Red Vs Grey Squirrel: Pest or Protected?

Most of us have seen a squirrel on a walk through the park or maybe in our garden. Well, maybe you’ve seen a grey one, anyway. Grey squirrels were introduced into England from America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. You might think they’re cute, but don’t be fooled. Since their arrival on our shores, they have forced the native red squirrel almost into extinction.

The Red Squirrel: A Profile – An Endangered Species

Because of the introduction of the grey squirrel, disease in the species, and destruction of their habitats, red squirrels on now on the UK endangered species list.

Behaviour and Diet

Where You’ll Find Them

They live in trees, particularly Scots pine trees.


Red Squirrels are active during the day but like a rest in the afternoon. They spend a lot of time in the trees, but they come to the ground to forage for food.


Red squirrels like to eat fruits, seeds, nuts, and pine cones.

Life Cycle and Breeding

Red squirrels mate in late winter and the female will give birth to up to five babies in the spring. After 12 weeks of staying with their mothers, the young squirrels become completely independent. However, their survival depends on the amount of food that’s available.

Are They Protected?

Yes. Red Squirrels are a protected species under Schedules 5 & 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The Grey squirrel

An Invasive Species

Though they may be cute, the grey squirrel is classed as an Invasive Alien Species (IAS). It’s native to North America and causes serious problems within the UK ecosystem. This is primarily why the grey squirrel is seen as a pest and proper control is necessary.

Behaviour and Diet

Where You’ll Find Them

Grey squirrels are a common sight in woodlands, parks, and gardens. They live in nests either in a hole in a tree, or resting against the trunk and branches. If they manage to get into your home, they’ll hide out in the loft or roof space.


You’ll see grey squirrels through the day, climbing trees and leaping from branch to branch. Like the red squirrel, they come to the ground to forage for food. Grey squirrels don’t hibernate, but they are less active in the winter and can sleep for days at a time.


Grey squirrels eat acorns, hazelnuts, sweet chestnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, berries, fungi, grains, vegetables, buds and shoots, tree bark, and peanuts from bird feeders. They also aren’t averse to eating insects like caterpillars, or small rodents, and bird eggs.

Life Cycle and Breeding

Female grey squirrels have two litters yearly in the early spring and summer. Each litter can consist of between 3 and 7 babies. 7-10 weeks after they are born, the young are ready to go out into the world and be independent.

Are They Protected?

Grey squirrels have limited legal protection. Various methods including shooting and trapping can control them.

Because grey squirrels are an invasive pest species, it is illegal to release a grey squirrel into the wild if it’s been caught. Anyone who catches a grey squirrel alive has to humanely kill it.

The Red vs The Grey Squirrel

Grey squirrels greatly outnumber native red squirrels. Estimates say that there are only around 140,000 native red squirrels left in the UK, compared to 2.5 million grey squirrels. Why is this?

• Competition for food and shelter;

• Grey squirrels carry a virus called squirrel pox which is fatal to red squirrels.

Why We Need to Control Grey Squirrels

Because grey squirrels have colonised the UK in such huge numbers, they are capable of causing considerable damage. As well as being a threat to the survival of the red squirrel and other wildlife, they also pose a risk to your home, business premises, and health. Let’s look at this in more detail.

How Grey Squirrels Damage Homes and Business Premises and Your Health

• They gnaw on woodwork, electrical wires, and insulation.

• It’s not just your home you have to worry about, it’s your garden too. They’ll eat fruit, seeds, and bulbs, and dig holes in your lawn to bury their food.

• They can contaminate water tanks and loft spaces with their urine and droppings.

• They can attack humans. Even though being attacked or bitten by a squirrel is rare, they can be quite territorial when protecting their food or their young.

Can I Control Squirrels Myself?

This is where things get tricky. You could buy a trap online, but you should never use one without training. Also, a rodent trap might not be suitable for a squirrel, and remember, under the law, you have to kill a grey squirrel if you catch one. However you do this, it’s not pleasant and you could cause unnecessary suffering to the animal. If this was to happen, you could face prosecution. As far as poisons and the like go, there are no squirrel control products available to the public.

So What’s the Best Way to Get Rid of a Grey Squirrel Infestation?

The best way to get rid of a grey squirrel infestation is to call in professional pest control. Professional pest technicians will assess your property and determine what control method best suits your situation. They’ll also advise on proofing your property against further infestations.

Want to be pest-free and get your peace of mind back?

Call Contego.

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