The Grey squirrel is not native to Britain and they were introduced to this country from America between 1876 and 1929. They are now common throughout England and Wales and the disappearance of the native Red Squirrels coincided with the arrival of them. Opinion differs as to whether the Grey Squirrels were responsible for the disappearance of the Red Squirrels or whether they actually disappeared through loss of habitat and/or disease allowing the Grey Squirrels to simply fill the empty space.

Grey squirrels have a grey back and tail with a white belly and their flanks can sometimes be reddish, while during the summer months the coat may even appear brown too. They reach maturity at 10 to 12 months old with an average life span of two to three years for the males & four to six years for the females. In this time they can have between 3 and 4 litters a year with usually 3 young each time.

They feed on fruits, nuts, cereals, flowers, tree bark and shoots and occasionally feed on bird eggs and insects. They bury surplus food 2-5cm below the soil or in tree hollows in scattered sites. Contrary to popular belief grey squirrels do not hibernate during the winter but they may become less active.

Grey Squirrel Problems

Grey squirrels are most likely to cause problems when they gain access to roof spaces via building defects.

Once they have gained access, squirrels can cause damage to roof timbers, electrical wiring and plumbing.

Grey squirrels are serious pests to forestry plantations where they cause damage by stripping bark from tree trunks and this may also be the main source of problem in parks too. Squirrels can also cause issues for gardeners, allotment holders and market gardeners, as grey squirrels will take cereals, fruit and vegetables.

Grey Squirrels and the Law

  • The Grey Squirrels (Prohibition of Importation & Keeping) Order 1937 makes it an offence to release live-trapped grey squirrels.
  • The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 makes it an offence to intentionally inflict unnecessary suffering on any wild mammal.
  • Grey squirrels may be shot but it is an offence to use a firearm close to a highway or near inhabited properties.
  • Approved spring traps (rapid kill) may be used. These must be checked daily and must not be used where domestic or protected animals may gain access to them. Rat/Mice traps must not be used.

Methods of Control

By keeping your property in good repair, a squirrel cannot gain access to the roof space and if by any chance they do somehow manage to, you need to take action as soon as possible. By entering the roof space from inside the property, the squirrel will exit via the hole. This hole may then be blocked, but make sure this is done securely as squirrels can be very determined. Squirrels will normally leave easily, however they may become protective if they have young.

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