Keeping grey squirrels out of your garden

Some people consider grey squirrels a problem and don't want them in their garden. The kindest way to keep them out or encourage them to leave is simply to make your garden an unsuitable habitat for them.

Addressing the reason they're attracted to your garden, and removing access points to places such as roof cavities, will stop problems arising in the first place or recurring. 

Here's what you can do to discourage squirrels in a kind and humane way.

How to keep grey squirrels out of your garden

Grey squirrels are attracted to areas like gardens that have access to food and shelter. To discourage them, try to reduce the food available to them. Changes you can make in your garden are:

  • Use squirrel-resistant bird feeders rather than putting out loose food.
  • Cover bulbs with a wire mesh to allow the plants to grow and stop squirrels digging them up.

If you're having problems with grey squirrels burying food in your lawn, don't put out nuts and other hard foods for birds or squirrels.

Moving grey squirrels out of your garden

It's illegal to relocate grey squirrels under The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019 and Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as they're a non-native species.

Relocated squirrels can also have difficulty settling into an established population and may either die or keep travelling. In suburban areas, a displaced squirrel is more likely to be killed by a car, a dog or a cat.

Releasing grey squirrels into areas where red squirrels live could also harm the red squirrel population.

Removing a tree or branches containing squirrel nests

If the nest isn't being used then you can remove the tree. Check to ensure there aren't any baby squirrels in the nest before removing the tree or any branches that could affect the nest.

If the nest is being used, but the tree or branch is dangerous and must be removed, we'd recommend carefully removing any young and following our advice on how to reunite them with their mother. You should only do this if the branch or tree is causing a serious health and safety risk, as any baby squirrels not reunited with their mum will sadly have to be put down under the new legislation.

How to stop squirrels nesting on your roof

Keep squirrels out of your roof by:

  • Repairing any roof damage - keep the eaves, soffits and the rest of the roof of your house in good repair to stop squirrels accessing it. Cut back any branches that overhang the roof, as these could provide the squirrels with easy access to your home.
  • Blocking access points - these should be blocked with strong wire mesh (like weldmesh or hexagonal mesh of 16 gauge and no more than 25-millimetre size mesh).

Garden centres or hardware stores may also sell an approved animal repellent for squirrels.

What to do if you have squirrels living in your loft

If you have squirrels living in your loft, try to find out whether the squirrel has built a nest and is rearing young. Do this without disturbing them.

If you find baby squirrels

Because the new invasive alien species legislation forbids the rehabilitation and release of grey squirrels, if you remove young squirrels that can't be reunited with their mother, the only option is for them to be put down. If there are baby squirrels in your loft, you should therefore wait until they've left the nest (around 10-12 weeks old).

Wait until the whole family is safely able to survive outside - look for signs like seeing the young foraging for food outside for two to three weeks.

If you're unable to wait for the young to leave the nest, you'll need to reunite any dependent young with their mother.

If there's no squirrel nest in your loft

If there's no nest, make sure the squirrel is outside before blocking access. The best times to do this are mid-morning and mid-afternoon, when grey squirrels tend to be out foraging.
In autumn, it's best to get squirrels out as soon as possible in order to encourage them to prepare nests outside for the winter.

Killing grey squirrels for population control

In general terms, our wildlife policy is against killing or taking wildlife. In circumstances where there's a proven case for population control, we always suggest the use of non-harmful deterrents wherever possible.

Killing isn't an effective solution

Killing squirrels is unlikely to be a long-term solution, as other squirrels may quickly replace them - perhaps within as little as a month. Alternative approaches to address what's attracting them to the area, such as food and shelter, may be more effective.

Killing should only be considered if there's a serious problem and the alternative non-lethal means are ineffective or impractical. In this case, control should only be carried out legally by a professional, using methods that are precisely targeted and carried out in the most humane way possible.

Squirrel traps

It's not against the law for grey squirrels to be caught and killed, including live-catch cage traps or approved spring traps. If you're using a live-catch trap, check it several times a day and kill any captured grey squirrels humanely.

It is against the law under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to cause any unnecessary suffering to wild animals that are under human control, e.g. while caught in a trap. If you do decide to proceed with the lethal control of squirrels, we suggest you contact a reputable pest control contractor who's trained to carry out these measures legally and humanely.

Follow the links below to find out more about wildlife deterrents, grey squirrels and the laws surrounding wildlife protection in the UK.

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