Although common throughout the forests of Europe and Asia, the red squirrel is now rare in Britain. The exact reasons for its decline are not precisely known, but currently to blame are the competition for food from its larger cousin – the grey squirrel, and the destruction of suitable woodland habitat.

The red squirrel currently enjoys full protection in Britain today, but it was only 100 years ago that measures were taken to eradicate the red squirrel from Scotland because of the damage it caused to its trees.

Where does the red squirrel live?

Where to find red squirrels
Red squirrel
With powerful hind legs and sharp claws, the red squirrel is perfectly adapted to climbing slender boughs and for leaping from branch to branch in its woodland environment.

In continental Europe, the red squirrel is found in coniferous forest. In Britain, it lives mainly on broad leaved woodland and – unlike the grey squirrel - it is now rarely seen in the towns or cities.

For most of the year outside of the breeding season, the red squirrel is a solitary animal although it frequently shares its nest with others for warmth – especially during our cool winters.

The red squirrel nest is either a drey or a den. A drey is a 30cm domed ball of twigs and leaves built on a twig platform usually in the fork of a branch. The dome is packed out with leaves, soft bark and given a soft lining of feathers, thistledown or dried grasses. A den is often an old, enlarged woodpecker’s nest found in a tree hollow, lined with the same soft materials.

The red squirrel moults and grows a new coat twice a year. In summer it has a short, mainly chestnut coat. This is replaced in August to November by a thicker, dark brown coat, when its ear tufts become prominent.

It is quite easy to mistake a red squirrel for a grey squirrel in summer when its ear tufts are indistinct and its fur is partially grey.
Where to find red squirrels
Red squirrel territory over time

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