Squirrels: Highly mobile and very destructive

Although squirrels look very different to rats and mice, they are actually part of the rodent family. Typically, they live in forest regions, with plenty of trees and shrubs offering a sustainable source of food. Even when they are restricted to these areas, squirrels cause £6-10 million worth of damage to British forestry every year, so you can imagine the impact they could have if they venture into your property. With that in mind, it’s important that you spot signs of an infestation and take the right steps towards having it removed as soon as possible.

What do squirrels look like?

Despite being an invasive species, grey squirrels are by far the most common species in the UK. They have light grey fur with touches of russet-brown, tuftless ears and bushy tails. Despite the name, the colouring of native red squirrels includes chestnut, light brown and even black! Grey squirrels are bigger in size, while both have paws complete with claws and a pair of sharp incisor teeth. These front teeth never stop growing to ensure they aren’t worn down by constantly gnawing on nuts and other objects.

Where do squirrels live?

Both red and grey squirrels tend to live in sparsely populated forested regions, parks and woodlands. However, they have been known to nest in attics, basements and garages, particularly during winter when they’re seeking food, shelter and warmth. Squirrels like to nest using the lagging in a loft, which will often need to be removed and replaced as a result.

What do squirrels eat?

As you’d expect, squirrels largely feast on nuts, seeds, fruit and fungi, building up hidden stores to help them survive when food is scarce during the colder months. While vegetation makes up a large part of a squirrel’s diet, they’re omnivores, meaning they will also eat eggs and even young snakes!

Are squirrels bad for my health?

Squirrels are deceptively cute, but this does not mean they are completely harmless. Despite having an almost endless supply of tree bark to gnaw on, they do occasionally turn their attention to your furniture, and can even chew through wires. If the protective layer of insulation gets stripped, the risk of fire can significantly increase.

Much like other rodents, squirrels can carry and transmit a range of diseases, like Lyme disease, leptospirosis and salmonella. They can also transport fleas into your home, posing a further risk to both yourself and your household pets. In addition to the risk of disease, females can become very aggressive and will attack if they think their pups are being threatened.

What are the signs of infestation?

If a squirrel is brave enough to venture into your home, they shouldn’t be too difficult to spot. They regularly leave their nests to feed so you might notice them going in and out. You will hear squirrels charging about if they’re in your loft; they make a tremendous amount of noise as they run around playing in the early hours of the morning. Besides seeing and hearing them, you might also notice droppings, as well as a distinct smell of urine.

How can I prevent an infestation?

Food is the number one attraction for a squirrel to leave their natural habitat, so removing all sources is a good way to keep them off your property. This includes bird feeders, which are typically filled with fruit and nuts – a squirrel’s favourite snack. If you’d prefer not to remove your feeders, sealing up any holes, cracks or gaps with wire mesh can be an effective way of keeping them outside.

However, if you do locate a nest, simply wait for the squirrel to leave and then block the entrance. Cut back any branches near your home, and move cables and lines where possible, limiting the access any sneaky squirrels have to your home.

How to get rid of Squirrels

The damaging impact grey squirrels have on the UK’s native wildlife – particularly the red squirrel – is the main reason they’re considered a pest. In fact, the damage they cause is so great that red squirrels have to be protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, making it a criminal offence to trap, harm or kill them.

With this in mind, DIY squirrel control is not recommended. By law, any trapped squirrels cannot be released back into the wild and must be killed humanely. This can be distressing and should only be performed by a pest controller. Professionals are the only people with the experience, expertise and skills to assess and advise the best course of action. This will usually be proofing in the first instance, with the aim of avoiding lethal control wherever possible.

If you think you have a squirrel problem in your property, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 02084304133. Get more news and advice on various other pests here and be sure to follow our social media: FacebookTwitterLinkedIn.