Threats to Red Squirrels


The main threat to red squirrels comes form the grey squirrel. When grey squirrels arrive into an area of woodland the resident red squirrels usually disappear within 5 to 15 years. No one is sure exactly how this happens but it is believed that the grey can out-compete the reds in accessing food and as a result the reds starve and become unable to gain enough weight to successfully breed. The grey squirrels also act as a carrier of the pox virus which does them no harm but will kill a red squirrel within 14 days of infection. A pox infected red squirrel will have pox lesions on its face, paws and genital area. This infection causes respiratory problems and prevents the red squirrel from eating. We have outlined methods of control in our management plan.

The grey squirrel is regarded as an invasive non-native species and has no protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). They are listed in the IUCN international list of 100 worst invasive non-native species, which highlights the damage that grey squirrels cause to our native flora and fauna; a problem severe enough to be recognised at a level of global significance.

It is illegal to release a grey squirrel into the wild, or allow one to escape.

Ring of Gullion AONB staff can provide full training and advice on grey control. Private land owners in the Ring of Gullion and Cooley are urged to get in touch to discuss the issue of grey squirrel control. It is emphasised that Ring of Gullion and Cooley Red Squirrel Group advocates the trapping and humane dispatch of grey squirrels to provide positive benefit to red squirrel conservation.

You can download our full trapping and dispatch guidelines by clicking here.