Grey Squirrel - Fact File

Grey SquirrelSize: About 25cm or so. Tail nearly as long as body. Weight around 500g
Markings: Grey with a whiter belly, but grey turns browner in summer. Red squirrels have easily visible ear tufts, and are much redder and smaller.
Location: Becoming widespread throughout Britain.
Detection: Sightings of live animals, droppings, bark stripping, kibbled cones / nuts, scattered food remains, dreys, tracks (footprints) in soft mud or snow.

Biology:

Squirrels are well known to most of us, and are easily recognised. They can be quite prolific in their reproduction, with two breeding seasons per year. After a gestation period of 6 weeks (45 days), the first litter is born in late February or early March. A typical litter contains 3 or 4 young. If a second litter is born, it usually occurs at the end of June or into July.

The young are weaned at about 10 weeks old, and leave the nest soon after.

The squirrel nest is known as a drey, and is made of twigs and leaves, and can sometimes be lined with grass. When dreys are made in roof spaces, the squirrels will gather all manner of fabrics, gnawed cardboard etc. to act as nesting materials.

Squirrels have a surprisingly wide and varied diet, eating foods such as fruits, nuts seeds, plant and tree buds, fungi, and new shoots. They will also take birds' eggs and even the nestlings. Obviously, bird food etc. put out in gardens becomes an easy target, but because many people like squirrels, the food is put out specifically for them.

Treatment:

The wide diet and intrusive habit is often the reason that you will be called to control these animals, either in an urban, rural or forestry environment. There are several methods of control, depending on where you are and what time of year it is:

1. Exclusion. In situations where squirrels are entering roof spaces, gaps and holes can be proofed by using wire mesh tightly packed into the space. This can be supplemented by expanding foam sprayed into the hole around the mesh. Although this is not foolproof, as these are clever animals, it should afford a good degree of protection. Trees can be protected by fitting a metal sleeve around the base of the trunk, but it needs to be at least 1 metre high, and the base must be a minimum of 1.5 metres from the ground. This only works if the trees are at least 3 metres apart, otherwise the squirrel will jump the gap.

2. Shooting.This is an old but successful method of control, requiring the use of shotguns to bring down the squirrel as it runs along the branches, either freely, or as a result of poking the dreg with a long pole. Best carried out in winter (no leaves makes easier viewing), shooting in spring will also kill the first litters.

3. Spring Traps. The recent Spring Traps Order (1995) now approves the following traps: Fenn Mk4 and Mk6, Springer Mk4 and Mark6, Magnum, Juby. Imbra, Sawyer and Lloyd. The traps must be placed in tunnels (ideally of about 60cm length) to prevent non-target species gaining access. The tunnel entrance should be no more than 6-7cm across, but big enough to allow the complete action of the trap. The entrance can be reduced to the required size by pushing sticks into the earth at the trap entrance. Camouflaging is advised, but baiting of the traps is unnecessary. The traps must be visited at least once a day, but dawn and dusk is advised (more frequently if possible). If red squirrels are present, spring traps are not allowed.

4. Cage Traps. An excellent method of control, but less successful in the autumn, when food is plentiful. Several traps are currently on the market, being either single or multiple catch. They should be placed at the base of trees or against the wall in an area such as a loft. Camouflaging them will encourage the animals to enter and minimise the risk of vandalism. Bait the traps using peanuts (not salted!), sliced apple, maize or chocolate (fruit and nut...). Maize is useful as squirrels characteristically eat the 'germ' and leave the rest - this will help to confirm that it is squirrels that are eating it. Leaving the trap in a 'fixed open' position first is not necessary, but may help if the squirrels are wary. As above, the traps must be visited at least daily. It is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) to release trapped grey squirrels. They should be placed in a heavy (hessian-type) sack and humanely dispatched using a stout stick or similar. Trapped red squirrels must be released unharmed.

5. Poisoning. The only poison allowed is Warfarin at 0.002%, labelled for squirrel control. When used outdoors, it must be placed in approved hoppers (as specified in the Grey Squirrels Warfarin Order (1973)), only between March 15 and August 15, and only for tree protection in woodland (not gardens). Check with your supplier as to which areas of the country the bait can be used. Hoppers should be placed at the bottom 6f trees or on raised platforms against the tree, clearly marked as POISON and securely attached. The bait must be kept topped up, as warfarin is a multiple-feed poison. Warfarin squirrel bait can also be used in roof spaces throughout the year. Rat and mouse bait must not be used against squirrels.

If you need a fast, effective and reliable pest controller in the Bishops Stortford area
contact Cross Pest Control on:
Hertfordshire: 01920 822897
Mobile: 0777 5673088 or 0777 5673089