Red squirrel Sciurus vulgaris

The red squirrel is most often found in coniferous woods. Scotland is home to over 75% of the UK’s red squirrel population. The red squirrel is easily distinguished from the grey squirrel by its smaller size, reddish-brown fur (although it can look darker and duller in the winter) and tufts of hair on the end of the ears.

Behaviour

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. Squirrels make a rough nest, called a ‘drey’, of twigs, leaves and strips of bark in the fork of a branch, high in the tree canopy.

Size

  • Length: 20cm plus a tail of 18cm
  • Weight: 280-350g
  • Average lifespan: 3 years

Status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, and classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Distribution

Strongholds are Scotland, the Lake District and Northumberland with some isolated, remnant populations further south in England and Wales including Anglesey, Formby in Lancashire, Brownsea Island in Dorset and the Isle of Wight.

When to see

Jan – Dec

Facts

  • 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.
  • For more information on red squirrels, check out the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels project website.

Common name

Red squirrel

Species name

Sciurus vulgaris

IUCN Red List status

Least concern

When to see in Scotland

Jan – Dec

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Loch of the Lowes or Carstramon Wood.

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