Red Squirrel

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Red squirrel

Scientific name: Sciurus vulgaris
The native red squirrel is mostly found in forests in the north of the UK. It has a characteristically bushy tail, large ear tufts and red fur.

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

The red squirrel is our native squirrel and is most often found in coniferous woods. Red squirrels feast on hazelnuts by cracking the shell in half. 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 in the fork of a branch, high up in the tree canopy. Breeding begins in winter and carries on through spring. Males chase females through the tree canopy, leaping across branches and spiralling up tree trunks. Females may have two litters of two to three young a year.

How to identify

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

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.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working hard to save the red squirrel by improving its favoured habitats and being involved in reintroduction schemes. Volunteers are needed to help with everything from surveying to habitat restoration. So why not have a go at volunteering for your local Trust? You'll make new friends, learn new skills and help wildlife along the way.