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CONTROL OF GREY SQUIRRELS
BEFORE CONSIDERING TRAPPING GREY SQUIRRELS MAKE SURE YOU ARE AWARE OF THE LEGAL IMPLICATIONS!
• Kill traps and poison must not be used to control grey squirrels in areas where red squirrels may be present, as it is an offence to intentionally kill or injure a red squirrel.
• It is an offence to release a grey squirrel into the wild, and therefore any grey squirrels trapped must be destroyed humanely.
• Traps must be checked at least twice a day, and any trapped red squirrels released immediately.


Different Methods Of Controlling Grey Squirrels
Research comparing the effectiveness of shooting and cage trapping shows that cage trapping (live trapping) is a more successful method of controlling grey squirrels within an area. Spring trapping (kill trapping), drey-poking and poisoning cannot be guaranteed to specifically target grey squirrels, and should never be used where there is the slightest possibility of red squirrels being present. For this reason, the use of Warfarin for grey control is prohibited in much of Scotland, including the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. Single-catch traps are preferable to multi-catch traps in areas where grey squirrels are present in low numbers, and there may be an increased risk of accidentally trapping a red squirrel. All cage traps should have either branch wood or black plastic sheeting covering the trap, to provide some protection from the elements and minimise the stress placed on any trapped animal.


Siteing Traps
The success of any trapping operation depends on the ability to find sites for the traps that grey squirrels will visit regularly to feed. The best sites are invariably under a large broad leaved tree (eg oak, beech) and where the ground is free of vegetation

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Setting and Pre-Baiting
At the chosen site, level an area of ground where you want to place a trap. Lay the trap so that the wire mesh floor of the trap is flush with the ground. If possible, use a metal ‘bait tray’ attached to the bottom of the trap, to minimise the loss of bait to mice. Secure the trap by staking or pegging it down, and leave the trap with the door held open. At this stage the trap should be open but not set. Put two handfuls of yellow whole maize in the main body of the trap, and scatter several handfuls on the ground around the trap. Cover or wrap the trap with black plastic so that it is windproof, rainproof and dark inside. Secure the plastic with brashings, branches and/or stones, and camouflage the top, if necessary, with more branch wood. After two days, place more maize inside the trap and around the entrance. If the germ of any of the maize grains have been eaten out, it indicates that squirrels have visited the trap site.


Catching
After a further two days, set the trap. Check that the release mechanism is working, and place a few kernels of maize at the back of the trap and at the entrance. Re-cover the trap. Once a trap has been set, it must be visited twice every day, ideally 2 or 3 hours after dawn and again just before dark.
When you check the trap, remove the trap covering and immediately release any accidentally trapped red squirrels. Remove and despatch humanely any grey squirrels. Contact Squirrel Action Greenhead & Gilsland for advice regarding humane despatch.
N.B. The trap should be disinfected before being taken to a different area to prevent the transmission of Squirrel pox virus.
Re-set the trap by replacing maize inside the trap, checking the trap door release mechanism and setting the trap. Replace the trap covering. If there are no captive animals present in the trap, check for holes in the trap and that the trap mechanism is working properly. Again, check for signs that squirrels have been taking the bait. After 4 to 5 days of trapping in an area, if no grey squirrels are being caught, remove the trap and if necessary re-site it elsewhere and repeat the procedure.


Dispatching
Dispatching of the grey squirrel must be carried out humanely. The preferred method is by shooting using an air rifle or other suitable gun. A rifle allows the grey to be shot while the still confined in the trap reducing the risk of the trapper being scratched or bitten. We have found that by using wooden combs made to fit the holes in the cage we can move the squirrel to the closed end of the cage and confine it there. This allows a more accurate shot to be taken to the head. By using the combs in the same same way, any other occupant of the trap can be safely confined whilst the door is opened to release them.

 

Wooden combs/forks
We used 8mm plywood with the prongs pointed and long enough to protrude through the bottom of the trap. Each comb having a six inch handle (it resemble a small garden fork). Using two combs we persuade the squirrel to move along the trap. The second comb is placed between the first comb and the squirrel as soon as possible. Repeating until the squirrel is held at the far end of the trap. The free comb is then used from the side cornering the grey securely but with out harm.

Timing
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 greys, with foraging activity tending to be limited on cold winter days.

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©SAGG C Kippax 2007