Threats to Reds

The most serious and urgent threat to our red squirrel population is interaction with the invasive, non-native grey squirrel, which has spread across the UK and caused the devastation of the UK red squirrel population.

Grey squirrels:

  • Carry disease in the form of the squirrel pox virus (SQPV), which as far as we are aware is always fatal when passed to red squirrels
  • Compete for food and habitat with red squirrels, eventually displacing them

Habitat loss is also of increasing concern now that we are losing trees to disease, rather than to planned forestry operations. Here in south Cumbria, Larch plantations have provided both habitat and food for red squirrels, but now these trees are being felled in great numbers because Larch disease (Phytophthora ramorum) has been detected.  Even if these areas are replanted with red-squirrel-friendly alternative species of trees, it is going to take many years before they can provide the equivalent in food and shelter to the Larch they have replaced.

 

Red squirrel with squirrel pox virus © Sarah McNeil

Effects of Squirrel Pox Virus

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