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Squirrels
Young grey squirrel
Young grey squirrel
Grey Squirrel: Sciurus carolinensis

Size of adult: 25-30 cm (10-12in) over head and body; 20-22 (8-9in) along tail. Weighs about 500g (17oz), females slightly less.

Breeding season:
Jan-July

Gestation period: 42-45 days

No. of young: Averages 3, rages 1-7

Lifespan: Known to live 8-9 years, but less than 1% reach more than 6 years.

Food: bark of oak, beech; acorns, nuts, fungi

Predators: birds of prey; wildcat; casual hunters - stoat, pine marten, fox; man, traffic.

Distribution: Throughout England and Wales where there are trees; lowland Scotland and central counties of Ireland

Grey Squirrels at Glasgow Zoopark

A Brush with the Grey Squirrels

Grey squirrels appear to be everywhere just now, as the young find their feet and become independent.
The species was introduced from America, to the Cheshire countryside, in 1876.
The first in Scotland was in 1892, when a pair was liberated at Finnart, on Loch Long.
By 1912 their descendants had spread as far south as Alexandria and, by 1915,to Drymen.
In the east, the introduction of grey squirrels to Edinburgh Zoo in 1913 resulted in a number of escapes and their eventual naturalisation.
By the mid-1950s, their descendants had spread through Fife and northwards into Perthshire.
Today, wherever the grey squirrel is not found, it is usually because of some natural barrier - such as a lengthy expanse of treeless moorland preventing their immigration.

Breeding

Grey squirrels usually breed twice a year, the first litter being born between January and April, and the second from June to August, after a gestation period of 30-40 days. Between 3 and 5 young are produced each time and small ones in the later autumn (fall)/early winter are very likely to be of the later litter. Like any other rodent though, shortage of food (high population densities for the available food) can cause " runty ", smaller individuals to be produced.


Nesting Boxes for Squirrels

For all those readers troubled by grey squirrels nesting in their attics -stop fighting it.
Around May time, most squirrels have babies in the nest, so no matter how much noise they are making, it is wrong to block off the entrance, trapping the adults either in or out.
Why not make, or invest in, a grey squirrel nesting box? This is a box identical to a cockatiel nesting box, which can be purchased from most large pet stores.
Fill two thirds of it with hay and fix it securely high up under the eaves or against the chimney breast, or in a tree.
In next to no time the squirrels will move in. At this point you can fill in the entry hole to your attic once and for all.
Nearly everyone with a garden puts up a blue tit nesting box, so why not a squirrel box? The box is just the same, only bigger and a lot more fun. ANOTHER way to encourage wildlife into the garden is to invest in a bird box.

Most of the conventional boxes with the small round holes in the sides are designed for Blue Tits .
Blue Tits synchronise their breeding about Maytime.
Right across Britain and Europe, they all lay at the same time and hatch at the same time.

Another option would be to put a large parakeet nesting box,filled with hay or dry grass, under the eves, or up a tree, to give local grey squirrels something to live in.

If you have trouble with them trying to get into your loftspace, this will provide them with an alternative and they shouldn't be such a nuisance.
Don't worry about plagues of squirrels homing in on your house, because these creatures regulate their own numbers naturally to one resident pair and their latest litter of offspring.

Once the young can support themselves, they are routinely driven away.
Some people believe that grey squirrels are a pest, but if you can position your box so you can see them from the, living room, they soon become an absolute delight.


Gardeners Versus Squirrels

As I was driving my car in December 1998, I tuned into the entertaining Beechgrove Garden Potting Shed - the flagship gardening programme of the BBC. And I was distressed to hear all the experts united in recommending virtual war on the grey squirrels in a listener's Edinburgh garden as they shared tales of damage all over Scotland. Dark hints surfaced about taking imaginary aim at grey squirrels.

Might I make a plea for a little bit of lateral thinking on behalf of the grey squirrel? Instead of fighting them, why don't gardeners deflect them by putting out food in such ample quantities that damage to the rest of the garden is reduced?

Wiping them out or catching them and taking them to the vet to be put down is not really an acceptable option in suburbia these days.

Most people don't realise what a parlous time grey squirrels have to endure. They assume, quite wrongly, that they live the life of Reilly at our expense, eating everything in sight.

In fact, during July, many grey squirrels starve to death - before the autumn harvest of nuts and fruit can start.

Severe damage to shoots and bark tends to take place when these animals are absolutely ravenous.

Killing them is just creating a vacuum to be filled by surplus squirrels from other nearby areas.

If you are worried about them moving into your loft space and chewing your electric wiring, make sure they can't get in and also put up a large nest box - e.g. a parakeet box, as sold in any large pet store - and fill this with hay.

Don't worry about what to feed them on. They'll eat almost anything you eat, ranging from bacon rind to Christmas nuts.

Put up their own squirrel table and make gaining access as difficult as the Krypton Factor. If the table is situated not too far from the living room window, you can have a great time comparing the relative IQs of the different squirrels in your district.

Squirrels Don't Make Good Pets

Making wild animals tame by keeping them as pets when babies can sometimes turn into a problem. I have seen a number of baby grey squirrels recently being hand-reared as pets .
There is no denying they are adorable when very young, but if they have lost all fear of humans they can become very aggressive and quite dangerous.