Squirrel in your home? What can you do?

An increase in grey squirrel numbers is being reported across the country. The reason for this is that 2020 was a good year for acorns and nuts and so more squirrels survived the winter than is normal. These then had larger broods which are now reaching maturity and becoming independent. We are seeing them more at the moment because they are looking for food to store for the winter months. Sometimes this goes wrong for the squirrel like it did for the American squirrel who chose to hide its nuts in the engine of an SUV.

Are squirrels cute?

I think we can all agree that indigenous red squirrels, which are a protected species in the UK, deserve all the help we can give them and they tend to live in isolated areas so don’t cause us problems. But grey squirrels?

Grey squirrels aren’t native to the UK. They were introduced from North America in the 19th century and found our climate suited them. There are now an estimated 2.7 million grey squirrels and they have supplanted the native red squirrel population in most areas. It is estimated there are now less than 150,000 red squirrels left in the UK.

While a picture of a grey squirrel gnawing on a nut may look cute, you should really consider this: the teeth it uses to gnaw a nut are also the teeth it will use to gnaw through your roof joists. Like all rodents, squirrel incisors continually grow and so they have to gnaw in order to keep them under control. In the wild, they would use a tree. In your home, they will use roof joists and even wire insulation. Damaged joinery can cause structural problems and damaged wires can be a fire hazard.

Squirrels also carry disease and act as hosts for pests like ticks. Like other rodents, they can carry and transmit a variety of diseases, including Lyme disease, leptospirosis and salmonella. They are also very strong and can be highly aggressive, with nasty sharp teeth, if caught.

In short, you don’t want a squirrel in your home.

How do I know if I have a squirrel in my home?

All squirrels naturally prefer sparsely populated forested regions, parks and woodlands. However, as populations have grown and competition for territory has increased, they are willing to sometimes enter our homes.

The first time you have a squirrel in your home you might actually see the invader. After all, if they are brave enough to move into your home, they may also be brave enough to search around it for food and that means your paths will overlap.

You might also go into your loft or cellar and see gnaw marks – a clear sign that the squirrel has moved in and is making itself at home. You might also hear movement in these rooms, see droppings, or detect the distinct smell of urine.

What should I do about a squirrel in my home?

This depends on the type of squirrel. It is highly unlikely to be a red squirrel but, if it is, you must be aware that it is a criminal offence to trap, harm or kill them, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

A different scenario pertains to grey squirrels. These are considered pests and, by law, cannot be released back into the wild if trapped. Instead, they must be humanely destroyed.

For these, and other safety reasons, we never advise anyone to tackle a squirrel problem in their home. A professional will know what the best course of action is and can also advise on how to squirrel-proof your home.

Top tip: a simple measure to prevent squirrels from being attracted to your home is to remove bird feeders or at least move them away from your property.

Read our squirrel pest guide.

We have the expertise to deal with a wide range of pest problems quickly, safely, and discreetly. If you have a problem, call us on 020 8430 4133 or email here.

Image by Mikes-Photography from Pixabay