The UK is home to two species of squirrel; the grey squirrel and the rarer red squirrel. Identification of a squirrel may be more complicated, as coat colour is not always the best indication of species. The ears and tail are better guides for accurate recognition. Red squirrels have largely been replaced by the grey squirrel in England and Wales.
Adult red squirrels have ear tufts and a bushy tail that’s all one colour. Usually reddish-brown with a pale ‘bib’, they can appear dark or very light due to bleaching by the summer sun, when the coat can appear blonde or greyish. They are 18–22 centimetres in body length having a slender build and weigh around 275–350 grams. Red squirrels spend most of their time in trees. The red squirrel is unlikely to be found in the South.
Adult grey squirrels don’t have ear tufts and their tails have a white ‘halo’ around the edge. Their coat is predominantly grey, often having a red/brown tinge along the body and face. Grey squirrels are 25–27 centimetres in body length, have a stocky build and weigh between 400–600 grams.
Grey squirrels begin mating between December/January and May/June. Up to two litters a year per female are possible with each containing three to six young. Squirrels make a lot of noise, so an increased racket may be a sign that you have a furry visitor. You might also find twigs, leaves and torn up insulation in your loft space. Squirrels have been known to chew electric cables and roof joists causing a potentially hazardous condition. Squirrel droppings vary in shape and colour but may be spherical or more elongated. They are easily confused with those of the brown rat.
The Grey squirrel is a non-indigenous species and is not protected.The most humane method of control is the use of a kill trap. Under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and countryside Act, it is illegal to release a grey squirrel into the wild, or allow one to escape. This means if you trap one, you are obliged to humanely dispatch it. You must not let it go as this act would be illegal.