To gain a glimpse of this endearing native Briton you would have to travel to one of the lucky but limited surviving areas. In England these include Brownsea Island off Dorset, the Isle of Wright or Thetford Forest in Norfolk and there is a reasonable population in Northern England where the Grey Squirrel has yet to become established. A few thousand are found in Wales and they are still common in parts of Scotland. Over all the UK population is around 150,000.
The Red Squirrel inhabits deciduous woodland, favouring the mature Scots pine wood. They will spend a lot of time high within the branches, eat an assortment of seeds, buds, shoots, nuts and berries and build nests, dreys, to sleep and breed. Squirrels are diurnal therefore are mostly active during the day, having a quick snooze in the afternoon. They come to the ground briefly to forage for food, particularly in the autumn months to collect nuts to store for winter. They do have a few natural predators that share their woodland habitat, and will spend their time in the trees to avoid the hungry fox or bird of prey.
The Red Squirrel will produce two litters of kittens throughout a good year, one usually in spring and then another in late summer. There are on average 3 kittens in a litter, and they are born within a soft, thick, grassy drey. The survival of the young depends upon the amount of food available that season and if all is well at seven weeks they will start to venture into the forest and become independent. If the squirrels fall upon a bad winter, cannot feed well and cannot build up their fat reserves, those who do not die of starvation or disease through the cold months will not breed well the next season and the population is effected.
The Grey Squirrel is a perfect example of how man can introduce an alien species into an area to the detriment of our native wildlife, and without conservation efforts we could lose the Red Squirrel to the British Isles forever.