the end of the Nineteenth Century the Red squirrel was present
in pest proportions in Britain and the Grey was beginning
to spread out after introductions between 1876 and 1889.
1900 and 1925 a massive decline in Reds occurred (mainly
by disease), which continued as coniferous forests were
cut down for use in the Second World War.
Scotland is the main stronghold for the species but Cumbria
and the Kielder Forest of Cumbria and Northumbria now hold
most of the Red Squirrel population of England.
populations are under threat from Greys encroaching form
Lancashire (see map). Greys have moved up through the county
and are now causing problems in Scotland as well.
oust Reds by out-competing them for food, especially in
broad-leaved woodland, but do not physically attack them.
thrive when there is an abundance of acorns and beech mast; they
can eat unripe seeds.
need ripened seeds of pine (a particularly important food
source), larch and fir, but will also eat berries, buds
and fungi. The sitka spruce, frequently planted commercially,
is a popular food but is generally a poor source as it has
a short coning period.
of food before breeding leads to low birth weight of young and reduced
chance of survival.
seed crops, bad winters and disease, especially the miximatosis-like
pox virus, lead to falling numbers. Greys carry the pox
virus but do not suffer from it, whereas Reds suffer high
to help Reds include selective feeding by special hoppers
designed to deny access to Greys, control of Greys in areas
where both exist, rope bridges across main roads to reduce
high mortality, and most recently the intensive management
of suitable refuge sites where the right mix of older seeding
bearing and younger coniferous trees is encouraged and broad-leaved
corridors for the greys are reduced and monitored with appropriate
controls to trap them. Refuges in Cumbria include Greystoke,
Whinfell, Whinlatter, Thirlmere, and Garsdale/Mallerstang.
the requirements of Red squirrels are now somewhat "politically
incorrect" - much present day forestry is replacing unpopular
conifers with natural broad-leaved woodland more suited
to birds, butterflies and native plants (and greys!).
best time to see Reds is in the winter and spring when they
forage more in the middle of the day. In summer they tend
to forage in two spells with a nap between; as the first
spell is at first light that means being up very early in
the summer to see them!
squirrels is very difficult. The main method is still visual
monitoring but tubes with sticky linings can be used to
trap hairs (Red squirrel hairs have a groove that shows
up with dye under a microscope, greys have no groove). Maize
baiting can also be used, as well as the occasional trapping.