Red squirrels

A photo of a red squirrel going down a tree. The image has been rotated 90 degrees clockwise so that it fills the width of the screen.
Image credit: E Paul Rogers

The Red Squirrels of Llyn Parc Mawr

The numbers of red squirrels has dramatically declined in the UK over the last 100 years. This is the result of loss of broadleaf habitat and the impact of grey squirrels who compete for resources and who carry a virus which is fatal to reds.

Up to the 1950s red squirrels were abundant on Anglesey. During the 1970s grey squirrels were increasingly seen on the island having either swum the Menai Strait or crossed using one of the two bridges. It is believed that the red squirrel population declined dramatically in the late 1980s as the numbers of greys increased. During the 1990s sights of red squirrels were rare.

By 1997 the red squirrel population on Anglesey was close to extinction with fewer than 40 adults remaining all in one woodland and from one female line.

Three photos of red squirrels stitched together horizontally. On the left is a red squirrel eating a nut. On the right is a red squirrel sitting in a tree. The middle image shows a red squirrel inside a wooden bird feeding box with a perspex front. The feeding box is attached to a tree trunk. On the right hand side of the tree trunk is a woodpecker.
Image credit: E Paul Rogers

A conservation project was set up to reintroduce reds onto Anglesey. The population went from 40 to around 700. This was done by the eradication of grey squirrels combined with a reintroduction programme. Today 60% of Welsh red squirrels can now be found all over Anglesey. The island was declared grey squirrel free in 2016.

Reds were introduced into Newborough Forest in 2004, where they bred successfully and can now be found throughout the woodland especially within Llyn Parc Mawr, if you sit quietly at the picnic tables overlooking the feeders you may be privileged to see some special views of our iconic reds.

We have worked hard at Llyn Parc Mawr to provide a diverse habitat for all animals but especially our red squirrels.

The woodland group finance the food fed to the red squirrels and would be grateful for any contributions you may wish to make in our donation box within the carpark or on the donation button on this website.

Red Squirrel Facts

Two photos stitched together. On the left is a view of a red squirrel's back legs. On the right is an image of a red squirrel's ear tufts.
Image credit: E Paul Rogers
  • They are arboreal – they spend 75% of their lives in the top of trees
  • They are found in mixed broad-leaf and coniferous woodland ensuring they have a source of food all year round
  • Their diet is very varied consisting of pine seeds, buds, flowers, leaves, fruit, nuts – they can also take insects, occasionally birds’ eggs and fungi which are collected and dried by wedging it into tree branches
  • They do not hibernate – because of this they will lay down stores of food (cache) to see them through the winter when fresh food is not available. They will do this generally in Autumn.
  • A myth is they eat acorns. Acorns contain too much tannin and affects their digestion system.
  • Their average life span is 3 years but they can live up to 6 years
  • They build nests called dreys which are made from sticks and moss placed high in the branches
  • They mate between January and March
  • They can produce two litters of three to four kittens a year – usually March and July
  • They have four fingers and five toes
  • They can be left or right-handed just like us
  • They can rotate their back feet 180o allowing them to come down a tree head first
  • A fully grown red measures roughly 20 cm long, with a busy tail nearly as long as its body
  • Reds fur can range from almost black to light red and even grey when they can be mistaken for  grey squirrels.
  • Their underside is always cream
  • They moult their coat twice a year summer and winter, however, their ear-tufts and tail hairs are only replaced once a year in late summer
  • Females moult their coat after the first litter
  • Ear-tufts can be up to 2.5 cm in length
  • They are great swimmers
  • They are mostly active during the day where they spend most of their time foraging

Look out for evidence of Red Squirrels

  • Dreys in high up in the top of trees – football shape
  • Stripped pine cones
  • Split hazel nut shells
Two photos stitched together, showing evidence of red squirrels. On the left, nibbled pine cones. On the right, nibbled hazelnut shells.
Image credit: E Paul Rogers

Difference between reds and greys

  • Greys can tolerate acorns which are not good for reds
  • Greys are almost twice the weight of reds
  • Greys spend more time on the ground
  • Greys never have ear tufts
  • Greys usually have a white halo around the edge of their tail
Two photos of squirrels: on the left, a grey squirrel. On the right, a red squirrel. The photos highlight the differences between the two species.
Image credit: E Paul Rogers