Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)
The grey squirrel was introduced in Ireland in 1911. Since then it has become widespread throughout the country and is responsible for the decline in numbers of the protected native red squirrels, who contribute to biodiversity and improve our forest ecosystems. By stripping the bark grey squirrels cause extensive damage to trees, leaving them discoloured, wind snap, diseased, prone to insect and fungal attacks.
Grey Squirrels have a body length of 260mm with a tail of 215mm. They weight 550 to 750g
Grey Squirrels generally live in woodlands usually containing beech and oak. In autumn they move to hedgerows, gardens, and fields away from woods. They are active early morning and late afternoon all year.
Grey Squirrels are most active in damaging bark during the months of May to July. Primarily they cause damage to sycamore, beech and maple trees which are about 10-40 years old. In early summer they attack trees, gnawing at the main stem, seeking the sweet, sappy layers directly beneath the bark. Sometimes the tree is completely ringed and as a consequence will die.
Grey Squirrels also attack many ranges of ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables. Particularly at risk are tulip bulbs, crocus corms, sweet corn, strawberries, apples, pears, nuts, sunflower seed heads and flower buds of camellias and magnolias. They even attack and eat, eggs and the young of both songbirds and game birds.
If there is a particular area in your garden where grey squirrels sit or rest, spread strong spices such as chilli powder, cinnamon or hot sauce.
The most effective method to control grey squirrels around the house is to physically prevent entry to the roof space by blocking up gaps and entrance holes that might be used by the squirrels. Remove all food sources for the squirrel in your garden. If you use bird feeders, use squirrel-resistant feeders. Never feed a squirrel or leave food sitting outdoors.
It is permissible by law to control grey squirrels by shooting or trapping, provided this is done in a humane manner. However shooting may not be feasible in gardens for safety reasons. Under the Wildlife Act it is illegal to release non-indigenous animals into the wild, so any grey squirrels caught should be killed.