(This is not a reference to Doug the dog from Up… Although please feel free to remind yourself about that minor amusement over here)
From naughty Squirrel Nutkin to the road savvy Tufty Fluffytail (yes we know that we’re showing our age!), these furry little red bundles of fluff are amongst our favourite woodland animals, and are as rare as they are enchanting.
Predators, viruses and changes to the landscape have all impacted our much loved native red squirrel, however the introduction of the grey squirrel from America was the main reason behind the sharp decline in population numbers. Grey squirrels were imported by 19th-century landowners as an ornamental species to populate the grounds of stately homes, and over time the grey squirrel has aggressively ‘out competed’ the red squirrel.
Subsequently the once common red squirrel population fell dramatically from around 3.5 million. Current population estimates of red squirrels stand at approximately 138,000 throughout the UK, and of that it is estimated that approximately 120,000 are in Scotland, 3,000 in Wales, and 15,000 in England.
Red squirrels are mainly dispersed in England throughout the north with Kielder Forest, Northumberland, supporting around 60% of the total population.
However, the good news is that the numbers are starting to slowly grow in several areas thanks to careful conservation and habitat management in recent years. And this time of year is the best time to see them as there are fewer leaves on the trees, making them easier to spot as they forage for food ahead of the winter.
A map showing all of the red squirrel sightings can be found over here and whilst the Lake District offers the opportunity to spot reds – especially on our Cumbria Way Walking holiday – you should always report any sightings as they help to identify changes in squirrel range over time.