Current population estimates of red squirrels stand at approximately 138,000 throughout the UK. Of that it is estimated that approximately 120,000 are in Scotland, 3,000 in Wales and 15,000 in England. Red squirrels are mainly dispersed in England throughout the north with Kielder Forest, Northumberland supporting around 60% of the total population. However, it is also thought that there could be as many as 2.5 million grey squirrels in the UK. As there is no current method of comprehensively surveying grey squirrels, this could be a considerable underestimation.
The Isle of Wight is ‘grey free’ and we want it to remain that way!
Monitoring is ongoing using various non-intrusive methods and if a grey is reported it is logged and the area monitored more intensively. There are contingency plans for dealing with any greys found on the Island.
There is a problem with identification however as red squirrels can have grey coats!! Tricky! Light levels and the distance away the ‘grey’ is seen can also change perception. Here are a few ways to ‘spot the difference’.
Firstly, size matters! An adult grey is nearly twice the size of an adult red and an altogether chunkier animal. A young grey squirrel could be the size of an adult red of course.
In the winter, reds have the iconic long eartufts, grey never have long eartufts. Reds lose them in the summer.
A grey coloured red squirrel doesn’t usually have a brindled coat as a grey does. If you can get a close look at a greys coat, it has 3 colours in it, white, black and a brownish red. To make matters worse, when a grey moults, it can look red for a short time!
Looking at the tail is a good way to identify between species. A grey squirrel’s tail has the 3 colours in it. The bulk of the tail is red/brown with a band of black around it and then a halo of white. A red squirrel’s tail – even those with a grey coat – does not have this distinctive banding.
If you think you have seen a grey squirrel on the Isle of Wight, please ring Helen on 01983 611003. Usually a chat and few questions can determine if the animal is a grey squirrel – or hopefully not.
You can easily and effectively help red squirrels by becoming a Friend of the Red Squirrel. Become our Friend.
Grey Squirrel Eating.
Red Squirrel with grey fur.