As the nights draw in and the temperature drops we often see more grey squirrels. It’s not because there’s been a sudden population boom or more squirrels have moved into your area; it’s because the behavior of the grey squirrel changes as autumn arrives.
As winter sets in the amount of natural food available dramatically reduces. Some species hibernate through the winter to avoid the risk of running out of food such as Dormice. However, squirrels don’t hibernate although it’s often assumed that they do. Squirrels are capable of a few days of deep sleep when the weather is bad but they can’t last without food. This is where storing food comes into play. During the autumn squirrels will collect as much food as they can and bury it in multiple locations in the ground. This allows them to come back in the winter and dig up a meal without wasting energy looking for food that might not be there.
This is great for the squirrel but it’s not great for your well kept lawn, especially when a single squirrel is capable of burying 3000 nuts a year! Although squirrels are great at finding their stores they can also forget or the food could be stolen so the squirrel could dig multiple holes looking for their nut.
Another reason you may see a squirrel digging up your garden is to get at bulbs. Squirrels love to eat bulbs and they have a particular appetite for tulip and crocus bulbs. Other than trapping or shooting the only way to keep squirrels off of spring bulbs is to use a net or cage that can’t be chewed. However, a net won’t be cheap and it won’t look pretty.
If you have a high number of squirrels in your garden then it may be worth planting other species until the squirrel numbers are reduced.
If squirrels aren’t burying food in your lawn then it’s likely they’re digging it up. They will do this throughout the winter when they are finding their stores that they buried in the autumn. squirrels are normally very good at finding the exact spot that they buried something, but sometimes they get it wrong and will dig multiple holes looking for a lost nut.
It can be extremely frustrating to see all of your hard work in the garden ruined by squirrels. Unfortunately, without lethal control the problem won’t get any better; especially if your lawn is being dug up.
There are however a couple of methods you can use to prevent squirrels from digging up your bulbs. For example, laying chicken wire on top of your bulbs before they emerge. This will allow the plants to grow through the wire and stop the squirrels from digging. Another method would be to place a wire cage over the bulbs and remove it once they have emerged.
If you choose to go down the route of lethal control, then always remember that dispatching an animal shouldn’t be taken lightly. You should always use the most humane method possible.