How can we deal with the squirrel problem on our shoot?

Picture: Paul Hobson

Picture: Paul Hobson - Credit: Archant

We seem to be inundated with grey squirrels and they’re causing quite a nuisance around all our pheasant hoppers, not only eating the wheat but chewing through the plastic barrels. Is there a good way to deal with them? We’re a part-time syndicate and can only really do weekends, so trapping is out of the question.

Picture: Sparsholt

Picture: Sparsholt - Credit: Archant

THE SPARSHOLT TEAM replies: Don’t rule out traps of various kinds as there are still ways that you can use them, and they will probably account for more squirrels than ad hoc shooting. Probably the best technique for grey squirrels is wooden tunnels placed on the ground close to your hopper. A Fenn Mark IV or similar trap is then placed inside the tunnel, well out of reach of any pheasants or other non-targets. The squirrels will readily enter the tunnel especially if you throw some wheat in there, too. To get around the problem of not being able to check the trap every day, leave the trap set, but with the safety catch on. That way the squirrels will get used to running over the metalwork; when you have got time to check them over the weekend, simply take the safety off – you’ll be surprised how many you’ll get.

To increase your catch rate without spending more time checking them, try setting two traps in each tunnel. The ultimate approach, though, is the multi-catch cage trap. With this run on pre-bait mode through the week and then set over the weekend you could make a real impact on your squirrel population. Don’t forget though that squirrels caught in a live catch trap must be dispatched humanely – the best way to do this is to empty them one at a time into a hessian sack (having checked first there are no holes in it). Then force the squirrel into a corner of the sack and deal it a sharp blow to the head with a blunt instrument – ideally a priest.