reading reviews before making a purchase.