How to control squirrels
How to control squirrels

Dealing with mammals: general considerations

A recent top 20 of the most popular, cute cartoon movie animals included two rats, a squirrel and a variety of different insects. Consequently, controlling animals as they get larger, or their babies become cuter, becomes a more complex issue. As a result, if you have to control squirrels, or other mammals, on your property it is important to understand the methods that can be used successfully and humanely.

So, how to control squirrels is a complex issue. It is essential for you to understand the legislation which controls the pest controller.

Do we need to control squirrels?

Before you blame the squirrels it is important to identify the species of mammal that is responsible for the damage to your property. There are range of small mammals who may cause problems:

  1. Fox. 
  2. Badger. 
  3. Grey squirrel.
  4. Rabbit. 
  5. Mole

Hence, it is important to identify the source of the damage. You can take the following steps:

  • Identify the species using movement enhanced cameras.
  • Direct observation.
  • Signs that include tracks, footprints, droppings and the nature of the damage. 

Assessment prior to squirrel control

Before going down the squirrel control route. It is important to assess the cost of the damage and the level of harm to gardens, property and pets. Specifically, the action taken may be out of proportion to the financial or environmental impact of controlling the pests. Consequently, it may be easier and cheaper to tolerate the damage caused by small mammals. Furthermore, some mammals e.g. deer, bats, dormice are protected by legislation.

Damage prevention

It is important to take a humane approach toward the control of mammals.  Specifically, you should consider the use of remedial methods such as scaring devices, exclusion methods and the use of boundary proofing methods. Additionally, the removal of food sources and shelter will deter small mammals.

Dealing with mammals. What is the most humane approach?

Above all, when deciding the most appropriate method of pest control it is important to give priority an ethical approach.  It is, therefore, important to consider the following questions?: 

  • What is the legal position?
  • The safety of the technician, the public, non-targeted animals and the environment?
  • Is it a humane technique?
  • Will the pest control cause negative reactions, nuisance or complaints from neighbours.
  • What is the cost?
  • Will the control process serve to solve the problem in the long term?

Above all, when it comes to squirrel control, it is important that trained and experienced technicians implement control strategies and techniques.

The legislation relating to squirrel control

How to control squirrels. The main legislation and the salient points of that legislation is summarised as follows:

  • Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932.  Keeping squirrels requires a licence.
  • Grey Squirrels Warfarin Order 1973.
  • Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Releasing squirrels into the wild is against the law.
  • Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986. 
  • Spring Traps Approval Order 1995.
  • Wild Mammals Protection Act 1996. This legislation allows legitimate pest control by humane means but prohibits the cruel treatment of a wild animal.
  • Animal Welfare Act 2006. Treating captive animals inhumanely is against the law.

So, how to control squirrels requires an understanding of government legislation.

Squirrel behaviour and habitat

Squirrel control is difficult because squirrels are agile and clever animals. Grey squirrels are rodents. Accordingly, their teeth have the characteristics of all rodents. The squirrels’ incisors grow throughout their lives and their canine teeth are absent. An adult squirrel is approximately 50 cm in length but over 20 cm of that length consists of its tail. The adult weighs in at approximately 500 grams.  The grey squirrel has strong hind limbs, so, it is perfectly adapted to climbing and jumping within the tree canopy. Squirrels have long, sharp claws which are used to grip and strip wood. In addition, the squirrels long, bushy tail helps with balance and movement through the trees.

Location and Distribution

The Grey Squirrel is not indigenous to the British Isles. In fact, it originated in North America. In the late 19th and early 20th century the grey squirrel was introduced to Britain. Since then the highly adaptable grey squirrel has spread throughout England and Wales at the expense of the red squirrel.  Historically, landowners and farmers took responsibility for squirrel control. However, the reduction in trapping and shooting by gamekeepers has resulted in a growth in numbers of the grey squirrel .

The Grey Squirrel enjoys living in all types of woodland, however, it can also be found in hedgerows and small copses. Squirrels build dreys which are nest-like structures consisting of twigs, small branches and leaves. The squirrels build the dreys high up in the forked  branches of trees. Squirrels also inhabit dens which are the the hollows found in between large tree branches.

