There are so many exciting species of animal (and plant!) at each of the locations of TENT’s partner projects and we thought it could be interesting to share information and fun facts about them. This week, we’re focusing on the Scottish Highlands and will be taking a look at red squirrels – they may be small but they are mighty!
Binomial name: Sciurus vulgaris
Current conservation status: Least concern, updated from “near threatened” in 2002.
- Whilst this is good news that the species has been given an improved status, there is still much work to be done to secure its place in the local ecology.
Population trend: Downward.
- Since their introduction to the United Kingdom in the 1870s as an ornamental species, red squirrel numbers have dropped drastically from 3.5 million to between 120,000 to 160,000 individuals with 15,000 in England.
Habitat: Coniferous forests. Deciduous woods, mixed forest, parks, gardens, and small stands of conifers.
- Red squirrels can live in a variety of habitats, but they’re pretty shy creatures and an be easily deterred.
Threats: Habitat loss, disease, species competition.
- Habitat loss occurs via deforestation for the purpose of land development
- Squirrelpox is a virus that is fatal to red squirrels and carried by grey squirrels
- Grey squirrel populations greatly outnumber red and force them into areas where it is harder for them to source food and survive, ultimately leading to species replacement.
- Red squirrels disperse different types of seeds, making them important to reforestation and the regeneration of coniferous woodland.
Support needed: Research in population size, distribution and trends. Species management.
- Constant monitoring of red squirrel populations and distribution is required to keep track of the health of the species, and to ensure that conservation efforts are effective
- Alladale Wilderness Reserve is home to the oldest, most northerly Caledonian pine forest. By planting more trees, the area has become more habitable for red squirrels
- In partnership with Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, The European Nature Trust successfully released 36 red squirrels at Alladale Wilderness Reserve.
Facts about red squirrels:
- Squirrels live for around 7 years
- They live in nests called dreys. These are often located in holes in trees created by woodpeckers
- They eat mostly seeds, nuts (particularly hazelnuts) and berries
- Red squirrels bury surplus food. They can usually remember where they buried their food, but often the food goes undiscovered
- Squirrels are preyed upon by pine martens, cats, stoats, owls, buzzards, red foxes and dogs
- Most of the red squirrels in the united Kingdom are located in Scotland.