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Squirrels Cute or in Need of Pest Control?

Although public opinion is generally split as to whether the squirrel is a “true pest” and requires pest control, they have earned a bad reputation since being introduced into the UK. The Grey Squirrel population has grown exponentially in the last one hundred years and they have become a serious forestry pest, causing considerable damage to trees, and crops. They are extremely destructive to woodlands often stripping young trees entirely of their bark in search of the sappy layers underneath. Squirrels are also particularly bothersome to homeowners as they nest in roof spaces, attics, and lofts, under decking, in birdhouses, sheds, and trees they are also quite happy to dig up your garden to bury food or to eat planted bulbs causing extensive damage.

The Grey Squirrel belongs to the group of medium-sized rodents including tree squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, and prairie dogs. After being introduced to the UK in the late nineteenth century, they have far surpassed the indigenous Red Squirrel in numbers. It was once thought that the Grey Squirrels drove off the Red Squirrel population, but it has recently been accepted that the two species can live in the same population for up to twenty years before the Red Squirrels move on. The Grey Squirrel has proven itself as stronger, and quicker to adapt giving them the upper hand, over time.

Like other rodents, squirrels make nests (known as dreys), anywhere with easy access. They will use any materials available to them including cardboard, twigs, leaves, feathers, moss, wood, and even home insulation. They are particularly fond of high, warm areas, and can build several dreys in one place. Also like other rodents, their teeth continue to grow throughout their entire life, making them very capable chewers. Their constant gnawing means they can easily chew through trees, roof beams, and even electrical cables, making them a dangerous fire hazard.

Although it is widely accepted that squirrels do not carry human diseases, they do often pass fleas, mites, or ticks to domestic animals. Squirrels are also very skittish, defensive animals and have been known to bite when frightened.

There are a number of population control options available when dealing with squirrels but the most commonly used is trapping, usually carried out by a spring trap positioned to kill the squirrel. Cage traps and poison and other pest control may also be used but all methods must ensure there is no danger of harming the Red Squirrel population, which are now a protected species. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, it is a criminal offense to re-release a captured grey squirrel back into the wild. All trapped Grey Squirrels must be humanely destroyed using humane pest control.

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