Grey squirrel welfare

Originally introduced from North America, grey squirrels are now common in England, Wales and central Scotland. They mostly live in broadleaf woodlands containing oak, beech, sweet chestnut and hazel, but are also found in a wide range of habitats including parks, gardens and urban areas where there are suitable trees.

Keep reading to discover more about the grey squirrel, or learn what to do if you've found an injured grey squirrel.

What do grey squirrels eat?

Grey squirrels mainly eat seeds and plant buds, shoots, fungi and flowers, but will also eat insects and birds' eggs, and will take food from bird feeders in gardens.

Squirrels will retrieve nuts they've buried mainly using their sense of smell, but they also have some form of a mental map of locations. However, many of the nuts and seeds buried aren't rediscovered, which helps the growth of new plants.

Should you feed grey squirrels?

Squirrel nests

Squirrels make a spherical nest out of twigs and leaves, typically found in the forks between branches at least 6 metres off the ground. They'll also use tree cavities and occasionally nest inside roof cavities.

When grey squirrels are born

Usually, squirrels will have two litters of young a year - one between February and March and the other between June and July. Litter size averages three to four babies. Baby squirrels' eyes open at four weeks and they start to explore outside the nest at about six weeks old. They're weaned by ten weeks and then quickly become independent at around 10-12 weeks.

The difference between red and grey squirrels

Here's how to tell them apart and what to look out for.

  • Coat colour - this isn't always as easy a way to differentiate between red and grey squirrels as you might think! Grey squirrel colours can vary from grey to black, but they can also have red-tipped coats. Red squirrels' coat colour can vary from the classic rusty red to much darker colours like grey and black, so their coat colours can look very similar.
  • Ear tufts - red squirrels have ear tufts, whereas grey squirrels don't. However, reds will moult these tufts in the summer.
  • Size - red squirrels are much smaller than greys, but a young grey squirrel may be a similar size to an adult red squirrel.
  • Tails - the hairs on grey squirrel tails have bands of colour, each with a white tip. Red squirrel tails can vary in colour, but their tail hairs don't have these bands.

Grey squirrels can't be released back into the wild

According to the law, 'The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019', it's no longer possible to rehabilitate and release grey squirrels.

Follow the links below to find out more about how to help the grey squirrels in your area.

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