UK Squirrel Species
There are two species of Squirrel in the UK:
- Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) This is a protected species.
- Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) Classified as a pest. It is illegal to release a Grey Squirrel back into the wild.
While we often coexist peacefully with wildlife in their natural habitat, certain species may become accustomed to the presence of people. This can potentially cause damage to property, risk the transfer and spread of disease or simply cause plain nuisance.
The Grey squirrel is an introduced species that is now common throughout most of England. Their success in breeding, foraging and resilience has led to a decrease in the native red squirrel. They are often viewed as an attractive addition to our wildlife. However, they can cause damage when they access buildings and fire when they chew electrical wiring. They also strip bark from trees, which causes serious economic damage in woodlands.
Uncontrolled populations which thrive in urban landscapes can pose significant risks to human health and homes. Squirrels are diurnal, active from before sunrise to after sunset.
Squirrels front teeth, constantly grow and thus require filing, this is achieved via gnawing. This can cause problems if they are living in a roof space where they chew electrical wires (fire hazard) or the structure where they can cause significant damage.
Larger than the UK's native Red Squirrel, Grey Squirrels have grey fur with touches of russet-brown and white underparts. Unlike the Red Squirrel, this species never has ear tufts, and the sexes are similar in appearance.
Breeding takes place in the months of December to January and again in May to June. If conditions are favourable, females reproduce 1 - 2 times a year producing 1 - 5 offspring per litter. The average lifespan of female Grey squirrels is 4 - 6 years while their male counterparts have a shorter life expectancy of 2 - 3 years.
A highly adaptable species, the Grey Squirrel prefers broadleaved woodlands usually occurring in conifer woodlands and urban areas such as gardens and parks, where mature trees are found. It is important to note that it is a criminal offence to re-release a captured grey squirrel back into the wild. Responsible pest and predator control is an integral part of conservation and wildlife management.
Grey squirrels are found in a wide range of situations, from urban parks and gardens to rural woodland. They spend part of their time foraging on the ground but are always within easy reach of trees.
Their food includes acorns, beech mast, nuts, fruits and bulbs. They sometimes take birds' eggs and nestling's. Their habit of bark stripping is probably a combination of social behaviour and feeding activity and occurs mainly between April and July.
Grey squirrels usually have their young either in dreys (nests made of twigs and leaves) or in holes in trees. They will also breed in roof spaces where they may build their nests from loft insulation or other available materials. Grey squirrels do not hibernate but are less active during periods of cold weather.
Despite their name, Red squirrels can have coats ranging from black to chestnut or light brown on their backs, with white undersides. Red squirrels are known for their characteristically long ear tufts, and big fluffy tails.
Mating usually occurs in late winter in March and again during the summer in July. Females produce two litters of 3 - 4 offspring per year, and the young are weaned around the age of 10 weeks, but do not breed until the age of one. Red squirrels can survive for up to six years in the wild.
Red squirrels typically prefer conifer forests to broadleaf woodland and can also live in mountainous areas. They are active during the day, with most of this time spent foraging for tree seeds, flowers, shoots, berries and caterpillars.
The Red squirrel is protected under the Wildlife and Conversation Act 1981
We would recommend using a professional pest control contractor such as Peskill to assess the scale of the problem and utilize the correct and safe methods of control to trap and dispose of squirrels. It is important that squirrels are trapped and disposed of in a humane manner. Once in a building, squirrels can prove to be costly in terms of damage and can be dangerous in terms of the damage done to cabling and wiring so it is important to deal with squirrels quickly and efficiently.
It is a criminal offence to release a captured grey squirrel back into the wild