Autumn is a brilliant time of year for Red Squirrel
spotting when these creatures are busy getting ready for winter. Follow our top
tips for a Red Squirrel safari and you might find yourself in the company of one
of Britain's most attractive small mammals.
Image - Diane and Michael Allan.
Squirrels are now largely confined to northern England, Scotland and parts of
They are now extinct in southern England except
for small numbers on the Isle of Wight and two small islands in Poole Harbour.
Grey Squirrel, which was introduced to the UK from North America in the 19th Century,
out-competes the native Red and has now replaced it over much of England and Wales.
This is because the Grey is much better suited to the environment in the
British Isles and our broad-leaved woodlands.
The Grey Squirrel is also
larger than the red and is better able to survive harsh weather and periods when
food is in short supply.
Reds arrived after the last Ice Age but haven't had the time to adapt to broad-leaved
woodland - they're more suited to conifers.
As a result the Reds have been
overwhelmed by the Greys in terms of competition for space and food.
example the Grey Squirrels' digestive system can cope with the tannins found in
acorns but the Reds haven't yet evolved the same system.
The Greys also
carry a virus known as "squirrel pox" that is deadly to Red Squirrels.
there are only an estimated 150,000 Red Squirrels left in the UK compared with
over two million Greys.
Good places for Red Squirrels
Tanar (Cairngorms) and Galloway
Also worth visiting: RSPB
Loch Garten (Boat of Garten, Scotland), Formby
Island (Dorset). Also Thetford Chase (East Anglia), Cannock Chase (Staffordshire),
and Hope Forest (Derbyshire).
tips - Squirrel safari
The typical Red Squirrel habitat is coniferous woodland.
* The Reds are
smaller and lighter than the Grey Squirrel so they can reach the cones on the
tips of the branches more easily. Look for them on the branches of conifers in
coniferous woodlands in Scotland, Northern England and parts of Wales.
Red Squirrels like to eat seeds, berries, nuts and fruit. Watch for them feeding
on the forest floor as well as scrambling up tree trunks. Red Squirrels spend
approximately three-quarters of their active day above the ground in trees and
* Timing your visit is crucial. During
the autumn and winter the Red Squirrels are up early and often disappear at 11am
for a siesta.
* Some reserves have
feeding areas which are attractive to Red Squirrels e.g. Loch Garten, Formby.
This means that you're almost guaranteed a Squirrel watching experience.
Never disturb a Red Squirrel.These animals must not be intentionally trapped or
kept, or have their dreys disturbed except under licence, by law.
Main Red Squirrel image courtesy and copyright of Glen
Tanar estate, Diane and Michael Allan.
Small Red Squirrel courtesy of Brownsea