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Both being ‘townies’ born and bred, it was a source of great delight to find that we had squirrels in the trees at the end of our garden after buying our home, which adjoined a country park.
Not, sadly, the now quite rare red squirrels, but their slightly bigger American cousins, the grey squirrels. How young and foolish we were! How we loved to point the squirrels out to our children. Needless to say, this was before I qualified as a housing professional and discovered the damage these innocent-looking tree rats could do!
At this time of year, squirrels are particularly active as they accumulate their stocks to cover the winter months. That in itself does not create any problems and many people (like me) will enjoy seeing them scampering around in the garden.
But that is the magic formula – in the garden. If they get too close to the house, they may discover loft spaces, which keep them warm and provide materials for nesting. They can cause a tremendous amount of damage.
Householders need to be aware, investigate any odd noises from the loft and block any entry ways. This is what we have done and never had a problem with squirrels (though a rat in the loft still haunts me after over 30 years!).
Landlords, if your properties have trees or are close to parkland, it is worth discussing with your tenants, particularly if they have children. We all think of squirrels inhabiting trees and some may not realise that they are as likely to enjoy a 3-bed semi as any humans, if they are tempted in by easy access, or children who try to feed them.
Explain to parents that squirrels should not be encouraged. To the children, to get a close-up of a squirrel is exciting, but to the home-owner, this can lead to awkward situations. Squirrels may look cute and clean, but they are not – they will be covered in fleas. If they get into the loft, you may not be aware of the fleas until you bring the Christmas decorations down and everyone starts itching.
I would not want to suggest that grey squirrels, now regarded as vermin, should be trapped and destroyed, but they need to be kept in their right place, which is up a tree. You may be fairly laid back about squirrels and quite sure there is no way they could get into your property, but what is far more disturbing for the birdwatchers among us, is that they will take food from wherever they can find it; the advent of squirrel activity in the garden will be matched by a significant decrease of birds approaching your feeders.
Ensure feeders are very high and not accessible from nearby trees. Bird feeders on windows will not be immune from squirrels, but will allow you to see them and make the appropriate noises and scare them off; sadly, squirrels are quite tough little fellows and despite the noise, or the faces you pull, the scaring off is likely to be only temporary.
For advice on buy to let issues – General Knowledge