What do squirrels look like and where do they live?
There are two species of squirrel in Britain, the native red squirrel and the introduced grey squirrel.
- The red squirrel, as the name suggests, has red fur but the colouring can vary from ginger through to dark brown. They have large bushy tails and develop large tufts on their ears during the winter months.
- The grey squirrel is larger and has grey fur that can be tinged with red and yellow, and has more rounded ears that do not develop tufts.
The number of red squirrels has declined in recent years, which has led to them becoming protected by law. It is an offence to kill, trap or keep them and also disturb their nests (dreys) except under licence.
The predominance of the grey squirrel is thought to due to their success in competing for food in the woodlands in which both species live.
The red squirrel lives in all types of woodland habitats but they preferred coniferous forests due to the ease of foraging for food. In Dorset they are only found on islands in Poole Harbour such as Brownsea Island.
Squirrels are damaging my trees, can I get them removed?
As red squirrels are so rare, grey squirrels probably carry out any bark striping of trees that may have occurred.
The grey squirrel is not protected under law and is considered a pest species so targeted control of their numbers in problem areas can be carried out in a humane manner. The most common method is live trapping of the squirrels and then any squirrels caught are taken to a veterinarian to be put to sleep.
It is illegal to release grey squirrels back into the wild so once a grey squirrel has been trapped you can't let it go again.
See the Forestry Commission website for their information sheet on the management of grey squirrels.