The North American Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) was introduced into Britain between 1876 and 1929. It is mainly a resident of woodland, where it has replaced the native Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris).
Grey Squirrels are commonly found in parks and gardens and are widespread throughout England and Wales, south of Cumbria, and also in local pockets in Scotland. They are absent from the rest of mainland Europe, except for small localised populations in Italy.
Grey squirrels are distinguished from red squirrels by their grey fur, smaller ear tufts and their larger, more robust build. Grey squirrels sit with their large bushy tail arched over the back. There are no wild Red Squirrels in Milton Keynes but grey squirrels can sometimes have a brownish tint to their fur.
Grey squirrels are common in deciduous and mixed woodland, they are also found in hedgerows, trees, parks and gardens. They live in a compact, spherical nest (drey), 30-60cm in diameter, with an outer frame of twigs, with dry leaves and grass moss and animal fur inside, normally built in the fork of a tree at a height of 2-15 metres from the ground.
It is also common for them to nest in roof-spaces of houses and if here the nest is often formed from insulation material. They are diurnal, active from before sunrise to after sunset. The peak of activity is in the autumn. Their range covers 2-10 hectares.
Females produce a litter of usually three young in the spring or late summer (or occasionally both), after a gestation period of 42-45 days. The average litter size is 3 or 4 and the young are weaned after 10 weeks and are independent at 16 weeks.
Although the squirrel is omnivorous the diet is mainly vegetarian, eating the seeds of most broad-leaved and coniferous trees, they feed on acorns, tree shoots, flowers, nuts, fruits, roots and cereals. They bury surplus food 2-5cm below the soil or in tree hollows.
When available birds eggs, young nestlings, grain, fungi, buds and young shoots and the inner bark layers on trees are also eaten. They feed at ground level, more so than red squirrels, and together with their ability to digest acorns, (which red squirrels cannot digest), they have tended to displace red squirrels in areas of woodland where the two have come into contact.
The most common damage caused by grey squirrels is the gnawing of tree bark, which occurs mainly during the months of May, June and July.
Squirrels will also cause damage by robbing birds’ nests, taking fruit in gardens, digging holes in lawns, uprooting of bulbs and also causing damage to electrical wiring and insulating material when they gain access into attics and roof-spaces.
We use traps or cages to capture squirrels and then take them away. It should be noted that during certain times of the year we may not treat for squirrels as they have young and these will be distressed and may suffer if the parents are captured.
Squirrels most commonly gain access to roof-spaces by way of overhanging branches from trees and/or a missing or displaced roofing slate or tile. If overhanging branches are to blame, they should be cut back to a reasonable length from the building.
Missing roofing slates or tiles should be replaced, but first make sure that the squirrels are out of the roof-space.
If you have a suspected problem with squirrels ask us how we can help…
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