Mat Manning Grey Squirrel Control
Mat Manning is a fulltime field sports journalist, author and broadcaster with more than 30 years’ hunting experience under his belt.A regular contributor to national and international print and digital titles, Mat is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on hunting with air rifles. A fieldcraft specialist who shoots mostly for the pot and pest control purposes, Mat relishes hunting opportunities that enable him to get up close and personal with his quarry.
Mat Manning explains how airgun shooters can use feeding stations to boost results on grey squirrel control.
The grey squirrel is one of the UK’s most destructive introduced species. It might look cute but this invasive rodent has contributed to the decline of our native red squirrel and costs the forestry industry millions of pounds every year through the damage it causes to trees.
The grey’s impact on the red squirrel is mostly down to the fact that it’s a bigger, more boisterous, more adaptable animal, so it can easily out-compete the vulnerable red. Greys squirrels also carry squirrel pox but are immune to this deadly disease, red squirrels are not and are therefore extremely susceptible.Quiet and precise, the airgun is a brilliant tool for grey squirrel control
Tree damage is a result of the grey squirrel’s habit of stripping bark in order to lap up the sweet sap which flows beneath. Bark-stripping causes trees to grow stunted and deformed at best, at worst it kills the tree by preventing the flow of water and nutrients between the roots and the leaves.
But the grey squirrel’s impact on wildlife extends far beyond red squirrels and trees. They prey on the eggs and chicks of songbirds, and also place other species, including dormice, at a serious disadvantage by monopolising natural food sources such as hazel nuts, beech mast and acorns.
Quiet and precise, the airgun is a brilliant tool for grey squirrel control around their woodland haunts but you need to take a systematic approach if you’re going to make a significant dent in their numbers. Although wandering among the trees and picking off the odd squirrel as you go will make a small difference, setting up a feeding station will optimise your hunting time and really boost your tallies. Get it right and bags of ten or more squirrels in a short session are on the cards for successful grey squirrel control.
My feeding stations comprise of homemade hoppers that look similar to bird boxes with an opening that spills feed into a small tray. The main factors to consider are that the hopper should have capacity to hold a decent amount of feed and be strong enough to withstand gnawing by squirrels – I use tin to enforce the area around the front to stop the outlet hole from being nibbled and to guard against pellet strikes. It’s also wise to make the feed tray quite narrow to prevent shot squirrels from getting stuck in there. I attach my feeders to trees (high enough to be out of the reach of deer) in areas that I know are frequented by squirrels – look for their dreys and focus on places where interconnecting trees give squirrels plenty of access points.shooting over a set distance at a static target, makes for very humane kills