Britains native squirrel, the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris L.), is in serious decline in England and Wales but remains widespread and locally common in Scotland. The ecology of the species has been researched for many years and there is now a good understanding of the habitat requirements and the main reasons for its decline. Red squirrels are core woodland species that can survive in both deciduous and conifer habitats but appear unable to compete with grey squirrels in deciduous habitats or when the woodlands are small and fragmented.
Conservation efforts have focused on identifying large conifer woodlands as red squirrel refuges. The method for refuge identification has been laid down in a set of rules based on squirrel population status, and woodland and landscape characteristics.
Red and grey squirrel distribution from 1998 data
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Scotland, in contrast to England and Wales, has a substantial number of potential woodland refuges, and guidance was required on which woodlands to prioritise for conservation action. The refuge identification rules were applied to all woodlands in north and central Scotland using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) analysis. This analysis drew together information from national datasets e.g. National Inventory of Woodlands and Trees and site data e.g. woodland composition and management that were gathered during discussions with woodland managers/owners. The project report provides a list of woodlands ranked by suitability for red squirrel conservation and an analysis by region of key woodland complexes and their qualities as squirrel refuges. Guidance available in the report may help to inform decisions on Forest Habitat Network design and targeting of woodland management incentives.
Further information and publications
Red Squirrel Conservation (PDF-256K)
Forestry Commission Practice Note 5.
Habitat Use by Red and Grey Squirrels: Results of Two Recent Studies and Implications for Management (PDF-546K)
Forestry Commission Information Note 76.
Red squirrels around the UK:
Poulsom, L., Griffiths, M., Broome, A. and Mayle, B. (2005). Identification of priority woodlands for red squirrel conservation in North and Central Scotland: a preliminary analysis. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 089 (ROAME No. FO2AC334).
This project was carried out by Forest Research under contract to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and was jointly funded by SNH, Forestry Commission and the Mammals Trust UK.