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How much of a problem are grey squirrels?

MARTIN TICKLER says: Grey squirrels are not often positively identified as the culprits when game eggs are taken.

However, raids on the nests of song birds have been witnessed when either eggs or young are eaten. Game bird nests and small chicks are likely to be equally vulnerable.

The possible link between the decline of woodland song birds and grey squirrel predation is now the subject of Game Conservancy research, particularly as it has been suggested woodlands where pheasants are fed may hold higher stocks of grey squirrels due to the abundance of food.

Bark stripping damage to tree plantations can be very severe, particularly to sycamore and beech and to other species when favourites are not available. Damage to forestry interests is the reason Warfarin is licenced for use for the control of grey squirrels, but only between March 15 and August 15.

Typically, ‘L’ shaped bait hoppers are used to restrict access to the bait by non target species. The hopper can be pegged to the ground at the base of trees, but where badgers are plentiful the hoppers should be fixed off the ground to stop them being knocked over.

Cage traps, particularly multi-catch cages, can also be very effective, but they do require daily inspection. Spring is a good time for cage trapping when seeds and nuts are in short supply. Pre-bait with maize or peanuts (above ground level if badgers are plentiful) and prop the cage doors open so squirrels become confident feeding there. Once several squirrels are visiting the site set the trap to catch.

Two or three squirrels may be caught together and it pays to visit the traps frequently at the beginning of the campaign.

Unbaited tunnel traps also account for a lot of squirrels. Good sites are the base of large trees with the tunnel conveniently made of logs. This kind of tunnel works well against the base of the tree with only one end open.

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