Squirrel Action Greenhead & Gilsland

In conjunction with


Grateful Thanks to Our sponsors:

J Terrey

Your local professional adviser, providing a personal service on all
Accountancy & Taxation matters.
Tel: 016977 47471

The Hytte
The Hytte, self catering accommodation near Hexham



How to identify a Red Squirrel

Key Features: Ear Tufts on adults. Bushy tail all one colour.

Coat: Usually reddish brown with a pale bib. Can be variable, appearing dark (sometimes almost black), or very light due to bleaching by the summer sun when they can appear blonde or greyish. Their tails act as a rudder when moving or jumping - up to twenty feet - and acts as a cosy coat held over their backs while stationary in cold weather. Red squirrels have long whiskers, which they use to find their way around inside their drey

Size: 18 - 22 cm body length. Slender build. Weighs around 275 - 350g.

Behaviour: Spends most of its time in trees. Quite timid, rarely seen far from tree cover.

Red squirrel featuresRed Squirrel courtesy of Ray Din

Red Squirrel Breeding.

Red squirrels build nests, called dreys, in the forks of branches, close to the main trunk. The drey consists of a hollow ball of twigs and leaves, which is then lined with soft hair, grass and moss. Summer dreys may also be constructed, which are flat, less protective structures used for resting during daylight hours. Some squirrels may use natural holes in trees, which are known as dens. Often two or three dreys are in use at any one time; these may be close together or wide apart, depending on the squirrels' range. In the winter and very early spring, squirrels of all ages and both males and females may share dreys but only if their territories overlap and they feed close together or know each other. Drey sharing usually stops in late spring and summer when the females are raising their young.
The mating season often starts on warm days in January with the squirrels chasing each other through the branches or around a tree trunk. The female red squirrel may produce two litters in a good year (45 - 48 days after mating), one in the spring (April) and the other in summer (August). There can be up to six young born but more often though two to three babies (kittens) in a litter. The breeding drey is usually a little larger than normal with a thick, soft, lining of grass and hair. If the mother is disturbed, she will carry her babies in her mouth, one by one, to another nest, which is sometimes quite a distance away.
The young are born blind and naked. As they develop, the female spends more and more time away from the drey, and by the time they are three weeks old she may leave them for hours at a time. At seven weeks the young begin to venture away from the nest and at nine to twelve weeks they are weaned and become independent. Their fluffy, darker baby coats change into the adult colour. Their first winter is a time of danger, with up to 85% of young, perishing during harsh conditions. Only females bring up the young and are territorial over their brood, with the male taking no part in the rearing of his young.

To read about the effect of the virus on red squirrels read the article from Newcastle University by clicking on the link below.
Red squirrels threatened by virus


Red squirrels undoubtedly enjoy the hazel nuts that are provided in the feeders in our gardens, but they are well adapted to eat the much smaller nuts found inside cones – you will know that they are resident in a conifer forest by the litter of the remains of well-stripped cones on the ground. They also enjoy the fruit of wild roses, hawthorns etc.
Spruce forests, however, only produce cones every 5 years. A good variety of types and ages of conifers is helpful.

Courtesy Ray Din

Red Squirrel fatalities.

If you find a dead red squirrel (including road kill) it is important to send the body for a post mortem.

The body should be reasonably fresh and preferably unfrozen (although frozen bodies can be sent). It should be sent straight away as described below:

1. The body should be packed in absorbent material (kitchen roll) in three individually closed plastic bags and placed in a rigid cardboard box (i.e. tissue box). Label clearly ‘Pathological Specimen – Fragile with Care’ and state your address on the outer wrapping.

2. IF the squirrel is suspected dieing from the pox virus then send by first class post to:

Paul Duff
Vetinary Investigation Centre,
CA11 99R

IF the squirrel died as a result of road kill or have no sign of disease then send by first class post to:

Dr.Tony Sainsbury,
Institute of Zoology,
Zoological Society of London,
Regents Park,

3. Complete the following information and include with the body:
Date found Location found Indication of cause of death
Senders name and address Senders telephone/email address

Download these instructions and a form to send with the sample here

Thank you.

A Sucesss Story.

Here’s a tail of Two Red Squirrels

Environment Editor Tony Henderson on survival against all the odds. ©Newcastle Journal Saturday 1st Sept. 2007

THAT there are two more red squirrels to reinforce the North-East’s dwindling population is down to couple Eileen and Barry Welsh.
They took in two newborn squirrels found in a garden in Darras Hall, Ponteland. Part of the squirrels’ drey was caught on a nearby holly bush, having been either blown down or wrecked by a predator. The Ponteland Red Squirrels group took the tiny youngsters to the Sanctuary Wildlife Centre in Ulgham, Northumberland. Eileen, 60, who is the sanctuary’s education officer, said: “They were so tiny, I knew they were going to need intensive care. Everyone thought they were going to die, but I decided to do all I could for them.” Eileen took the squirrels to her home in Cramlington and drew on experience gained from 20 years of breeding cats. That meant feeds of goats milk and vitamins every three hours, day and night. There were times at 2.3Oam when I thought I can't do this any more but Barry is an animal lover as well and, although he works full-time, he also took his turns,” said Eileen.
After two and a half weeks, the schedule changed to four-hourly feeds. “It was after five weeks that we had our first full night’s sleep,” said Eileen. Now the squirrels can lap up their own feed from jam jar lids and have started to nibble solid food. “When we first took them in, their eyes were closed, they were bald and they had no teeth,” said Eileen. “Now they are running riot. They go up and down the curtains and run around me as if I was a tree, perching on my shoulder and hanging off my T-shirt”
The smallest of the squirrels had a broken leg, from which it has now recovered, and Barry gave it the name of Jake the Peg. “I called the other one Fidget, because that is what he does continuously,” said Eileen. Both get along well with the couple’s cats. The youngsters were already from a late litter, and it is now too near the autumn to release them. They will be kept over the winter in a special enclosure at the wildlife sanctuary with the aim of setting them free next spring.
Eileen is appealing for donations to help build the enclosure at the sanctuary, which is open to the public from Fridays to Mondays inclusive. If you can help, ring (01670) 791778. “The squirrels are wild animals and the idea of the enclosure is that we don’t want them to become too humanised,” said Eileen. “But when they are released, it will be with a certain sense of achievement”
Kim Olson, who runs the sanctuary, said: “Eileen and Barry have done a fantastic job and have put in a tremendous amount of hard work. “The red squirrels are just one example of animals taken to the sanctuary and we don’t discriminate over what wild animals are cared for.”
Building new homes in mature gardens of properties in Darras Hall is worrying the Ponteland Red Squirrels group. Trees and bushes are often removed to allow the new developments, says the group. “These are not only the perfect habitat for our red squirrels but also for other wildlife,” said group member Sally Hardy.



©SAGG C Kippax 2007