Expert View: Alastair Woodgate, Rumball Sedgwick

Alastair Woodgate, Rumball Sedgwick

Alastair Woodgate, Rumball Sedgwick - Credit: Archant

Alastair Woodgate of leading local chartered surveyors, Rumball Sedgwick, with offices in St Albans and Watford, considers the fate of the grey squirrel...

“If you come round to our house you’ll hear the patter of tiny feet” said one of my clients. But the new arrivals weren’t what I had expected: “We’ve got squirrels in our loft” he said. He went on to say that he wanted them removed, but not killed. So, I contacted a pest controller who gave me some sober advice: “I am afraid there is no disguising the fact that this will involve the humane dispatch of the squirrels concerned. This is not a matter of choice - this is a matter of law.”

Although grey squirrels look quite cute they are destructive: they are, apparently, a major contributor to song bird destruction and, as I know from various property inspections, they can present a significant risk to houses internally - as voracious gnawing creatures they can eat their way through timbers, electric cables and the like, leading to a potential fire hazard.

Even though they have been commonplace in our towns and gardens for many years, the grey squirrel is still regarded as an invasive non-native species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. As such it is regarded as a pest and is afforded no protection. By contrast, the red squirrel is a protected species in the UK and it is an offence to intentionally kill or injure a red squirrel or damage or destroy any place a red squirrel uses for shelter or protection.

So although my client wanted to know the squirrels in his loft would be released into the countryside, the advice was that this could not be done: 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. To do otherwise could be committing an offence. So my client was, understandably, left feeling very uneasy.

So the best advice I can give is if you don’t want to hear the patter of squirrels’ feet in your loft check that it is in sound condition and that there are no holes or potential access points around the eaves and soffits through which the grey squirrel could gain entry. But don’t block up the air vents: a lack of ventilation in your roof could lead to mould growth or wood rot!

For property advice contact Alastair on 01727 852385 or at