Unless you have dealt with the horror of a squirrel infestation you have no idea of the damage, devastation & mayhem that these creatures can wreak.
Cute and entertaining to watch in the garden, they can become creatures from hell when they move into your loft or attic. Squirrels in loft or squirrels in attic means big trouble!
Squirrels are rodents, the word itself comes from the Latin rodere meaning ‘to gnaw, eat away’ and this they do very well indeed, especially electrical wiring and water pipes when they enter your home.
Please do not attempt a squirrel treatment without seeking professional advice as you could fall foul of the law.
Early last year I was called out to a local home, a pleasant modern detached house on a popular local development.
The owners had been away for a week’s holiday and whilst they were away little Mrs Nutkin had decided to build her nest (a squirrel’s nest is called a dray) in the loft of the property. Being a squirrel she was awfully good at chewing things and one of the things she decided to chew was the water supply pipe to the header tank in the loft.
The young couple returned home to find the ceiling brought down, the house flooded and carpets and furniture ruined.
A nasty shock but at least they had insurance cover, they were always careful to ensure their cover was adequate…or so they thought. Bad news was in store!
The vast majority of household insurance policies have a clause excluding damage by vermin, and as soon as they mentioned ’squirrel’ to their insurance company they immediately invalidated their claim leaving them pick up the cost of thousands of pounds worth of damage.
I wish I could say that this was a rare, isolated case but it isn’t.
Professional Squirrel Control
Options when dealing with a squirrel problem are fairly restricted and are largely trapping or shooting. Sealing holes to keep them out will generally result in massive damage to the property as they gnaw their way back in.
As a point of interest here in the U.K. The law regarding squirrels is a little complicated.
Although the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is now endemic throughout virtually the whole U.K., it is still regarded in law as an illegal immigrant. It was imported from the United States and Canada in the 19th century and has gradually established itself throughout Britain.
However, despite the fact that they are common, it is still a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1984 to release a grey squirrel in the British Isles, so pest controllers trapping squirrels are not allowed in law to relocate them.
More About Squirrels
In Britain we have three squirrels, the indigenous Red (Sciurus vulgaris), which is now an endangered protected species and very unlikely to cause pest problems, the imported Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and now in some areas the Black Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). The black squirrel is a melanistic subgroup of the Eastern Grey Squirrel. They are common in the Midwestern United States, Ontario, Quebec, parts of the Northeastern United States and Britain.
Unfortunately the grey squirrel is a carrier of Squirrelpox virus to which they themselves appear to be immune but the effect has been to devastate our native population of red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris), the ‘Squirrel Nutkin’ of fame, whose numbers are now down to a few isolated populations.
Fascinating Grey Squirrel Facts
- Their scientific name is Sciurus carolinensis.
- They were introduced from USA /Canada to approximately 30 sites in England, Scotland and Wales from 1876–1930.
- Grey squirrels eat seeds, buds, flowers, shoots, nuts, berries and fruit from many trees and shrubs. They also eat fungi and insects, and occasionally birds’ eggs and fledglings.
- They store nuts in the ground in the autumn, but do not remember where they store them. They rely on scent to find them.
- They can be right or left-handed!
- Squirrels moult their coat twice a year, once after winter and then in the late summer before the weather gets colder again.
- They do not have ear tufts.
- They can live to 5-7 years of age.
- They have four fingers and five toes.
- The upper fur is mainly grey with mid-brown along the upper back, and chestnut over the flanks, limbs and feet. Their underside is white. The tail hairs are grey, banded with brown and black and a white fringe.
- They weigh 450-650g.
- Their body is 24–26cm long and their tail is 19-24cm in length.
- Squirrels live high in trees in a nest made from twigs, leaves and moss. This is called a dray.
- The dray may be in a hole in the tree or set against the trunk and branches.
- Pregnancy lasts 44 days and their young are called kittens.
- Kittens are born with their eyes closed, without teeth and with no hair. After about seven weeks they look just like small versions of their parents and are ready to leave the dray.
- There are generally 2 litters a year (rarely 3), with 3–7 kittens in each litter.
- Average densities in broadleaf areas are approximately 8-18 grey squirrels per hectare, and 0.1-1 per hectare in coniferous areas.
- They do not hibernate over winter, but may be less active when weather conditions are bad.
- They can hang upside down!
- They can swim!
- Grey squirrels do not appear to be susceptible to Squirrelpox virus, but may carry and transmit it.
If you have squirrels in the garden be very careful and call a professional at any sign they may have moved indoors.