It may not have occurred to you in the past that you would need pest control for squirrels. After all, aren’t they just cute, fuzzy animals that are totally harmless? Not exactly. While it’s undoubtedly amusing to see them burying acorns and leaping among tree branches in the park, they can cause havoc if left to roam around inside your loft space.
They’re also a long-standing enemy of bird enthusiasts as they make a habit of stealing the nuts, seeds and fruits left in gardens to attract wild birds.
Types of Squirrel in the UK
This native rodent has seen dwindling numbers over the past few decades thanks to food competition, an increase in natural predators
and the slow erosion of its habitat. Red squirrels tend to prefer conifer forests and can prove elusive even outside of urban areas.
Clear signs that they live nearby include dreys which are the large nests they typically create in tree forks and in hollow tree trunks. As a protected species, it is illegal to harm or catch a red squirrel or to destroy, even in part, an area in which it is taking shelter.
The name is something of a misnomer, as red squirrels’ coats come in a range of colours, including chestnut, light brown and even black.
This highly adaptable and invasive species now outnumbers the native red squirrel by a large degree. Grey squirrels are even considered pests in woodlands, where their destructive nature leads them to strip bark away from trees.
Numerous initiatives have been introduced as a measure to decrease their numbers, including trapping, sterilisation and humane culling.
It’s a little-known fact that if you manage to catch a grey squirrel, it’s illegal to let it go back into the wild. They must be put down humanely, and any evidence of inhumane killing will result in legal action and hefty fines.
RSPCA representatives recommend that you hire pest control experts or expensive vets to carry out the killing, as most people will be unable to do it without causing unnecessary suffering.
Why You Need Pest Control
With the absence of trees to divulge of their bark, many squirrels will turn their attention to the wooden beams in your attic. Over time, they can weaken structural integrity and cause untold damage.
In even more severe cases, they can strip the protective covering from wires and cause a serious fire hazard. There are numerous instances of squirrels being blamed for causing fires due to these kinds of electrical malfunctions. Early intervention from pest control experts is needed to avoid a potentially life-threatening situation.
Signs of a Squirrel Infestation
Many people will first be alerted to the presence of squirrels in their home by loud gnawing and scratching noises coming from the roof or garage. You’re also likely to experience an increase in sightings in your garden and around your home. These are a few other tell-tale signs that squirrels have decided to take up residence:
- Damaged garden plants
- Bark gnawed away on any young, nearby trees
- Seeing squirrel droppings
- Small divots in your lawn (to hide their nuts!)
- Nests in nearby trees
- Holes in house siding
How to Deter Squirrels
So now that you’re aware of all the ways that squirrels can cause havoc in your home, we’re sure you’re asking, “what can I do to keep them away?” Pest control professionals can provide the best guidance in this instance, but here’s a few tips to help you handle the situation before it gets out of control.
Any tree branches that hang over your property make an ideal “bridge” for curious squirrels looking to get inside. Even branches that end 8 feet away from your property can provide easy access as squirrels can leap remarkable distances.
Thanks to their excellent balance, they can also run along cables and washing lines, so simply removing branches may not be enough of a deterrent.
Cut back branches and move cables and lines where possible. You should also undertake a thorough assessment of your property to check for any gaps that will need to be sealed. Many squirrels can fit through a gap just two inches wide, so don’t be too quick to discount a hole as being too small.
Remove Food Sources
Since squirrels are largely herbivores that choose to feed on nuts, fruits, fungi and plant buds, it can be difficult to remove their natural food sources. People wouldn’t be very pleased if you started chopping down oak trees just to keep squirrels away! What you can do is to take away some of the easily-accessed food that you provide in the form of bird seeds and fat balls.
This is particularly important in the colder months when your “gifts” can be especially appealing due to the scarcity of their typical foods. If you’d still like to provide for your feathered visitors, you can choose to install a squirrel proof bird feeder which tends to be effective and inexpensive.
Use “Frightening” Devices
Motion-activated lights, radio noise and ultrasonic sound producers can all prove to be effective deterrents for squirrels and indeed many other unwanted visitors such as rats or cats. Bear in mind however, that repellent noises can also affect your pets, causing them discomfort and anxiety. Be sure to shop around for the best solution for your situation, and if in doubt, contact a pest control professional who will be able to provide expert advice.
In general, we would advise against trapping for the reasons described above. Having to dispatch an animal without the tools used by vets and pest controllers can be difficult and is rarely done humanely. However, traps are available to the public and you can use these if you wish. Bait them with walnuts — these are irresistible to squirrels, and regardless of the type of trap you’re using, check it at least once a day so that you’re not causing unnecessary stress and suffering to the animal.
If you’re at all concerned about the presence of squirrels in your home, or have any further questions after reading this article, please get in touch with the pest control experts at Safeguard who will be happy to help.