How do I know I have a Squirrel problem?
The most common complaint about Squirrels is when they take residence in a loft space. They can make a tremendous amount of noise and usually are much more destructive than rats or mice. They will enter loft spaces for shelter or a breeding site. A male squirrel will have several dreys (nests) with his territory - usually in trees but some times in buildings.
Why should Squirrels be treated?
When squirrels enter a loft space, they can cause structural damage by tearing up loft insulation for bedding, chewing timbers, pipe work and stored items, and posing a fire hazard by stripping insulation from electrical wiring and/or chewing through cabling which can cause fires or electrical problems. Insulation may be pilled into large balls for the nest or drey. They may also be very noisy, and if they drown in uncovered water storage tanks, may contaminate the water supply. For these reasons, it is important to keep squirrels out of lofts. Squirrels in gardens are also destructive pests, eating plants, bulbs, stripping bark and will eat bird’s eggs and chicks. Grey Squirrels are classed as vermin. It is illegal to release a trapped Grey Squirrel.
Preparation Prior to Treatment
Don’t attempt to block any entry holes prior to treatment. If you do this they may cause further damage trying to get back into their ‘home’.
The treatment of a Squirrel infestation is much more difficult & time consuming than the other rodent pests. Control of Squirrels in outside areas can be carried out in some circumstances but needs to be carefully considered as once a family of squirrels has been removed from an area that territory will be re occupied sooner or later. How soon this happens depends on the population of the surrounding area. They will prey on birds nests, eating eggs & young. Feeding squirrels in gardens will increase the density of the population possibly harming other wildlife. To control them we will use trapping & poisoning. The technician may use one or both methods. the poison bait is a whole wheat that has been soaked in an anticoagulant poison called WARFARIN @0.02%, M.A.F.F. no: 01009. This is the only poison bait allowed by law to be used on Grey Squirrels. The poison requires that the Squirrel(s) feed several times before dying. This ensures that they do not become suspicious and associate the bait with illness or death and all the Squirrels die. If they (the squirrels) have access to other types of food such as bird food (which in urban environments they usually do) they ignore the bait. Due to this difficulty traps will often be used along side the poisoned bait. Legally these types of traps have to be checked daily so can only be used if you are able to do so. If you see or hear an animal caught in one of the traps that is in distress you must phone our office.
What do I need to do afterwards?
If the problem is inside then after treatment has been completed it is important that the building is proofed as squirrels are territorial and other squirrels will soon move into the vacant territory.
There are no guarantees for treatments ‘outside’ as squirrels killed are often quickly replaced but inside treatments are guaranteed to eliminate the current population but not any squirrels that arrive afterwards.
Squirrels - General Information
The grey squirrel was introduced to Great Britain in the mid 19th century and after many releases it began to increase dramatically at the beginning of this century, mainly spreading from Woburn Park, Bedfordshire.
It is now one of Britain's most well-known and frequently seen mammals, being much more common than the native red squirrel. It is classed as an alien species & vermin. It is illegal to release a trapped squirrel back into the wild.
In the wild the grey squirrel is diurnal and most active at dawn and dusk,
searching for available food. Compared with the red squirrel (which is
protected), it spends more time foraging and feeding on the ground than in
the trees. It is, however, very agile in the trees and can run along slender
twigs, leaping from tree to tree. The long, muscular hind legs and short front
legs help it to leap. The hind feet, longer than the front, are double-jointed
to help the squirrel scramble head first up and down the tree trunk. Sharp
claws are useful for gripping bark and the tail helps the squirrel to balance.
If a squirrel should fall, it can land safely from heights of about 9m (30
ft). They grey squirrel can leap more than 6 metres.
Squirrels have good eyesight and often sit upright on a vantage point to look around them. They have a keen sense of smell too! They are clever & adaptable which make a squirrel infestation hard to treat.
The grey squirrel builds itself a nest, or drey, about the size of a football, made of twigs, often with the leaves still attached. It is built fairly high in a tree and lined with dry grass, shredded bark, moss and feathers. A summer drey is usually quite flimsy and lodged among small branches. Sometimes the squirrel may make its nest in a hollow trunk or take over a rook's nest, constructing a roof for it. A squirrel may build several dreys.
Although grey squirrels have a wide range of calls, they communicate mainly through their tails, using them as a signalling device; they twitch their tails if they are uneasy or suspicious. Regular routes are scent-marked with urine and glandular secretions. Squirrels identify each other, and food, by smell.
Winter: It is often during cold weather (or for nest sites) that squirrels get into loft spaces. The grey squirrel does not hibernate and it cannot store enough energy to survive for long periods without food. A larger, thicker winter drey is built, usually on a strong branch close to the trunk, and a squirrel will lie up in this in very cold weather, coming out now and then to search out hidden stores of food. These stores of single nuts and other items are buried in the ground in autumn, well spread out. They are found by smell, rather than memory. Often they are not found at all and later may grow, helping the dispersal of trees. As well as nuts they will eat young birds & eggs. Winter dreys are often shared for warmth. As it sleeps, the squirrel curls its tail around its body to act as a blanket.
In late winter, squirrels may be seen courting, one, or more, chattering
males chasing a female through the tree or across the ground. Females
can mate only twice a year, but males may mate at any time. After mating,
the male plays no part in the rearing of his young.
The female uses a winter drey as a maternity nest, or builds a new one. She lines it with soft material and gives birth after a six week gestation period (time between mating and birth), in March/April and perhaps again in June/July.
An average litter has 3 babies but as many as 9 may be born. The mother suckles the naked, blind young every three or four hours for several weeks. They gradually grow fur, their eyes open and at about seven weeks old they follow their mother out on to the branches. Gradually they start to eat solid food and when their teeth are fully grown, at 10 weeks, they give up suckling. A month or so later they move away from the nest to build dreys of their own. If there are not too many squirrels in the area, the young stay nearby; if it is crowded they will be chased away to look for less crowded feeding areas.
Grey squirrels breed for the first time at a year old.