In the UK, there are estimated to be only 160,000 remaining red squirrels, out of which 75% can be found in Scotland. You might see red squirrels in any Scottish woodland, but your chances increase if you visit the pine forests of the Highlands or Dumfries & Galloway.
Once a common sight across the UK, the red squirrel population has faced a considerable decline due to the invasive, non-native American grey squirrel. Bigger and stronger than red squirrels, the greys often win the competition for food and living space. Grey squirrels also carry Squirrelpox but rarely die from it, whereas the virus is extremely lethal to reds.
Whilst the population in England is scarce and isolated in a handful of locations, you can still find red squirrels in most woodland areas in Scotland. Simply look out for their large dreys (nests) in trees, scratch marks on the bark, or chewed pine cones on the floor.
You can see red squirrels all year round since they don’t hibernate. They are active during the day, though they do enjoy a nap, and they don’t appreciate bad weather. They love seeds and nuts, but they also eat fruits of shrubs and trees, fungi, and sometimes birds’ eggs.
Though they don’t hibernate, red squirrels like to keep stores of food in case fresh food is not available.
Red squirrels are about 20 cm tall, plus a tail of 18 cm. That means their body is about the size of an adult’s hand.
The seeds of up to 200,000 cones is the estimated amount a single red squirrel can eat – a year!