Squirrels: Friend or Foe?

Grey squirrels

Did you know that Grey squirrels are not a native species to the British Isles?

They were introduced to the UK in the late nineteenth century and have displaced the native red squirrel as the dominant species. It is estimated that there are only 140,000 red squirrels left in the UK.

Grey squirrels are larger and have a more varied diet than the red squirrel, allowing them to outcompete our native species.

Squirrels in the garden

Red squirrels are shy animals with specialised diets preferring to remain in the trees, meaning they are unlikely to visit gardens. Grey squirrels, however, have adapted to urban living and their opportunist eating habits and willingness to spend time on the ground brings them in contact with humans on a regular basis.

They will eat all sorts of plant material, including buds, catkins, flowers and stems. They also strip bark from trees and bury seeds and nuts digging numerous holes in borders and beds. Both red and grey squirrels also enjoy much of the food put out for wild birds and they can be quite destructive, chewing though plastic and metal feeders to get to the seeds and nuts inside.

Despite occasional minor inconveniences, squirrels don’t pose a serious threat to gardens. Unfortunately however, the only real benefit they bring to gardens is a certain entertainment value.

Squirrels are intelligent and playful animals. Grey squirrels certainly aren’t shy either, and are seemingly at ease in full view of humans, providing a fascinating insight into their way of life.

If you want to bring these delightfully entertaining animals to your garden, whilst minimising their impact on your garden area, Earnshaws’ resident squirrel expert has four top tips for you:

  • Don’t let squirrels see where the food is stored. They are determined and capable of chewing through doors and roofs to access the food.
  • To protect bird feeders from damage and the food inside, you can apply baffles and fit cages or purchase purpose-built squirrel-proof feeders.
  • Coat bird food with chilli powder and sauce! This will deter squirrels from eating the food but birds will continue to consume it without hesitation as the chilli is tasteless to them.
  • A designated squirrel feeder in a quiet corner of the garden can help keep them out of the birdfeeders, flowerbeds and vegetable plots.

Posted by Earnshaws on 30-Sep-2014