Today is Squirrel Appreciation Day and a chance for us to celebrate and raise awareness for the red squirrel – one of our most iconic and much loved woodland creatures.
The red squirrel is the UK’s only native squirrel species and was once a common sight in the UK. However, since the larger more invasive grey squirrel was introduced at the end of the 19th century the smaller red squirrel has seen a dramatic fall in numbers.
Wildlife conservationists are working hard to protect and increase red squirrel populations with a number of projects throughout the UK. Here wildlife expert and Forest Holidays ranger, Gerry O’Brien, shares his favourite facts and advice on what we can do to help;
- Plant bushes and shrubbery that are red squirrel friendly such as blackthorn and holly
- Plant a variety of trees – red squirrels feed on a wide range of seeds and nuts so maintaining a diversity of native trees and shrubs will help you provide a range of food sources for red squirrels throughout the year.
- Equip your garden trees with feeders containing hazelnuts – but only if there are no grey squirrels around
- Red squirrels are not limited to feeding on seeds and nuts and will also take buds, bulbs, fruit and berries and fungi so leave out plenty of these in your garden
Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know About the Red Squirrel
- Unlike the grey squirrel, red squirrels cannot digest seeds with a high tannin content, such as ripe acorns, which grey squirrels can exploit.
- Red squirrels survive in conifer woodland because pure conifer woodland is not a favoured habitat of grey squirrels. However, in the absence of grey squirrels, they occur in all types of woodland.
- Red squirrels can climb down trees head first because they are able to rotate their angle joints 180 degrees
- There are now fewer than 250,000 red squirrels in the UK, a drop from 3.5 million
- 75% of Red Squirrels live in Scotland
Best Places in the UK to Spot The Red Squirrel
- Strathyre, Scotland
- Aira Force, Lake District
- Borthwood Copse, Isle of Wight
- Brownsea Island Nature Reserve, Dorset