Friday, 20 January 2017

Squirrel Appreciation Day - top tips to spot red squirrels in Scotland

Squirrel Appreciation Day - top tips to spot red squirrels in Scotland
By Donald Riddell, Director, Highland Safaris

January 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day, and with Scotland being one of the best places to find these much-loved woodland creatures, it’s the perfect time to share our tips on how and where to spot red squirrels.

Where can I find red squirrels?
Shy and solitary, the red squirrel (Britain’s only native squirrel), has been on UK shores since the end of the last Ice Age, having made its way over from mainland Europe approximately 10,000 years ago. Today, 75 per cent of the UK’s remaining red squirrel population is found in Scotland. Red squirrels prefer to live in coniferous trees, particularly Scots pine, and can be found in the forests of the Highlands and Dumfries & Galloway. Its preferred food is nuts from both conifer and deciduous trees, both of which we have in abundance on the land around Highland Safaris, so we regularly see them here – as well as the cones they have been nibbling on.

How can I spot a red squirrel?
Stay nice and quiet, and listen carefully! Reds are shy animals and the sound of their claws on the bark as they climb trees can often be heard before they are seen. Squirrels will often freeze when disturbed, relying on their camouflage to hide against the bough of a tree.
Easy to identify once you do see one of these rare creatures, the red squirrel has a large bushy tail – which is used for balance when leaping from tree to tree – distinctive tufts on its ears, and sharp, curved claws to help it race up and down tree trunks.

How big are red squirrels?
Smaller than the eastern grey, the red squirrel has a typical head-and-body length of 19-23 cm and a tail length of 15-20 cm; males and females are the same size.

When is the best time of year to see red squirrels?
You can see them all year round; this might come as a surprise, but red squirrels don’t hibernate, although – like many of us – they do become less active throughout winter. Their coats, which vary in colour with the time of year and location, are at their thickest and most colourful in January.
During mating season, which in Scotland can start as early as December and continue until July, you can see males chase females through the trees at amazing speeds – only the fittest males will catch them.
Red squirrels can have one or two litters a year – with an average of three to four ‘kittens’, which are born without any fur. They give birth in a nest called a drey, which is so well constructed from leaves, twigs and moss as to be almost waterproof.

If you spot a red squirrel, let us know using the hashtag

#SquirrelAppreciationDay. You can also report a sighting here: For further information, check out VisitScotland’s Wildlife Series eBook at:


Post a Comment