All about red squirrels – we’re nuts about them!

Red Squirrel
Red squirrel (Photo: WTML)

Red Squirrel Week runs from 26 September to 4 October 2015, so we’ve put together some information about these super-cute creatures.

Red versus grey squirrels

Red squirrels are native to the UK, but grey squirrels were brought from America over 100 years ago.

That turned out to be a very bad idea!

They carry squirrel pox, a nasty disease that kills reds but not greys. They’re also bigger than red squirrels and breed faster, so they soon started to take over and the number of red squirrels has gone down a lot.

Where to find red squirrels

Nowadays, red squirrels only live in a few parts of the country. They’re most common in Scotland, but you can also find them in some counties in northern England, such as Cumbria and Northumberland, and in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Wight, Anglesey in Wales and Brownsea Island in Dorset.

If you live in one of these areas you may be lucky enough to see one. Why not find a wood near you and go on a squirrel hunt? You’re more likely to spot them in the autumn as they’re out and about looking for nuts and seeds to stash away for the winter.

How to find a red squirrel

Remember that they’re not always a rusty red. Some are quite dark brown or even greyish, but they all have a white front, a bushy tail and, during late autumn and winter, big tufts of fur at the tips of their ears.

They like to snack on pine cones so watch out for chewed cones on the woodland floor. And if you look up into the trees, you may see their nests made of twigs, leaves and moss – these are called dreys. Red squirrels don’t hibernate, but they stay in their nests quite a lot when the weather is chilly.

Famous red squirrels

The naughty red squirrel in The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter has been a firm favourite with little kids for more than a century.

Tufty the red squirrel was a character created in 1963 by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to teach children about road safety. Lots of children in the 1960s and 1970s became members of the Tufty Club. Why not ask your parents and grandparents if they remember Tufty?

You can find out more about events near you, and the best places to see red squirrels, on the red squirrel species page. Even if you don’t live in a red squirrel area, you can still get involved.

Have you spotted a red squirrel? Tell us about it on the Nature Detectives Facebook page.

Spotted red squirrels?

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