Grey Squirrel – Sciurus carolinensis

Distribution

Grey squirrels were introduced into this country from North America between 1876 and 1910. Within 100 years they have completely replaced the native red squirrel in all but the northern-most parts of the country and the Isle of Wight and Brownsea Island of the south coast. This is mainly because of their ability to utilize more of the available foods found in broadleaved deciduous woodland, and also their transmission of the deadly parapox virus. They are not present in continental Europe.

Their food consists of buds and shoots, nuts, seeds and fungi. Their sharp incisor teeth can very quickly cut a hole in a hazelnut shell which they hold in their forefeet. They then crack it open in a crowbar-like action to extract the kernel inside. They are popular with the public, especially in urban areas where they are among the most visible wild mammals.

Origin:Introduced from North America.

Size:Head / Body 23 – 30 cm, tail 15 – 25 cm. Weight 300 – 700g. Larger and heavier than the red squirrel.

Description:The grey coat may contain a number of brown hairs giving a reddish/grey appearance. There are no tufts on the ears. Sometimes albino and melanistic (black) individuals occur.

Habitat:Prefer deciduous woodland, urban parks and gardens.

Young:2 litters each year of 3 – 5 naked, blind young. Can breed when a year old. The young of a litter spend their first winter together in one nest after being ejected by their parents.

Nest:Dreys are built in the spring by both sexes.

Diet:Buds and shoots of all trees, nuts, seeds, fruit, insects and occasionally birds eggs. Sit up to feed with food in hands. They bury food when plentiful, often never returning to it.

Population:Britain’s population estimated to between 2 to 6 million.
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