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Grey squirrel

Grey squirrels were introduced from North America in the 19th and 20th centuries. They are bolder and larger than red squirrels and, as their name suggests, have predominantly grey fur, although they can sometimes have patches of red. They are active during the day and are extremely agile climbers, although will spend a lot of time on the ground foraging. They sometimes bury excess food, often at the base of trees, to feed on during the cold winter months. They can be considered a pest because of damage to trees caused by stripping the bark, and because in gardens they may raid bird tables and feed on fruit crops or bulbs.

Head-body length: 24 – 28cm
Tail length: 19 – 24cm
Weight: 400 – 600g
Lifespan: Up to nine years

Reproduction

Two litters of 2 – 4 kits are born each year, one from February to April and the other from July to November. The young are weaned between 8 – 10 weeks.

Diet

Acorns, beech mast, flowers, nuts, bulbs, tree bark and tree shoots.

Habitat

Primarily woodland, but now common in urban areas, including gardens and parks.

Predators

Few natural predators.

Threats

Road traffic accidents.

Status & conservation

Non-native and common.

Population size & distribution

GB population 2,600,000 (England 2,000,000). The population is likely to be increasing. Grey squirrels are widely distributed throughout England and Wales and are edging their way into Scotland and Northern Ireland. They are absent from Europe except for a small but expanding area in Northern Italy.

Did you know?

Grey squirrels are capable of running easily up and down trees by virtue of their strong claws and ‘double jointed’ ankles, which allow their feet to face forwards or backwards.

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