There are two species of squirrels, the native red squirrel and the grey squirrel, which was introduced into Britain from America in the 18th Century. This page will concentrate on the grey squirrel as it has spread throughout mainland Britain and is common in urban areas where it lives in parks and gardens.
Facts about grey squirrels
Grey squirrels build nests (dreys) in forks of trees or in tree hollows. There are two breeding seasons in a year, with first litters born in February and March and second litters in June and July. Litters average 3 to 4 young, with the young remaining in the nest for up to 2 months. Grey squirrels will eat a wide range of items such as nuts, fruit buds and shoots, bird's eggs and nestlings. In suburban areas much of their diet comes from food put out for birds or deliberately put out for squirrels.
How do they affect me?
Grey squirrels can cause serious damage when entering the roof spaces of houses. They chew woodwork and ceilings, strip the insulation from electrical wiring, tear up loft insulation for nesting material and have been known to drown in cold water storage tanks. In the garden they will take fruit, raid the nest of birds and dig holes in lawns to bury food. In parks and woodland they damage trees by stripping bark.
How do you control them?
Where grey squirrels enter roof spaces the best control method is proofing, for example, by blocking gaps and holes with tightly wedged wire netting (e.g. at eaves and soffit board level). Lopping tree branches within 4-5 metres of roof spaces will also help prevent squirrels entering roof spaces, as they are able to jump up to 3 metres from tree to tree. A metal sleeve may protect mature trees. Grey squirrels can be caught in baited cage traps throughout the year, both indoors and in the open. Any trapped grey squirrel must then be destroyed in a humane manner, as current legislation does not allow grey squirrels to be released back into the wild (Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932 and Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981). Other methods may be used to control grey squirrels, such as shooting, drey poking, spring traps and poison baiting but in these instances a professional contractor should be used.
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