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Red Squirrels vs. Grey Squirrels: Which Are More Troublesome in the Attic?

Updated: Oct 1, 2023


Red Squirrel RemovalBrampton, Grey Squirrel Removal Brampton
Red Squirrel RemovalBrampton, Grey Squirrel Removal Brampton

If you are a homeowner and you've had the unfortunate experience of unwanted critters in your attic, you know how frustrating it can be.


Squirrels, in particular, are known for their ability to invade homes and cause all sorts of problems. In this article, we'll explore the difference between the European Red Squirrel and the Eastern Grey Squirrel, two common species found in many regions in eastern North America, and determine which of them is worse to have in your attic.


So let's dive in and learn more about these foot-stomping, tail-flicking, invasive species! Squirrels are fascinating creatures found in various, other terrestrial ecosystems.


They serve as a food source for birds of prey, such as red-tailed hawks. Despite being vulnerable to predator attacks, squirrels are resourceful at hiding and keeping themselves safe. With the existence of other species that occur in the ecosystem, squirrels play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of nature. Their activity helps in maintaining a healthy forest ecosystem that benefits both humans and wildlife.


Furthermore, the squirrels' ability to store food and scatter seeds contributes significantly to the survival of various plants. Indeed, these little creatures have a big impact on our environment.


European Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) and Eastern Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are two of the many distinct species of squirrels with noticeable differences. Listed below are some of the key contrasts between them.


When it comes to the question of which is worse to have in the attic, it depends on the context and personal preferences. Both species can cause issues if they gain access to your attic:

  1. European Red Squirrels(sciurus Caroline sis): If European Red Squirrels find their way into your attic, they may cause damage by chewing on wood, insulation, or electrical wiring. The red squirrel can enter through very small entry points on your roof. Additionally, they can create nests, have young, stash food and leave droppings, which may lead to hygiene concerns. Once they’re in, besides having young, they could also live inside your attic during the winter months.

  2. Eastern Grey Squirrels (sciurus carolinensis) : Eastern Grey Squirrels are the largest tree squirrel found in Eastern Canada. They are known for their ability to chew through various materials, including wood and wiring. They can cause structural damage to your attic and potentially pose a fire hazard if they gnaw on electrical wires. They, as well, can create a leaf nest inside your attic to have young.

In general, neither the eastern grey squirrel or the red squirrel is desirable to have in your attic, as they can both cause damage and create a nuisance. If you are facing issues with squirrels in your attic, it is advisable to contact a professional wildlife control service to safely and effectively handle the situation. Do not attempt to trap and relocate squirrels away from your property on your own. Yes, it’s true they are an invasive species, but you may separate a mom from her young, which can cause dire consequences for the babies and heartache for the mother. Once you have had the animals removed from your attic professionally, it may seem like the worst is over. However, to ensure you don't inadvertently entice even more furry friends into your home, it's important to take the necessary steps to protect your property. By hiring a wildlife control company to properly evict the animals and seal your roof, you are taking the necessary steps to protect your home by preventing future damage, all while ensuring that any unwanted pests won't be making a return.


Keystone Species

What are they?

A keystone species can be defined as a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its ecosystem compared to its abundance, and the red squirrel is definitely in this category. They play a crucial role in the survival of the eastern grey squirrel by maintaining the population of the tree seeds which the grey squirrels feed on. The red squirrel populations act as seed dispensers, moving the seeds from one area to another and ultimately by planting the new trees they are creating new habitats for other species. Red squirrels are a keystone species in the Coastal BC region, playing a vital role in maintaining the ecosystem's health. These charismatic rodents- distinguishable by their red tails and tail flicking- are known for their tireless work in spreading the seeds of oak trees in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, for example. This is a crucial function as oak trees play a vital role in supporting the coastal ecosystems' biodiversity. Vancouver Island, in particular, is home to a significant population of red squirrels, which shows how important they are to the region's overall health. Without red squirrels, the ecology of Coastal BC would be incomplete, highlighting the crucial role these adorable animals play in nature. Their presence is crucial to the success of various ecosystems throughout British Columbia, western North America, and Eastern Canada are providing a more diverse selection of plant life and therefore contributing to a healthier planet. Keystone species enable more plant species to occur, which in turn creates a thriving habitat for other creatures.


