Grey Squirrel Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here is a list of some of the most frequently asked questions I receive concerning the lives of grey squirrels.

  1. I have found a distressed or injured squirrel, what can I do for it? There are various good books about that provide great information about dealing with distressed or injured squirrels. One of my favourites is "Squirrels in your Garden" by Doreen King, published by Kingdom Books, ISBN 185279028-8. There are also a few web sites (see the main page).
  2. A squirrel has taken up residence in my attic, how can I get it out? Getting squirrels out of your loft and keeping them out can be quite difficult! If you manage to get them out then they can be quite determined to gnaw their way back in through whatever you use to block their original access point. So you have to make sure you make a good job of denying them access back into their old home! (Although you also have to be wary of dodgy builders who charge a small fortune to do the work!)
  3. How do I stop squirrels eating the plants in my garden? Unfortunately once squirrels get a taste for a plant in your garden they will eat it. Squirrels can be very ingenious and persistent in overcoming anything you try to protect your plants with. Just about anything short of putting a stainless steel cage around your garden will be defeated. One deterrent that has had some success in the past has been to use a pepper / spice spray such as a product called "Squirrel Away". This sometimes works for flowers, but if you sprayed this directly on herbs or other plants that you have grown to eat yourself, it would probably make them just as inedible to you as it would to the squirrels. Some people also claim that ultrasonic devices that you can buy for keeping cats out of your garden are also good at defending your garden from squirrels, but I haven't seen any proof of this. You could try feeding the squirrels an alternative such as raw peanuts in shells. This is usually partially successful. They will probably still have a go at eating your plants, but less than if you didn't feed them. There are also quite a few plants that squirrels don't like the taste of. A trial and error approach seems to work well here. Put a new plant in the garden and if the squirrels eat it, don't buy any more and if they don't eat it get some more!
  4. What do you call a group of squirrels? I was once in a quiz team at my old university and a question came up on the collective name for a group of leopards. The team from the Department of Biology instantly complained that leopards were solitary creatures and didn't live in groups! No marks for them though. You could make the same argument for squirrels. I haven't come across a recognised collective noun for squirrels, but some people claim that a drey is the correct term, though this is really just the name for a squirrel nest.
  5. What do you call baby squirrels? Apart from incredibly cute obviously. Young squirrels are usually referred to as kits, kittens or pups. Very young squirrels (before they have any real fur) are sometimes referred to as pinkies.
  6. What is the gestation period of a squirrel? Grey squirrels have a 44 day pregnancy and produce litters with an average of three youngsters. They can have two litters a year and births are usually concentrated in two periods, the first during spring in March and April and the second later on in the summer in June and July. Once the babies have been born, they start tugging at their mother's nipples and within a week or two the mother's nipples become enlarged and the fur around them gets worn away. At about seven weeks old, the young are already looking like minature versions of their parents and begin to venture out of the nest for the first time, closely on their mother's heels. After 10 weeks they begin to fend for themselves and by 14 weeks they move out of the nest and begin to live alone.
  7. How long do squirrels live? In captivity grey squirrels have been known to live for 20 years, whereas in the wild they may survive until they are 8-10 years old. Typically though, a grey squirrel survives for a much shorter time in the wild, only about 40% get past their first year, though if they do they then they tend to survive for 4-5 further years. The studies that have been carried out seem to indicate that survival rates depend on the available food supply and on the weather. If the food supply is poor and there is a bad winter with lots of snow, then the survival rates can be very low. All of this seems to be a very good argument for keeping squirrels as pets!
  8. Where do squirrels get their name from? The name squirrel comes from its latin name; Sciurus. The latin name however has Greek origins! It is derived from the Greek word skiouros, which means shade-tail. This is because when squirrels sit upright their long fluffy tail curls up behind them and shades them from the sun. The word sciurus to describe squirrels was first used by ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. The first recorded use of the English word squirrel was in the writings of St Hugh in about 1200.
  9. Where can I see some of those nice cute red squirrels? The best place I have found in England is a National Trust nature reserve near Formby, just to the north of Liverpool. Not only are there plenty of red squirrels to see, but they are also pretty tame and will come up to you and take nuts from your hand.

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