Commonly seen around the UK, squirrels spend the majority of their time foraging for and storing food. Their diet varies throughout the year and consists largely of tree seeds, but they also will eat available food such as nuts, berries, fungus or other food left by human inhabitants. Any surplus food the squirrel can gather is stored as provision for lean times like winter, where food is more difficult to come by.
A common pest problem is when squirrels get into the loft space of a building, as they can cause structural damage particularly to loft insulation, timbers, pipework and any stored items, which can pose a significant fire hazard when insulation on electrical wiring is stripped. Squirrels may be noisy, and are often know to drown in uncovered water storage tanks, which may contaminate the water supply.
For squirrels, prevention is certainly better than cure, but as they only need a hole the size of the squirrel’s head to gain access to a building, prevention can be challenging. If squirrels have actually been seen entering a property their access points will be clear, but otherwise narrowing down their routes can be difficult. Stuffing a piece of newspaper into a suspected access hole will be easily removed by a squirrel, and this will reveal that the hole is in use.
The RSPCA advice recommend strong wire mesh size no larger than 25mm to block access holes to squirrels, as well as repairing slipped slates, rotten soffits or missing bricks.
Once squirrels have gained entry, it is paramount that there are no squirrels remaining in the loft before access is blocked. Decomposing squirrels may also cause terrible smell and lead to insect infestation. It is important to take care and make noise to frighten a squirrel before entering the loft, as they can attack when startled or defending their young.
If there are young squirrels present, it is important to leave enough time until they are old enough to leave the nest. Repair work can then be carried out while the family is out foraging.
Squirrel problems in the garden are much less dangerous but can be annoying. There are many squirrel-proof feeders available, which prevent squirrels from raiding the bird feeder, while some bird seed supplements contain pepper additives that are harmless but unappealing to squirrels.
You want to think about protecting bulbs with wire mesh or by staking an inverted wire basket into the ground, so plants can grow up through the mesh but can’t be unearthed by squirrels, cats or many other creatures.
If the preventative methods outlined above are not working, lethal control of squirrels is permitted. Please note, this should only ever be carried out by a qualified professional pest control team, so please contact us for pest control advice.