European Red Squirrels

Appearance and Characteristics

The red squirrel is a fascinating mammalian species that has become increasingly popular due to its charismatic appearance and unique characteristics. These squirrels are known for their vibrant red fur and distinctive tufted ears, distinguishing them from other squirrels in the region. When the weather gets colder, they switch from a thinner summer coat to a darker, thicker winter coat. Interestingly, they are about half the size of their grey squirrel cousins. However, despite their distinctiveness, the European red squirrel is unfortunately considered an invasive species in some parts of the world. In fact, in certain areas they compete with other squirrel species and have even caused declines in their numbers. The red squirrel species occur in greater numbers than most people think and the red tail cuties continue to captivate onlookers with their energetic antics and charming appearance.


Behaviour and Habits

European Red Squirrels are known for their agility and ability to adapt to various environments. They are excellent climbers and spend most of their time in trees. In the warmer months they can even make a permanent tree den in oak trees and nut trees, either within a cavity of the tree itself or they will build a nest made of leaves hanging from a branch. These squirrels are territorial and can be quite aggressive when defending their territory. They mainly eat the seeds and cones of the evergreen tree but surprisingly, their diet can also include berries, plants, mice, birds eggs, and even small birds themselves.


Damage and Impact

When European Red Squirrels invade attics, they can cause significant damage. Due to their small size, they can enter through very tiny entry points. They may chew on electrical wiring, insulation, and wooden structures, leading to potential fire hazards and structural issues. Their constant gnawing can also cause noise disturbances and disrupt the peaceful ambiance of your home. When it comes to a cost comparison of evicting them out of your house, it may cost a bit more for red squirrels due to them being about half the size of their grey squirrel relatives, and there could be numerous smaller entry points to secure on the exterior of your home. Also, though not really damaging per se, you may have a cache of nuts and acorns up in your attic, as both grey squirrels and red squirrels will store up food for later consumption. Contacting a professional wildlife control company would be the best first step.


Do Red Squirrels Hibernate

Red squirrels are a common sight in North America. However, many people wonder if they hibernate. The answer is "no," because these small rodents do not hibernate like many of their larger relatives. Instead, they stay active all year round. During the winter months, red squirrels nest in their leaf nests made of twigs and leaves. Although they may appear to be inactive, they are actually very busy, collecting and hiding food for the upcoming spring season. Unfortunately, these creatures are struggling to survive due to the introduction of other invasive species and changes in plant species that have impacted their native range. Nonetheless, the adaptable nature of adult squirrels allows them to continue to thrive in new environments. So, it's essential to learn more about these amazing animals and what we can do to preserve their natural habitat.


Eastern Grey Squirrels

Appearance and Characteristics

It’s easy to identify Eastern Grey squirrels - they are one of the more common squirrel species you'll encounter in North America, although other species do occur throughout the continent as well. Eastern Grey Squirrels are larger than European Red Squirrels, averaging about 48 cm in length. These little creatures are known for their impressive ability to climb trees and scavenge for food. However, it's important to note that they can also cause damage - they've been known to kill trees by gnawing on the bark, for example. The eastern grey squirrels are one of the very few mammalian species that can descend a tree head first. If you're interested in spotting an Eastern Grey squirrel, keep an eye out for their distinctive pale grey backs and long, bushy tails. They breed twice a year, with their breeding seasons typically falling in the spring and fall though it might be delayed in more northern latitudes. Females become sexually mature around 10 months of age, and they create their leaf nests in trees or other high, secluded areas. All in all, these squirrels are fascinating creatures to observe - whether you're watching them frolic in your backyard, using your bird feeders as a food source, or just exploring their natural habitats in the wild.


Behaviour and Habits

Eastern Grey squirrels are fascinating creatures that exhibit some interesting behaviours and habits. These animals are known for their pale grey fur that sets them apart from black squirrels in the area. They can be found in a variety of habitats, from pine forests to oak woodlands, where they rely on nut trees and bird feeders as a source of food. When it comes to their social interactions, adult squirrels tend to be solitary, although they may share space with other squirrels during harsh winters. One of the most notable behaviours of Eastern Grey squirrels is their habit of caching food, which they do by burying hickory nuts, walnuts, and pine seeds underground to access later on. These creatures can be found throughout their native range, which includes parts of North America and the southeastern United States. Eastern Grey Squirrels are highly adaptable and can thrive in various environments. They are also excellent climbers and can jump significant distances. A squirrel’s large bushy tail can act as a rudder if the animal jumps from a high place, for example - from a tree on to your roof. They are known to invade attics and chimneys during the colder months although, when it’s warm outside, they can build a nest hanging in a tree or in tree cavities.


