Squirrels are often seen in the garden, and can be a nuisance there. Unwanted visitors in your loft can be both destructive and very noisy, especially at night-time.
We can supply cage traps, and a choice of electronic repellers.
There are two species of squirrel living in the UK ? the Red and the Grey. As most people know, the Red Squirrel is native to our shores and declining, whereas the Grey is from North America and is increasing.
Generally speaking, Red Squirrels are not a pest whereas the Grey definitely is, so the following information concentrates on the Grey Squirrel.
The Grey Squirrel is diurnal and most active at dawn and dusk, when it searches for available food. Compared with the Red Squirrel, it spends more time foraging and feeding on the ground than in the trees. It is, however, very agile in the trees and can run along slender twigs and leap from tree to tree. The long, muscular hind legs and short front legs help it to leap. The hind feet, longer than the front, are double-jointed to help the squirrel scramble head first up and down the tree trunk. Its sharp claws are useful for gripping bark and the tail helps the squirrel to balance. If a squirrel should fall, it can land safely from heights of about 9m (30ft). The Grey Squirrel can leap more than 6 metres!
Squirrels have good eyesight and often sit upright on a vantage point to look around them. They also have a keen sense of smell.
The Grey Squirrel builds itself a nest, or drey, about the size of a football, made of twigs, often with the leaves still attached. It is built fairly high in a tree and lined with dry grass, shredded bark, moss and feathers. A summer drey is usually quite flimsy and lodged among small branches. Sometimes the squirrel may make its nest in a hollow trunk or take over a rook’s nest, constructing a roof for it. A squirrel may build several dreys.
Although Grey Squirrels have a wide range of calls, they communicate mainly through their tails, using them as a signalling device ? e.g. they twitch their tails if they are uneasy or suspicious. Regular routes are scent-marked with urine and glandular secretions. Squirrels identify each other, and food, by smell.
The Grey Squirrel does not hibernate and it cannot store enough energy to survive for long periods without food. A larger, thicker winter drey is built, usually on a strong branch close to the trunk, and a squirrel will lie-up in this in very cold weather, coming out now and then to search out hidden stores of food. These stores of single nuts and other items are buried in the ground in autumn, well spread out. They are found by smell, rather than memory. Often they are not found at all and later may grow (helping the dispersal of trees such as Oak). Winter dreys are often shared for warmth. As it sleeps, the squirrel curls its tail around its body to act as a blanket.
In late winter, squirrels may be seen courting with one or more chattering males chasing a female through the tree or across the ground. Females can mate only twice a year, but males may mate at any time. After mating, the male plays no part in the rearing of his young. An average litter has 3 babies but as many as 9 may be born.
Perhaps one of the easiest of all mammals to identify and distinguish each species from the other, the Grey Squirrel is indeed mainly grey and the Red Squirrel mainly red (well, reddish brown). In addition, the Grey is larger than the Red and lacks the distinctive ear tufts of the Red.
Where Squirrels occur
The breeding range of the two species is different, though there is some overlap on the edges. Although once common throughout much of mainland Britain, the Red Squirrel is now largely confined to Scotland, some parts of Wales and a very few areas of England (in particular in the north). The Grey Squirrel now occupies the areas of England that the Red previously did and is common in parks, gardens and in the countryside where there is woodland or even just small copses.
Did the Grey drive out the Red?
It was once thought that Grey Squirrels drove out and killed Red Squirrels, but there is no evidence to support this theory. However, the Grey does seem much stronger and more adaptable than our native squirrel, and therefore have taken over many of its former territories.
The Grey Squirrel as a pest
Although the Grey Squirrel is attractive, appealing and entertaining, it can be a serious pest in the garden and especially to a bird lover. It is very bold and soon learns to take food from bird tables, chew through peanut feeders (only ever use steel ones to minimise this) and take seeds from tube feeders. In addition and if it isn’t always able to get the food from the feeder, it will seriously damage it and often to the point that the feeder is no longer usable. It will also destroy birds’ nests to eat eggs and nestlings. They will also damage trees by chewing off bark (which can kill small or young trees).
The Grey Squirrel can also take up residence in lofts where it can do great damage ? not to mention make considerable noise.
So although often endearing, the Grey Squirrel is a serious pest and should generally be discouraged from gardens ? though this may take some doing, as they are very tenacious and determined.