Reproduction and diet

Squirrels breed twice a year, in February and in July. The young leave the nest after only 10 weeks, furthermore, they may breed again at 10 to 12 months of age. So, it is important to implement squirrel control at an early stage.

The Grey Squirrel diet includes nuts, fruit buds, fungi, eggs and even small nestlings. Additionally, in gardens in urban areas squirrels will feast on bird food. Any extra food is buried and then eaten as a later date.  Squirrels in the wild have a life expectancy of 8 or 9 years.

Keys to control – Signs of activity

When it comes to squirrel control it is important to know their movements and behaviour patterns. Grey squirrel activity begins before dawn but ends before sunset. The peak of squirrel activity is between 4 to 5 hours after dawn.  Male squirrels have a range of up to 500 m. The females travel shorter distances; usually less than 250 m. Briefly, the four most obvious signs of squirrel activity are as follows:

  1. Droppings. Squirrel droppings are round to elongate in shape and colour varies depending on the diet.
  2. Squirrel tracks. Squirrels hop when moving on the ground. So all four feet are close together in line.  The front feet have a four toed track; the hind legs have feet with five toes.
  3. Dreys and Dens. Nest-like in appearance; the dreys are constructed from twigs and branches.  
  4. Feeding signs. Squirrels are messy eaters. They will leave behind partially eaten leaves, nuts, stripped pine cones and bark from deciduous trees. Often squirrels will favour an old tree stump as a dining table.

Squirrel damage

Grey Squirrels may cause damage when they enter the roof space of houses and outbuildings. Squirrel damage includes: 

  • Gnawing woodwork and plaster.
  • Stripping insulation from electrical wires.
  • Gnawing and tearing up roof insulation.
  • Contaminating cold water header tanks and roof spaces with urine and droppings.
  • Squirrel movement will disturb sleep,
  • It is rare for squirrels or squirrels to attack humans. However, squirrels view people as a source of food. A hungry squirrel may attack.
  • Taking tree fruit crops and raiding birds nests.
  • Digging holes in lawns.
  • Praying on the eggs and young of endangered rare bird species.
  • Damaging commercial tree crops and orchards.

Grey Squirrels are primarily responsible for the reduction in numbers of Red Squirrels by out competing them for shelter and food. Grey Squirrels also transmit the fatal squirrel pox virus to Red Squirrels. Squirrel control has become an environmental issue. 

How to stop squirrels getting into your property

Prevention is always better than cure. Preventative pest control can be done by:

  1. Cutting back trees and branches that are overhanging buildings.  
  2. Cutting back and retraining ivy growth on the sides of buildings.
  3. Block any potential entry points into roof spaces using wire mesh or metal plates
  4. Protecting trees with metal sleeves.

To conclude, do-it-yourself squirrel control is usually unsuccessful.  Furthermore, it is potentially dangerous and illegal. So, to control your squirrel problem, it is best to call in the expert technicians from 

Professional squirrel control

The experts from take a sympathetic approach toward the control of squirrels. It is important to know how to control squirrels based on a knowledge of their behaviour. The control of mammals creates a division in public opinion. As a result, conflict will often arise between those affected by the infestation and conservation groups. carefully balances the welfare of the animal with the damage created. technicians will only employ methods such as trapping or poison baiting after employing preventative techniques.

When squirrels find their way into outhouses and roof spaces the cost of damage justifies physically excluding squirrels. The technicians use tightly wound wire netting and metal plates to block gaps and access holes. Each site requires specifically adapted access proofing measures . Our technicians are fully aware of the ingenuity of this determined animal.

It is only after preventative measures have been put in place will trapping and/or baiting methods be implemented.  Indeed, these measures are only used sparingly and if there is a persistent squirrel problem. Spring traps have to be legally approved, moreover, every effort is taken to avoid trapping non-targeted species. The traps are set in small tunnels made from timber, sticks, earth or turf.

Warfarin poisoning is only used in roof spaces or other enclosed indoor spaces. Furthermore, only approved products specific to squirrel control are used and unused material and carcasses are recovered.

In conclusion, only employs humane and legitimate methods of pest control. 

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