There are two species of squirrels, the native red squirrel and the grey squirrel, which was introduced into Britain from America in the 18th century. This information sheet will concentrate on the grey squirrel, as it has spread throughout mainland Britain and is common in urban areas, where it lives in parks and gardens.
Although many people regard squirrels as an attractive part of urban wildlife, they can be a nuisance when they cause damage in gardens. More serious problems may be experienced when squirrels find their way into lofts and roof voids where, quite apart from the disturbance caused by their nocturnal activities, damage to woodwork and insulation material and the gnawing of electric cables can occur.
As with most pest problems, prevention is better than cure. Squirrels will readily exploit and enlarge any gaps that allow access into lofts and roof voids, and these should be dealt with during routine maintenance. Where squirrels have already taken up occupancy, any exclusion measures should only be undertaken when they are known to be outdoors. If this is beyond the capacity of "DIY," then local builders may be prepared to undertake the necessary work. Trees near or overhanging the house provide convenient highways. In some situations, judicious pruning will cut off routes but always check that there are no tree preservation orders in force.
Occupiers can shoot or trap grey squirrels. Poisoning with an anticoagulant rodenticide specifically approved for the purpose can only be undertaken by professional users and its use is restricted to areas where there are no red squirrels.
In urban situations safety considerations must be paramount if shooting is contemplated. If in doubt, consult the police.
Although squirrels may be killed by the use of approved spring traps set in artificial or natural tunnels, this method is unlikely to be suitable for urban situations. The preferred trapping method is to use cage traps baited with whole maize or acorns. Such traps can be used indoors or outdoors and the best results are obtained if the trap is put down baited but unset for a few days.
When set, the traps must be inspected at least once a day. Trapped squirrels should be run into a sack and despatched humanely by a sharp blow on the head.
Suppliers of traps
These can usually be obtained from local agricultural merchants, gun shops or suppliers of game rearing equipment.