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UK Squirrel Species

While we often coexist peacefully with wildlife in their natural habitat, certain species may become accustomed to the presence of people. This can potentially cause damage to property, risking transfer of disease or simply being a plain nuisance.

Uncontrolled populations which thrive in urban landscapes can pose significant risks to human health and homes. Learn about the behaviour, biology and how to identify some squirrel species:

Grey Squirrels

(Sciurus carolinensis)


Larger than the native red squirrel, grey squirrels have grey fur with touches of russet-brown and white underparts. Unlike the red squirrel, this species never has ear tufts, and the sexes are similar in appearance.

Life cycle and habits of a Grey Squirrel

Life Cycle

Breeding takes place in December to January and again in May to June. If conditions are favourable, females reproduce 1 – 2 times a year producing 1 – 5 offspring per litter. The average lifespan of female grey squirrels is 4 – 6 years while their male counterparts have a shorter life expectancy of 2 – 3 years.


A highly adaptable species, the grey squirrel prefers broadleaved woodlands usually occurring in conifer woodlands and urban areas such as gardens and parks – where mature trees are found.

It is important to note that it is a criminal offence to re-release a captured grey squirrel back into the wild as responsible pest and predator control is an integral part of conservation and wildlife management.

Red Squirrels

(Sciurus vulgaris)


Despite their name, red squirrels can have coats ranging from black to chestnut or light brown on their backs, with white undersides. Red squirrels are known for their characteristically long ear tufts, and big fluffy tails.

Life cycle and habits of a Red Squirrel

Life Cycle

Mating usually occurs in late winter in March and again during the summer in July. Females produce two litters of 3 – 4 offspring per year, and the young are weaned around the age of 10 weeks, but do not breed until the age of one. Red squirrels can survive for up to six years in the wild.


Red squirrels typically prefer conifer forests to broadleaf woodland and can also live in mountainous areas. They are active during the day, with most of this time spent foraging for tree seeds, flowers, shoots, berries and caterpillars.

The Red squirrel is protected under the Wildlife Act 1976 and Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000.