Scientific name: Sciurus vulgaris
You’ve probably seen lots of squirrels – but have you ever seen a red one? Red squirrels are native to the UK but are a lot rarer than their grey cousins! They live in a few special places across the UK thanks to reintroduction projects.
Average lifespan: 6 years
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.
When to seeJanuary to December
AboutNative red squirrels are a lot rarer in the UK than their American cousins, grey squirrels. Usually found in coniferous woodland, they like to feast on hazelnuts by cracking the shell in half. If you’re lucky you may also find pine cones that have been nibbled, leaving what looks like an apple core behind! Red squirrels make a rough nest called a ‘drey’ out of twigs, leaves and strips of bark high up in the tree canopy. Males can be seen chasing females through the trees, leaping across branches and spiralling up tree trunks.
How to identifyThe red squirrel has a reddish-brown coat and pale underside. It has a characteristically bushy tail. It is distinguished from the grey squirrel by its smaller size, red fur and distinctive, large ear tufts.
In our area
In Northern Ireland, red squirrels are a priority species and are protected by Schedule 5 and 6 of the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985. The best places to see them include County Fermanagh, the Mourne Mountains and the Glens of Antrim.