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Grey Squirrel

Latin Name: Sciurus carolinensis

Grey squirrels are not a native species of the UK and were introduced from the USA in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century.  First recorded in Britain in the 1820's, but not thought to have been released into the wild until 1876. Their success has been to the detriment of our native red squirrels.


Grey squirrels are distinguished from red squirrels by their grey fur, smaller ear tufts and their larger, more robust build. They are frequently found with patches of reddish-brown coloured fur, there have also been some reported sightings in the UK of black squirrels one being spotted in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. They moult twice a year, once after winter and then late in summer before it gets colder again. They have four fingers and five toes and can be left or right handed. Grey squirrels sit with their large bushy tail arched over the back, it is thought that the tail also helps with their balance and steer when jumping from tree to tree and running along branches and may keep the animal warm during sleep.

See Larger Image Grey Squirrel

Animal Facts

In Britain: All Year

Life span  - Up to 9 years.

Statistics - Head and body length: 23-30 cm, Tail length: 19-25cm, Weight (adult): 400-600g.

Habitat: Common in deciduous and mixed woodland, they are also found in hedgerows, trees, parks and gardens. They live high in the trees, in a nest (drey) made from twigs, leaves and moss and may be in a hole in the tree or set against the trunk and branches.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

In the UK they are common in urban areas, because they are not very fussy about their habitat needs and they do quite well in residential areas where only a few large trees are present.

Food: Grey squirrels feed on acorns, tree shoots, flowers, nuts, fruits, roots and cereals as well as fungi and insects, and occasionally 'birdsí eggs and fledglings. They bury surplus food 2-5cm below the soil or in tree hollows. They feed at ground level, more so than red squirrels, and together with their ability to digest acorns, (which reds can't), they have tended to displace red squirrels in areas of woodland where the two have come into contact.

Breeding: Females produce a litter of 3-7 young (called kittens) generally 2 litters a year, in the spring or late summer, after a gestation period of 42-45 days. The young are weaned after 10 weeks and are independent at 16 weeks.

Distribution - They are widespread throughout England and Wales, south of Cumbria, and are common in local pockets in Scotland. They are absent from the rest of mainland Europe, except for small localised populations in Italy.

Behaviour - Grey squirrels live in a compact, spherical nest (drey), 30-60cm in diameter, with an outer frame of twigs, and dry leaves and grass inside. They are active from before sunrise to after sunset. The peak of activity is in the autumn. Their range covers 2-10 hectares.

Other Characteristics - They do not hibernate over winter, but may be less active when weather conditions are bad. They can hang upside down and they can swim. Oak trees are especially attractive to them and they can supplement this food by using bird feeders in gardens.

Conservation status - Grey squirrels are widespread and not protected in the UK. They are considered a pest of forestry, and are often killed on roads.




See Also

Squirrels and How to Photograph Them

Where to photograph Red Squirrels

Wildlife photography

Equipment suitable for wildlife photography

Bird and animal behaviour, Hides and camouflage

General tips on photographing wildlife

http://www.grey-squirrel.org.uk/ - put together by someone who rejects the 'Alien' status and supports the Grey Squirrel population in the UK.


By: Tracey Park Section: Squirrels Key:
Page Ref: grey_squirrel Topic: Wildlife & Animals  Last Updated: 08/2009

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