Squirrels are rodents, and an extremely common sight in the parks and gardens of Kent and Sussex. They usually live peacefully alongside us, but sometimes they can colonise unwanted spaces such as loft spaces. That’s where Pest Hunter can help.
About the grey squirrel
Originally in Britain, the most common type of squirrel was the red squirrel. Recognisable by its tufted ears, reddish coat and small size, the red squirrel was for centuries the most common type of squirrel. Red squirrels are now classified as Near-Threatened in the UK and Ireland.
Nowadays of course it’s the grey squirrel that we see in our home counties. The grey squirrel was introduced from America in the 1870s and has had a devastating effect on the red squirrel population, with the red now being confined mainly to Scotland and the far northern parts of England. The best chance you have of seeing a red in the south east of England is by travelling to the Isle of Wight.
What we love about squirrels
Grey squirrels are bold, curious animals who generally get along fine with humans.
They are tree-dwelling creatures, but it’s their ground level activity that helps us most. Squirrels are keen planters of seeds. As they live on nuts and seeds, they carefully “squirrel” them away in the ground. Whilst they are good at remembering where they buried them, inevitably they sometimes forget about them, and of course the seeds then often grow into shrubs and trees.
They are incredibly clever. They can solve multi-step problems to reach food left out for them, climbing poles, leaping great distances (their tails spinning in the air to keep them on their preferred trajectory), opening boxes and more. You can easily set up a Mission Impossible style squirrel run in your garden. Search YouTube for inspiration.
Their brilliant climbing ability and capacity to leap from tree to tree is just amazing to watch. Squirrels chasing each other through the branches means it’s mating time. The male squirrels (bucks) pursue the females (does) in a fascinating display of aerial acrobatics.
When squirrels become a problem
Grey squirrels have of course taken over from the red squirrel. They are better at utilising territory, bigger in size, will tend to eat red squirrels’ food such as acorns, and generally pressure the reds into decline. They are better at living in urban areas, so forest shrinkage is another big factor in their success.
Grey squirrels chew continuously to grind down their teeth, because unlike humans, their front teeth (incisors) are always growing. They must chew to wear down the tooth surface to avoid the teeth growing into the jaw. This means they can strip bark from trees and cause damage to homes and properties. Squirrels have been known to damage the lead roof of churches – with one church in Wales reporting serious damage including teeth marks and holes in the lead roofing where the squirrels had been chewing at it.
Squirrels are thought to be getting bolder. It’s common to have squirrels approach humans in parks where they associate humans with food.
They can predate birds’ nests and damage orchards and gardens. They can dig up seeds and eat the nuts from trees before they have a chance to germinate.
And of course they can cause havoc in lofts in our homes.
How to tell if you have squirrels in your loft
Usually, it’s the tell-tale scurrying and rustling coming from the attic space that gives the game away. But often, squirrels are difficult to locate and find, as they live in the most inaccessible spaces within eaves and roof corners. Their strange chirping sound can sometimes be the first sign of a squirrel invasion.
You may spot their droppings in the loft, but it’s easy to mistake their droppings for that of other mammals. You might also smell their urine.
If you have trees close to your house this could be providing an easy route from garden to roof space. Look for possible entry-points.
Look for damage to ventilation bricks, soffits and fascias and holes in insulation foam.