The birds are singing in the morning and spring is in the air. You might have been tempted to put out a bird feeder; and if you did, you might have laughed as a grey squirrel did acrobatics to try and get to the seeds before the birds. Those escapades fill hundreds of social media videos, and at first glance they are entertaining.
The reality of squirrels
But there is a reason why grey squirrels are the cause of thousands of call outs to pest controllers every year. They can and will cause damage to your home – and for some, the noise they can make at night becomes a real distress.
Grey squirrels are an invasive pest. They are common, and in most of the country they have replaced the native red squirrel. But grey squirrels were only introduced to the UK in the 1870’s from North America.
Today, the grey squirrel is classed as an Invasive Alien Species (IAS) in the UK, and is acknowledged to be in the top 100 worst invasive pest species in the world: a rating given by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Because grey squirrels are an invasive pest species, any person who catches a grey squirrel alive is legally obliged to humanely dispatch it.
There are three reasons we control grey squirrels:
- Their potential to damage to your home, business and health
- The destruction of UK forests
- The impact on our native wildlife, in particular the red squirrel.
When they enter roof spaces Grey squirrels can gnaw on woodwork and ceilings, strip insulation from electrical wires and even tear up fibreglass insulation. Their urine and droppings can even contaminate cold water tanks.
Grey squirrels strip bark at the base of trees, particularly beech, oak and chestnut, which can weaken the tree and they prey on eggs and fledgling birds.
Save our native reds
Our native red squirrel in the UK has been no match for the invader. It’s now estimated that there are only around 140,000 native red squirrels left in the UK… compared to around 2.5 million grey squirrels.
The cause? As well as out-competing the red squirrel for food, grey squirrels can transmit the squirrel pox virus to red squirrels, which is fatal only for the red squirrel.
Signs to look out for around your property
There are seven danger signs to watch out for:
- Direct sight of squirrels around your property
- Fruit and nuts being stolen from bird feeders, or the feeders being disturbed/knocked over
- A scratching and rustling sound from your loft or a wall cavity
- Droppings in the loft
- Smell of urine in the loft
- Bark being stripped from trees in your garden
- Holes in vents or damage to your insulation foam.
If you’ve noticed a few of these signs, then it might be time to call us.
It’s a lot of squirrels
Grey squirrels usually have two litters a year, in early spring and summer with three to seven kittens on each occasion. Females can live up to five years, with male squirrels averaging around two to three years.
Prevention can be tried but often is ineffective – given those acrobatic skills we so love to watch on YouTube! But do cut back trees or branches so they don’t overhang a building and block gaps and entrance holes with mesh or metal plates.
Traps are available online, however not every rodent trap is authorised to control squirrels. Any squirrel you catch alive would have to be killed, as per the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Any squirrel that you kill would have to be done humanely and this can be very distressing: it’s best to call in the professionals.
Remember: you must not use live capture traps to remove a grey squirrel from your property in order to release it elsewhere. As an invasive species, it is against the law.
It’s time to call us before the whole troop move in.