Red squirrel in heather, Scotland
© Christopher Drabble/Alam
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
This cheeky character, pictured in Scotland’s Cairngorms national park, is one of the UK’s native red squirrels, thought to have been here for about 10,000 years. They can be found in forests and woods across Europe and northern Asia. But in the UK, their numbers have fallen sharply. Across England and Wales, they have been largely replaced by the grey squirrel, imported from North America by the Victorians, which compete with them for food and shelter and carry a virus which is fatal to reds. Loss of woodland has also had an impact on numbers.Scotland is now home to most of the UK’s red squirrels and a large conservation effort is under way to protect remaining populations. Can you spot one? Some reds can appear grey, while some grey squirrels have red patches. In the winter, red squirrels have bushy tails and thick coats with ear tufts but in the summer, coats and tails can be thinner and the ear tufts can vanish altogether.