Fluffy Friends, or Do Squirrels Drive You Nuts?

The grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinenis) was introduced to regions of the UK during 1876-1930. Today, they are considered to be one of the most recognisable British mammal species; however their presence in the UK is often a source of controversy. Not only are grey squirrels accused of displacing native red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) and causing damage to ancient woodlands, their increasing habituation to humans means that grey squirrel numbers are also high in urban areas. As a result, squirrel-generated damage is now a problem facing many UK residents.

Across the UK, squirrels are estimated to nest in around 50,000 homes, causing around £20 million of damage. Able to give birth to up to six babies at a time, a squirrel infestation can rapidly grow out of control. It can especially become an issue during winter months, when many seek to dwell in the warm and dry spaces that human homes provide, such as in lofts or sheds. This can result in serious damage to properties.

Paul Bates of Cleankill Pest Control suggests that the damage can include contamination to water tanks via droppings, house fires caused by chewing on electrical wires, gnawing through roof supports, flooding due to biting through water pipes and more. He indicates that to prevent invasion, residents should ensure any holes in buildings are blocked, such as at the edge of tiles, and that trees are kept as far away from the property as possible, to inhibit squirrels gaining access. Squirrels can fit into very small holes so being thorough is important, however be careful not to trap any squirrels inside as this will put you in breach of wildlife protection legislation. It is also suggested that chilli powder may act as a deterrent, so placing this around any potential entrances to a property could prove useful, as could installing sonic repellents designed to encourage squirrels to leave. These can be bought cheaply in some DIY stores or online. An indicator that squirrels are living in your home can include hearing movements or seeing squirrels on your roof carrying materials such as grass or newspaper for nest building.

Another issue facing those who have experienced damage caused by grey squirrels is that most insurance companies do not cover infestations; dealing with squirrels or the destruction they have wrought can be costly and complicated. One notable instance of squirrel damage is the destruction wrought on Glen and Laura Borner’s £400,000 home in Hertfordshire. The property burnt down as a result of squirrels chewing through electric wiring in the loft.

The opinion on squirrels divides many inhabitants of the UK- where some consider them to be a cute and fluffy representative of modern-day British wildlife, others consider them to be a costly pest that can cause huge amounts of damage. So what do you think, are squirrels a fluffy friend to us? Or does their destructive nature drive you ‘nuts’?

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