Are squirrels protected?
There is often a lot of talk about squirrels being protected etc. especially red squirrels.
Red squirrels are native to the British Isles, with grey squirrels being their American cousins. They were introduced into the UK in the late 19th century and, with the decline of the red squirrel population, the grey species has not always enjoyed the best of reputations.
Many people assume- wrongly! – that the grey squirrel has been the direct cause of the decline in red squirrel numbers, thinking they attack and kill their grey cousins. This is not the case:
- Grey squirrel numbers were declining for a variety of reasons in the early part of the 20th Century in the UK; one reason was disease that decimated the population. The pox virus is carried by red squirrels but seems to have an immediate impact on the grey squirrel if they come in to contact with it
- Grey squirrels were also hunted until 1926, although there were clear signs their numbers were plummeting
- The red squirrels, despite being the same physical size as their grey cousins, have adapted far better to cold winters and lack of food; they are also heavier that grey squirrels and are seemingly more robust
It is an offence to cause any animal suffering, whether a pest or not and thus, with squirrels, it is essential you call in an expert pest controller. Red Squirrels are 100% protected by legislation so we cannot offer services for them, however we do regularly treat the Grey Squirrel as it is not protected like the red squirrel.
Under the Countryside and Wildlife Act 1982, it is an offence to release grey squirrels in to the wild; the Animal Welfare Act 2006 is the legal provision for making sure that any person who traps a squirrel is only responsible for that animal, and not any young that are in the wild. However, inhumanely trap a squirrel and its young in the loft space, and you are committing an offence.
Knowing you have squirrels
Squirrels are a rodents and there are many species across the world. They breed twice a year – in late spring and late summer – with their young being born naked, toothless and blind. They commonly have litters between 3 and 6 young, although some squirrels will produce just one. They are weaned by 10 weeks and sexually mature by the end of their first year.
Like all other rodents, squirrels gnaw and this is one of the reasons why getting rid of squirrels from a property is essential! Gnawing anything from electrical cabling to wood, squirrels in the attic can leave you with some serious damage to repair:
- Gnawing through electrical cabling presents a potential fire hazard; squirrels can also be electrocuted which can mean a decaying squirrel in the attic can attract other pests, such as flies, as well as causing an unpleasant smell
- Squirrels allowed to gnaw for long periods of time in attics and buildings can also compromise the integral strength of some important weight-bearing structures and beams
As well as seeing squirrels dart in and out of holes in the roof or other areas, you will also realise you have a squirrel in a building as they are noisy. With decent sized claws for hooking into and climbing tree trunks, they make a lot of noise as they scrabble about the loft!
There are various ways to control and eradicate squirrels, depending on their location but, these methods are best used by a professional so that you do not find yourself on the wrong side of the law…
- On woodland and rural locations, in winter when there are no leaves on the trees, there is a case for shooting squirrels. However, this is a ‘drop in the ocean’ type of approach, taking up to 4 people to safely complete and also means that come the spring, other grey squirrels will move in to the area. For obvious reasons, this is not suitable in urban or populated areas and must not be carried out unless licenced to own, carry and discharge a firearm
- Trapping is the most common method in terms of getting rid of squirrels in buildings; in many cases these are live traps so that anything that is not the target can be released if necessary. Trapped squirrels are then humanely dispatched
- Grey squirrels can also be poisoned between 15 March and 15 August with warfarin. However, this is a method that is only available to use by pest controllers.
A professional pest control company will offer a comprehensive service that will not only include the identification of the problem, but also how squirrels were gaining access to a property. Once the route in is identified, it can be sealed, preventing any further problems. Squirrels can be squeezed in through the smallest of holes, big enough to accommodate their head so they can be hard to spot!
Do you have squirrel problem in West London?
If you think you have squirrels in your property or, the population in the woodland on your property is causing untold damage, then seeking the professional help of a pest controller is the safest and most effective way forward.