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Squirrels

Key Features

Grey squirrels were introduced in the mid-19th century from North America and are now much more numerous than the native red squirrel.

Squirrels are diurnal omnivores, meaning they come out in the day and will eat a varied diet of nuts, fruits, buds, new shoots, tree bark, leaves, roots and fungi and will also raid birds’ nests for eggs and chicks. The grey squirrel is known as a serious forestry pest, causing considerable damage each year, especially to young trees.

Householders may find that squirrels are able to make quite a nuisance of themselves. Agile, bold and inquisitive creatures, they will soon learn how to raid a bird table and may then add insult to injury by digging holes in a lawn to hide the food they have stolen. More seriously, they can find their way into roof spaces either by climbing the walls or leaping across from a nearby tree where they can be very destructive tearing up insulation to use as nest material and gnawing at timbers. They have also been known to strip the insulation off electric cables.

Biology of Squirrels

Adults weigh between 350-600g and are 25-30 cm in length, not including a tail of about 20-25cm. The female produces a litter of usually 3 young in the spring or late summer (occasionally both) after a gestation period of 42-45 days. The young are weaned after 10 weeks and are independent at 16 weeks. Some live up to 10 years in the wild although most only manage 3-4 years.

The grey squirrel does not hibernate as it cannot store enough energy to survive for long periods without food.

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