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Are squirrels rodents?

Scroll or flick through any collections of UK wildlife photos and they’ll no doubt include either grey squirrels or their elusive red counterparts. With their beady eyes, big fluffy tails and inquisitive nature they’re popular creatures…but are they really always our friends?

Read on for answers to some common squirrel questions. Are squirrels rodents? When are they foe rather than friends? What can be done to control them in a way that’s both legal and ethical?

The charm and appeal of squirrels

There are two squirrel species that live in the UK. The most commonly seen in most parts is the grey squirrel – Sciurus carolinensis – which is not actually native to the UK. In some areas, the Eurasian red squirrel – Sciurus vulgaris – is seen more often.

Both species have an important role to play in our ecosystem. Their main sources of nutrients are seeds and nuts, which they will often bury for safekeeping. They don’t always remember where they’ve hidden each stash, though. As a result, these seeds and nuts are left to grow, contributing to the growth and diversity of wooded areas.

Squirrels are also a food source for certain predators, such as owls, foxes and hawks: if they weren’t around, these creatures would have to find other prey to feast on, disrupting the balance of the ecosystem.

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Signs of squirrel infestation and damage

A squirrel’s nest is called a drey, and they tend to take two different forms. Some squirrels will use existing tree cavities if they can find them – holes made by woodpeckers, for example – as they offer great shelter against poor weather. Others will nest like birds, building structures with leafy twigs. They line these with things like grass, moss, leaves and feathers for greater warmth and comfort.

Sometimes, though, squirrels can gain access to your property – and that’s when the need for squirrel pest control comes in. They can use holes they find in buildings as shelter, which means that they can sometimes end up nesting in attics and lofts. Even if they don’t nest here they can still use your attic or loft as a source of nesting materials, resulting in damage to the structure as well as to electrical wirings and property contents.

Gardeners and farmers who are wondering, “Are squirrels rodents?” will notice rodent-like behaviour when it comes to their plants. When looking for food sources, squirrel activity can result in the loss of bulbs, fruits and garden plants: it’s both infrastructure and vegetation that can be affected by their activity.

Effects of squirrels on vegetation and infrastructure

We’ve explained previously that squirrels can benefit the ecosystem by effectively helping to plant new trees. However, it’s not all good news: they can also have a negative impact on local tree populations. Grey squirrels in particular have a habit of stripping bark from trees. This removes the tree’s protective layer, causes it stress and leaves it more susceptible to infection.

They can also cause significant damage to buildings, mainly through gnawing and chewing. All they need to access a property is a hole the size of a golf ball – and if a hole isn’t quite big enough, you may find that they chew through wood, shingle, metal, soffits or fascias to gain access. Once in they may chew wires or rip up insulation to use as bedding.

As well as weakening the structure of your property, squirrels can pose a health risk. Their faeces can carry diseases like leptospirosis and salmonellosis. Piles of droppings can grow mould and fungi. What’s more, they can carry parasites like bedbugs, ticks and fleas which can put your health at risk.

All of this shows why pest control services are so important when you spot squirrel activity in and around your property.

Ethical and effective squirrel control methods

As with any pests, squirrel pest control is better undertaken as preventative measures before the problem gets too big. You could cut back trees to stop squirrels from gaining access to your roof. You could block up holes – no matter how small – that they could be tempted to use to gain access. Bear in mind, though, that squirrels are strong and persistent so this blocking will need to be secure: give us a call for advice on the most appropriate ways to squirrel-proof your property.

If squirrels have already gained access to your property they’ll need to be removed – and the best way to do this is with humane traps. Remember, though: once you’ve trapped a squirrel it’s illegal to simply release it into the wild: it must be put down in a humane way.

Unless you’re well-versed in wildlife laws and have humane squirrel disposal methods to hand, we wouldn’t recommend doing this by yourself. Find out more about our squirrel pest control services here – we’ll always choose methods that comply with legal requirements, and which are non-toxic to property occupants, including pets.

Remember, though, that red and grey squirrels must be handled differently by law.

Local regulations and wildlife protections involving squirrels

The Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 gives full protection to red squirrels. They must not be intentionally killed or injured, and their habitats must not be intentionally destroyed. Nets and other capture methods are also forbidden.

Grey squirrels are totally different. Under the same Act, they can be trapped if they are causing problems – but must not be released into the wild. Instead, they should be killed humanely without causing unnecessary suffering. A failure to do this in the right way can result in either a fine or imprisonment.

If you live in an area where red squirrels live alongside grey squirrels you must only use live traps – and must take precautions to ensure that red squirrels aren’t trapped too.

The complexity of squirrel pest control means that it’s vital that you use accredited pest control services to tackle the issue. At Pest Stop Boys we’ll not only rid you of unwanted squirrel infestations, we’ll also proof your property against them coming back.

Are squirrels rodents? Yes, but squirrel pest control is very different to that for, say, mice or rats. Give us a call to discover how Pest Stop Boys can help.