GLEN ROCK, NJ -  Is your perfectly-carved pumpkin being ravaged by local wildlife?

As Halloween draws closer, families are putting out jack-o-lanterns to celebrate, but, unfortunately, many of those pumpkins are being quickly devoured by squirrels.

If you don’t remember this being a problem in the past, there’s a lot of speculation as to why squirrels are foraging for food more than usual.

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Some suspect fewer acorns have left squirrels hungry, while another theory regards reduced traffic in restaurants and parks as a result of the COVID-19 crisis has meant fewer food scraps for squirrels to nosh on.

Mike Snaric, Director of Operations at New Bridge Farm in New Milford, said he’s definitely noticed more squirrels running around the area this year.

“Perhaps due to less people around due to COVID,” Snaric said. “Less cars and less ‘accidents’ means more baby squirrels.”

Snaric said their recipe to deter critters is: combining one gallon of water, one teaspoon of dish soap and one small bottle of hot sauce with a drop or two of cooking oil. Then, fill a spray bottle with the mixture and coat your pumpkins with it.

“The hot pepper will repel squirrels when they try to bite into your pumpkins,” he said.

At D’Ercole Farms and Garden Center in Northvale, Joe D’Ercole said, “Spraying your pumpkins with hairspray has been known to work.”

But, he added, “This year, squirrels have been particularly determined, though.”

When asked why he thinks squirrels are a bit more mischievous than usual, D’Ercole said it “could be sign of a bad winter" to come.

Unless your goal is to have a spooky zombie pumpkin, here’s a few more tips on how to guard your gourd, according to Ace Hardware.

  1. Spray with Animal Repellent: Make sure you reapply every few days and after rain. These products will repel squirrels, but not harm them.
  2. Rub vinegar on and around your pumpkin: Vinegar’s powerful scent will deter animals and also prevent ants from making a picnic of your pumpkin. However, vinegar can discolor pumpkins, so don’t apply too much.
  3. Functional Décor: Add a faux owl to your stoop to make squirrels scatter. Bonus: the owl makes for fantastic seasonal décor.
  4. Feed them: After making your pumpkin as unappetizing and threatening as possible, offer up a diversion, like squirrel food to keep them headed that way, instead of to your front steps.