Scotland's Wildlife: Red Squirrel

Red squirrel

The russet coloured fur of the red squirrel was once a common sight across the whole of the United Kingdom. These days, however, the red squirrel's future is far from certain.

This native breed is under threat from the rapid expansion in numbers of the American grey squirrel. The grey carries the squirrel pox virus which can be deadly to the reds and which can result in a prolonged and unpleasant death.

By nature red squirrels are solitary creatures and thrive best when living in a large territory. The grey squirrels are happier to live in closer proximity to others of their species and in many areas have squeezed out the natives. The American invaders are larger and more aggressive than the native squirrels and more successful in the battle for food.

Now, though, measures are being put in place to help secure a future for the red squirrel. Organisations such as the Forestry Commission are creating environments suited to the red squirrel in the hope of reversing the tide.

Where to see them?

Red squirrel on a branch

The largest concentrations of red squirrel in Scotland are in the Cairngorms, Perthshire and Galloway.

When to see them?

Autumn and the winter months are a good time for squirrel spotting as the shortage of food makes them bolder. Courtship and mating tends to taker place throughout January and February and these months see the squirrels at their most active.

Page first published on Friday 4th April 2008
Page last updated on Saturday 5th April 2008

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FAST FACTS: RED SQUIRREL

Latin name: Sciurus vulgaris.
Gaelic Name: Feorag.
Statistics: Head/body length 18-24cm, tail length 14-20cm, weight 250-350g.
Physical Description: Red Squirrel fur ranges from a warm, reddish-brown in summer, to deep chocolate-brown with grey in winter. The colour may be variable in any one locality, ranging from almost black to buff. Reds have a bushy tail and ear tufts.

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