The story of squirrels
With autumn in the air, the garden is rich in the fiery hues of the seasonal foliage. The hedges are full of berries and nuts and local squirrels are taking the opportunity to hoard whatever food they can to see them over the winter months when food is scarce.
Squirrels are a clever bunch, with grey squirrels in particular being agile, intelligent and canny. A successful species this mammal meets with mixed feelings with gardeners. While some gardeners are impressed with their adaptability and acrobatics others admonish them for stealing bird food and wolfing down fat balls in little time.
It’s not just bird food that squirrels are reported to feed on either; they have a habit of digging up flower bulbs too. Daffodil and tulip bulbs are high in energy and starch which squirrels can get a good meal out of. Good for their survival rates but not so good for gardeners looking forward to next year’s spring displays.
Where did grey squirrels come from?
The grey squirrel (Scurius carolinensis) was introduced to the UK in the 1800s from the United States as owners of big estates wanted to show off the latest, fashionable and exotic animal on their land.
Larger than the UK native red squirrel (Scurius vulgaris) and twice as heavy it didn’t take long before the grey squirrel dominated the niche that native red squirrels enjoyed for centuries. Grey squirrels are now wide-spread in the UK whereas red squirrels occur in isolated pockets of the UK including the island of Anglesey, the Isle of Wight, the Scottish Highlands and parts of Northern Ireland.
It’s not all bad….
While grey squirrels have a penchant for bird food and flower bulbs these omnivorous mammals will get their protein sources from insects including plant-munching caterpillars and slugs – much to the good news of gardeners, especially in the springtime.
Grey squirrels are entertaining too; there is a lot of footage of these intrepid mammals succeeding even the most elaborate of assault courses to get to a food source. Their skills are admittedly admirable.
Is there any way of deterring squirrels without hurting them?
Yes. You can put out bird food on a bird station that birds enjoy, yet squirrels cannot tolerate. So what is the magic ingredient that birds can feed on and which squirrels simply can’t? The answer is – Chilli.
Peckish Squirrel Proof Bird Food contains this squirrel-proof ingredient in beak-size suet pellets. The chilli goes undetected by birds but is far too hot for squirrels, meaning they stay away, which in turn frees the bird station for the feathered favourites you want to see in your garden.
High in energy this bird food is great for garden birds in a cold winter or during the breeding season when parent birds need to keep their energy levels up, searching for food all day long to give their young.
Enriched with Calvita (unique to Peckish), Peckish Squirrel Proof Bird Food contains calcium which promotes strong bone and feather growth. Garden birds need to have a thick layer of downy, insulating feathers to maintain body heat through cold nights in winter.
Containing carotenoids and essential vitamins too, birds get building blocks needed for strong beaks, and colour intensity in feathers; needed for courting and the breeding season. Carotenoids also protect bird feathers from sunlight damage.
I don’t mind seeing squirrels in the garden. But how can I keep the squirrels separate?
If you are ambivalent to grey squirrels visiting your garden there are methods to keep all the wildlife in your garden happy and living harmoniously. Grey squirrels need not rule the roost in your garden, keeping small birds away; you simply need to feed them separately so they have their own food supply, kept away from the bird station.
If you want to care for and protect grey squirrels we recommend that you feed them with their own feeders and with a feed suitable for squirrels. Look to setting up squirrel stations at least 10m away from bird stations to keep the species segregated.
And how do I keep the squirrels off my newly-planted spring bulbs?
There are plenty of grates that you can purchase to put over containers that keep squirrels from helping themselves to your ornamental bulbs. We recommend that you choose a grate with 1cm or less (½ inch) squares. Once your bulbs start to shoot from mid-winter you can then take off the grates if you wish.