Size of adult: 25-30 cm (10-12in) over head and body;
20-22 (8-9in) along tail. Weighs about 500g (17oz), females slightly
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
Squirrels at Glasgow Zoopark
A Brush with the Grey Squirrels
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
you have trouble with them trying to get into your loftspace, this
will provide them with an alternative and they shouldn't be such
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
damage to shoots and bark tends to take place when these animals
are absolutely ravenous.
them is just creating a vacuum to be filled by surplus squirrels
from other nearby areas.
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.
worry about what to feed them on. They'll eat almost anything you
eat, ranging from bacon rind to Christmas nuts.
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.
Don't Make Good Pets
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.