Such is their big-eyed cuteness, it’s hard for many to regard squirrels as the troublesome pests that they really can be. While they may appear soft, fluffy and harmless, the common grey squirrel is nonetheless a nuisance pest. They can cause serious damage to property and, like rats, play host to a number of serious diseases that pose a health risk to the public. In addition, the grey squirrel is considered to be a serious forestry pest, causing considerable damage each and every year to woodland, especially young trees. As such, their numbers must be controlled and if your home, land or business is experiencing problems with an increasing squirrel population, professional pest control action must be taken.
Impact on Native Species
Responsible for wiping out much of the beloved British red squirrel species, grey squirrels quickly began usurping the natives when they were first introduced in the mid-19th century from North America. The red squirrel is officially classed as Near Threatened in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, although is more common in Scotland.
Grey squirrels are the main cause of the reds’ decline and there are a number of reasons for this.
The first is that grey squirrels are carriers of the squirrel parapox virus – also known as the squirrelpox virus – to which the greys themselves appear to be immune, although the virus is deadly to red squirrels. Another factor is the animals’ feeding habits and respective physicalities. Grey squirrels are much larger than reds, meaning they need more food to sustain them. As such, in the ongoing battle for food in a given environment, the greys will outcompete the reds – quickly gobbling up everything that’s available, leaving nothing left for their smaller counterparts to eat. Often, the greys will even use their size advantage to steal food from red squirrels.
Consequently, being underfed causes red squirrels undue stress, which negatively affects their ability to breed – again causing a decline in numbers.
Grey squirrels also pose a huge threat to trees, mainly through bark stripping. Some squirrels may use tree bark to build their nests, whilst chewing on the bark also helps to maintain the health of the squirrels’ teeth. Squirrels also gnaw at bark to extract nutrients – removing the bark exposes the tree’s cambium layer, which holds and moves around the various sugars produced by the tree. If squirrels gnaw a complete circle around the tree, then the movement of these sugars comes to a halt and the tree will die. Even so, the removal of any bark will restrict the growth of the tree.
Bark stripping usually starts in April and continues right through into August or even September. The damage caused is a disincentive to tree planting, which in turn has a negative impact on biodiversity – reducing a woodland’s general resilience to pests, disease and climate change – as well as the economic value of the woodland itself. In all, bark stripping causes between £6 million and £10 million worth of damage to broadleaved and coniferous woodlands per year in the UK.
Where there are trees, there are squirrels. And where there are squirrels, there needs to be professional pest control experts fighting back against the damage.
It’s not just trees that squirrels will destroy if given the chance. As expert climbers, they will happily make their way into buildings too, where their gnawing behaviour will continue.
Wooden beams in attics are a particular favourite and if you’re dealing with an infestation, over time, the damage can even weaken the structural integrity of the premises. They will also tear through insulation, paper products and fabrics as they scavenge for nest materials when winter approaches – and they’ll urinate and defecate everywhere in the process.
The rodents will also gnaw holes through any wood to gain access to a property, which causes additional problems. For starters, it won’t do any favours for your heating bill, but, perhaps more importantly, such holes create entry points for other pests, such as rats, mice and birds – before you know it, you can have a whole menagerie of vermin to deal with.
Squirrels have also been known to chew through electrical wires and cabling. Aside from the costs of repairing the damage – or replacing anything that’s beyond repair – the exposed wires also create a risk of fire.
Safeguard Pest Control
Squirrels may appear cute. No one can deny that. But harmless they are not and the grey squirrel in particular, has a lot to answer for in the UK. From decimating native species to destroying woodland and damaging commercial and domestic property, squirrels are a pest in every sense of the word.
If you’re experiencing problems with squirrels, you will need a professional pest control company to rectify the situation immediately.
At Safeguard Pest Control, we have over 30 years’ experience designing and executing bespoke pest control solutions for infestations of all kinds. Please get in touch today to organise a free site survey.