Damage and Impact

Similar to their European counterparts, Eastern Grey Squirrels can cause extensive damage when they infiltrate attics. Their incessant chewing can damage electrical wiring, insulation, and other structural components. They can chew entry points in to roof vents, or exterior roof corners and rooflines. They can rob you of a good night’s sleep. Additionally, their nesting activities can result in debris accumulation and unpleasant odours. Do not trap and relocate Grey squirrels, do not kill squirrels either, because although they are an invasive species, there are easier and much more humane ways to evict them. Consider contacting a wildlife control professional, he or she can explain the procedure and give you a cost estimate to evict them humanely.


Comparison between European Red Squirrels and Eastern Grey Squirrels

Habitat and Distribution

European Red Squirrels are mainly found in Europe and parts of Asia, while Eastern Grey Squirrels are native to North America. However, due to human intervention, Eastern Grey Squirrels have also been introduced to various regions worldwide and have become invasive, displacing the native red squirrels. For instance, in Western Canada, the eastern grey squirrel has made its way to coastal BC, with a little help from man, and has established a habitat there. The area's rich biodiversity, which includes more plant species than other regions in western Canada, makes it an ideal habitat for these squirrels. Vancouver’s Stanley Park is considered to be one of the main habitats of the squirrels in the region. However, concerns over the invasion of the sensitive Garry oak ecosystems by the animal have been raised. The eastern Grey squirrel is one of seven mammals among the 173 invasive species there. They bite out the tips of acorns which may slow the regeneration of oak trees. They are native to Eastern North America so they are competing with native squirrels species, and birds, for habitat. They feed on bird eggs and nestlings. Despite this, these squirrels continue to thrive in the region and have attracted both human and animal enthusiasts alike.


Reproduction

Squirrels become sexually mature at roughly 10-12 months old and both squirrel species have similar reproductive patterns. The breeding seasons are twice a year, with a peak during spring and fall. Female squirrels build a leaf nest to raise their young, and attics can serve as ideal nesting sites. Wildlife removal professionals are able to seal up the entry points outside and safely remove the young by hand from the attic.


Diet and Feeding Habits

European Red Squirrels primarily feed on seeds from pine trees, bird feeder seed, nuts, fungi, fruits and berries. In contrast, Eastern Grey Squirrels have a broader diet, including acorns, tree bark, tree seeds, fruits, and even bird eggs. The diverse food preferences of Eastern Grey Squirrels can result in more extensive foraging and potential damage. Grey squirrels are also able to eat seeds and nuts that are not fully ripe, however red squirrels are not able to digest the tannins still found in unripe food, giving the eastern grey squirrel an advantage. If you have any cats or dogs and are accustomed to leaving their meals outside, it’s best to keep any pet food covered so as not to give the squirrels an additional food source. Install squirrel proof bird feeders if you like having birds visit your property.


Behaviour and Adaptability

European red squirrels are remarkable animals that demonstrate exceptional behaviour and adaptability. They have a particular preference for varied plant species, particularly those that grow in deciduous forests. Their ability to create intricate leaf nests using partially chewed leaves is also fascinating. In terms of food, they are fond of hickory nuts, sunflower and pine seeds, and they often collect and store large quantities of them for the winter months. Breeding season causes competition between several males, and the red squirrels that win their mate's favor generally have the longest red tail. As adult squirrels, they show remarkable adaptability to living in a human dominated environment, where they may thrive on tree seeds and other food sources. These adaptable creatures continue to provide an intriguing study in animal behaviour. The Eastern Grey squirrel stands out as one of the most adaptive creatures of the animal kingdom. These rodents have proven that they can be versatile in their behavior and adapt with ease in a dynamic environment. They are known for their diverse diet, feeding on plant species such as pine seeds and tree seeds. Eastern Grey squirrels are also creatures of habit, building leafy nests and even residing in permanent tree dens. Additionally, they are social animals, with several males often sharing a single territory, and adult squirrels taking care of their young. These squirrels continue to fascinate us with their remarkable behavior and the ways they successfully adapt to changing circumstances.


Red Squirrels Are Worse To Have Inside The Attic

Wildlife Control Point Of View

Smaller Size - Red squirrel holes can be harder to find and are common in the roof and walls, at ground level under decks and structures with no foundation. Red squirrels are also significantly smaller than grey squirrels so they can squeeze into roofline gaps and roof vents sometimes without even chewing holes.

Because of the fact that red squirrels store food, if they get inside an attic for an extended amount of time, it can be harder to evict them permanently with minimum protection. The red squirrels have more incentive to chew their way back into an attic to access the cache of food they’ve built up.


