Interview with a Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
It’s early spring and the phone at LANDGUARD Ltd is beginning to ring as our customers call reporting big bangs and other dramatic sounds emanating from their loft spaces. Unfortunately, at this time of year the culprit often turns out to be a grey squirrel, a pest that can cause great upset and strife with their loud habits and fondness for chewing electrical cables.
It’s important to catch these squirrels before they breed or you may risk having an ongoing problem, with young returning to ‘their’ home year after year. But what’s actually going on? To find out we’ve got hold of a grey squirrel to help us understand what the heck they’re up to!
Grey Squirrel: Not quite! We were introduced as a novelty into grand Victorian gardens – your choice, not ours. So, let’s say we were welcomed, encouraged even!
LANDGUARD: Point taken, but let’s just say your real home is in North America, and like many other non-native, invasive species you don’t quite fit into our ecosystem.
Grey Squirrel: Well, if not ‘fitting into the ecosystem’ means having no significant natural predator in the UK, well, we’re fine with that!
LANDGUARD: Hmmm, I guess that’s one reason why your numbers are completely out of control then, reaching nearly 3m individuals!
Grey Squirrel: Yes, well, that and our remarkable ability to make use of any food at our disposal from stripping tender bark in early summer to taking delicious eggs and young chicks in spring; we particularly like songbirds and ground-nesting birds too, yummy! And may I thank all those who use bird feeders, we often rely on the seed, and sometimes people even leave food out for us too!
LANDGUARD: Wow, you just get better the more we learn! Anything else you want to get off your chest!
Grey Squirrel: You’re trying to get me to talk about the disease, aren’t you?
LANDGUARD: Afraid so! The Squirrel Pox Virus you carry is fatal to our native Red Squirrels, giving them a long, lingering, and painful death. I guess that’s not your fault, but it is a major factor in their decline. How do you pass it on, anyway?
Grey Squirrel: Well, it’s certainly not intentional. We share the same feeders, so they pick up the infection there. Lucky for us we’re immune to its worse effects.
LANDGUARD: Unlucky for them though. Ok, so back to the main event. What are you doing in people’s lofts, if you’re so well adapted to the UK countryside why not just stay outside!?
Grey Squirrel: Lofts are warm, dry, and free from predation so ab-sol-utely perfect as a ‘drey’ for having our young. Plus, there’s handy seasoned timber to gnaw to maintain our teeth and tempting electrical wires too, we just love chewing ‘em!
LANDGUARD: Gulp! That’s how you guys start so many property fires then.
Grey Squirrel: (Shrugs)
LANDGUARD: Now I can see why you’ve been recognised as one of the top worst 100 invasive pest species in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)!
Grey Squirrel: I’ll get my coat. PS good luck catching me, I’m a notorious acrobat!
LANDGUARD: Lucky we know the best squirrel catcher in the area.
Grey Squirrel: Who?