Red squirrel

Red Squirrel

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Red squirrel

Scientific name: Sciurus vulgaris
You’ve probably seen lots of squirrels – but have you ever seen a red one? Red squirrels are native to the UK but are a lot rarer than their grey cousins! They live in a few special places across the UK thanks to reintroduction projects.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 18-24cm
Tail: 17-18cm
Weight: 100-350g
Average lifespan: 6 years

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

January to December

About

Native red squirrels are a lot rarer in the UK than their American cousins, grey squirrels. Usually found in coniferous woodland, they like to feast on hazelnuts by cracking the shell in half. If you’re lucky you may also find pine cones that have been nibbled, leaving what looks like an apple core behind! Red squirrels make a rough nest called a ‘drey’ out of twigs, leaves and strips of bark high up in the tree canopy. Males can be seen chasing females through the trees, leaping across branches and spiralling up tree trunks.

How to identify

The red squirrel has a reddish-brown coat and pale underside. It has a characteristically bushy tail. It is distinguished from the grey squirrel by its smaller size, red fur and distinctive, large ear tufts.

In our area

Red squirrels are the only true native squirrel species to Shropshire, but sadly they were wiped out in the county by the spread of grey squirrels in the 1970s and are now extinct in the region. Smaller and more agile than the non-native grey squirrel, red squirrels were once a common sight across the Midlands, but records of red squirrels in the area tend to be sightings of grey squirrels with slight red-tinges to their fur.

The nearest population of red squirrels to Shropshire is now in north Wales.

Distribution

Found in Scotland, the Lake District and Northumberland; isolated, remnant populations further south in England and Wales, including Formby, Anglesey, Brownsea Island in Dorset, and the Isle of Wight.

Did you know?

Red squirrels do not hibernate, but they do keep stores of food to see them through difficult times when fresh food is not available. In their favoured habitats of mixed broadleaf and coniferous woodland, they have a source of food all year-round as pine seeds are present over the winter months.