Customer Point Of View

Cost - The cost of evicting red squirrels and keeping them out permanently can cost more because wildlife control companies know that all vulnerable areas must be protected right from the start of the removal process and sometimes require extended exclusion measures or they won’t get involved. Homeowners might feel taken advantage of because of the higher-than-average price they get with no other option.

Noise - All squirrels in the attic are noisy but red squirrels are more prone to be in multiple levels of the house in between floors and walls. Rolling sounds are heard inside the floors and ceiling as nuts are being stored by red squirrels. They are a very invasive species.


How to Prevent Squirrel Infestations


To avoid squirrel infestations in your attic, it's important to take preventive measures. Here are some tips:

  • Seal any entry points to your attic, such as gaps, cracks, and openings.

  • Trim tree branches that are close to your roof to prevent easy access for squirrels.

  • Maintain areas on the ground around your trees and remove any acorns, hickory nuts, sunflower seeds or pine seeds that may entice them to your property.

  • Keep pet food covered up or better yet just leave indoors, and birdseed or sunflower seeds in airtight containers to minimize attractants.

  • Hang squirrel proof bird feeders if you enjoy feeding small birds in your backyard.

  • Consider installing wire mesh or other barriers over attic vents and chimneys, along any gaps in the roofline.

Conclusion

In conclusion, both the European Red Squirrel and the Eastern Grey Squirrel can be troublesome when they invade your attic. While European Red Squirrels are known for their aggression, Eastern Grey Squirrels have a larger size and a more diverse diet, potentially leading to more damage. To protect your home, it's essential to understand their behaviour, take preventive measures, and seek professional wildlife control help to get them out.


FAQs

1. Can squirrels cause structural damage to my attic?

Yes, squirrels can cause significant structural damage to attics. They chew on various materials, including electrical wiring, insulation, and wooden structures, which can lead to potential hazards and expensive repairs.

2. Are European Red Squirrels more aggressive than Eastern Grey Squirrels?

Yes, European Red Squirrels are generally more aggressive and territorial compared to Eastern Gray Squirrels. They are known to defend their territory fiercely and may exhibit confrontational behaviour.

3. How can I identify if I have a squirrel infestation in my attic?

Signs of a squirrel infestation in your attic include scratching or scurrying noises, chewed wires or insulation, droppings, and nesting materials. You may also notice a strong, unpleasant odour. Maybe you’ve seen some pale grey backs running up the outside wall of your house. You may also hear thumps on the roof if an animal jumps from a tree. All of these could indicate grey squirrels or red squirrels inside.

4. Are there any health risks associated with squirrel infestations?

Squirrel infestations can pose health risks. Squirrels may carry parasites, such as fleas and ticks, and their droppings can contain bacteria and other pathogens. It's important to handle infestations carefully and seek professional assistance.

5. What should I do if I find squirrels in my attic?

If you find squirrels in your attic, it's best to contact a professional pest control service specializing in humane wildlife removal. They have the knowledge, experience, and tools to safely and effectively handle squirrel infestations.

6. Is it ok to feed wildlife?

As much as we love to watch squirrels scurry around, it's important to remember that feeding them isn't the best idea. While unsalted peanuts, bread, popcorn, and other treats may seem like a harmless snack, they’re not actually providing the necessary sustenance they need. A lot of it is just empty calories that can be harmful to the squirrel’s health. Squirrels are scavengers by nature and they are highly skilled at finding their own food. When we give them handouts, it also encourages them to seek out human interaction instead of focusing on their natural food sources. Keep your outdoor pet food covered, and invest in squirrel-proof bird feeders. It’s not kind to feed squirrels as it can lead to overpopulation, aggression towards humans and other animals, and the animals becoming dependent on humans for food. So, let's admire them from a distance and allow them to rely on their own resourcefulness for sustenance.

7. Can I trap and relocate grey squirrels?

Grey squirrels and red squirrels outside are a beloved sight for many homeowners, as they are known for their bushy tails and playful personalities. However, when these furry critters become pests, some people jump to the conclusion that trapping and relocating them is the best solution, but unfortunately, this practice can do more harm than good. Trapped squirrels can become disoriented and may end up being released in unfamiliar areas without a proper food source or leaf nest to call home. Plus, relocating these animals can introduce invasive species to new environments and lead to the abandonment of babies left behind. In most cases, it's best to reach out to a professional wildlife control specialist who can offer humane and safe solutions.



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