Items you will need:
1 x Fenn Mark4 trap
1 x Mesh tunnel or mesh safety cage
1 x length of wire (optional)
1 x indicator (optional)
1 x jar crunchy peanut butter
The grey squirrel is an invasive species from North America and consequently are officially classified as vermin. You are therefore legally entitled to cull them- provided you observe the correct practices. You must use an approved spring trap that is placed in a tunnel or safety cage. Should you use a humane trap and catch a live squirrel, it is illegal to release it back into the wild. Under the law you must despatch it humanely e.g. by shooting. You cannot drown it as this is deemed inhumane. This being the case, the Mark4 steel spring trap is the best solution – effective, efficient and legal.
All things considered, the best correct way is to use a Fenn Mark4 trap and an approved mesh tunnel or cage from the Trap Barn. This way it’s pretty much guaranteed 100% successful kill rate. The idea behind the tunnel or cage is to prevent non target species like birds, cats or hedgehogs getting injured.
Don’t feel bad about it because the grey has displaced the red squirrel from virtually all of England except the Isle of Wight and Anglesey. In Scotland the red is now only found in the Highlands. The grey is aggressive and larger than the red but also it is a carrier of squirrel pox to which it is immune. The red squirrel sadly is not immune and dies as a result of this disease.
The greys have recently appeared in northern Italy so it is only a matter of time before they spread throughout Europe. The good news is that grey squirrels are greedy and amazingly unintelligent. Hence they are very easy to trap.
The best time of year for trapping grey squirrels is between March and September, when their natural food is scarce. During autumn the availability of nuts, berries, fruits and cones significantly reduces the likelihood of trapping grey’s, with foraging activity tending to be limited on cold winter days.
Over the space of a few days, carefully observe the habits of the grey squirrels in terms of which direction they are coming from and which their preferred routes are. Are they coming to a favourite food source such as a bird feeder.
You may notice that they almost always move through the trees or along the top of wall and wooden fences. They do not feel too happy being on the ground unless it is the only way to approach a food source.
The most common approach is to place your tunnel horizontally on the top of a fence or wall. You might even use a suitable branch on a tree. Screw the cage to the surface using the speed clips that you get from the Trap Barn when you buy a cage or tunnel. Just nail or screw the clips to the surface.
Sometimes it is useful to lay a plank between a tree and a food source. Place your tunnel on the plank and you will benefit fro channeling the squirrels in that direction. This is called rail trapping.
With a mesh cage you can attach this directly to the vertical trunk if the tree –again using the clips. In this case, the single entrance to the cage is facing upwards so the squirrel enters the cage from above and triggers the trap.
Baiting the trap
Squirrels just love peanut butter and so are attracted to it and because they have a keen sense of smell, they can detect its smell from quite some distance.
You can exploit this by making occasional dabs of peanut butter in probable approaches to your tunnel. Just a small thin smear as you don’t want to feed them full. I find the crunchy variety works best as it keeps its smell longer.
On the trap just smear a small quantity on the treadle plate. Do so before setting the trap.
Setting the trap:
Set the trap and make sure the safety catch is placed correctly to stop the trap firing if it is inadvertently triggered. Holding the trap in a horizontal position, place it in the tunnel. Only when it is correctly positioned then flick the safety catch off with a small stick.
By law you must check your traps at least one a day.
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Grey squirrels breed twice a year, December to February and May to June. The first litter is born in February to March, the second in June to July. There are normally two to six young in each litter. The gestation period is about 44 days. The young are weaned at 7 weeks and leave the nest after 10 weeks.
They build a large, untidy looking nest, or drey, in the treetops or hollow tree trunks. The drey is usually lined with moss, thistledown, dried grass, and feathers.
The alien grey squirrel has been so successful in displacing its native cousin partly because it is bigger and stronger, able to find more food and store more fat in its body for winter. This allows it to out-compete the red squirrel, which has lower survival and breeding rates. A second reason is the Parapoxvirus, which causes a fatal infection in red squirrels. Grey squirrels are not affected, but act as carriers, spreading the virus to red squirrels in the vicinity.
Squirrels collect nuts and seeds in the autumn and bury them in many scattered hiding places or “caches” around the wood. They have a highly-developed spatial memory and acute sense of smell, which together aid them in finding the caches even weeks or months later. Even so, many caches remain uneaten each year allowing the seeds and nuts to grow, so helping to disperse the trees through the woodland.
Greys are more omnivorous, often taking eggs and young birds from nests. Red squirrels are entirely herbivorous.
Both species of squirrel are preyed upon by pine martens and birds of prey, particularly goshawks: but cars are almost certainly the commonest cause of death in Britain.
Contrary to popular belief, squirrels don’t hibernate but may remain in their dreys for several days when the weather is particularly cold.
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