28 January 2020

PestAware: Tips for attracting red squirrels

Red squirrels are native to the UK but, sadly, their numbers have been in decline since the early 20th century.

Here, Millbry Hill's Kathryn Eccles gives her top tips for encouraging more red squirrels into your garden.

PestAware Tips for Attracting Red Squirrels

It's now estimated that there are only 140,000 red squirrels left in the UK (Wildlife Trust), putting them on the list of endangered species.

It's predicted that red squirrels could become extinct within 10 years, so we need to take action to help replenish their numbers.

Why are red squirrel numbers dwindling?

The decline in red squirrel numbers is mostly caused by the introduction of grey squirrels from North America in the 1800s.

Grey squirrels can carry diseases and viruses which can be fatal to our native red squirrels.

The grey variety also compete for food, leaving less for the red squirrels to eat.

Other factors, such as deforestation and an increase in road traffic, are also responsible for the decline in red squirrel populations.

Why are red squirrels important?

Grey squirrels prefer to live in deciduous woodland, whereas red squirrels prefer coniferous (evergreen) habitats.

Red squirrel populations are therefore important for keeping our evergreen woodlands healthy.

They play a vital role in the reforestation process because they move and hide seeds, helping coniferous trees and plants to grow and reproduce.

Red squirrels keep our evergreen woodlands healthy.

Kathryn Eccles

How can I attract more red squirrels to my garden?

As red squirrel numbers are in decline, many charities and organisations across the UK are finding ways to protect them and boost their numbers.

At home, using the four tips I'll mention below, you can easily incorporate a few small changes to do your bit and attract red squirrels to your garden.

1. Grow the right plants

Unlike their grey cousins, who you might see foraging on the woodland floor, red squirrels prefer to spend most of their time high up in the trees. If you can, try to plant large trees, like ash, birch, and willow trees, and bushes and shrubs that grow fruit, like holly, crab apples and brambles.

Try to avoid planting oak trees. Although red squirrels love eating green acorns, so do grey squirrels, so you could end up forcing them away from your garden instead.

2. Create a wildlife haven

Aside from berries, nuts and seeds, red squirrels also feed on some small insects, so you could create a small wildlife haven in the corner of your garden to attract more of them. Items like rocks and logs provide dark and damp habitats for insects, and tall grasses and plants give squirrels a place to hide from predators while they forage for food.

3. Put out food

Another way to attract more red squirrels to your garden is to put out food for them.

Simply fill a small dish or feeding box with nuts and seeds, like hazelnuts, pine nuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds.

If you or your neighbours have any pets that might roam around your garden, like dogs, cats or rabbits, you might want to place the feeding dish or box high up in a tree, on a fence, or even on a windowsill to prevent other animals eating the food.

Make sure you clean out the feeding dish or box every three to four days to prevent spreading germs and diseases.

Just use a cloth soaked in warm soapy water to clean away any left-over food and dirt, rinse it, then leave it to dry before refilling.

If you do leave feeding boxes out as a way to encourage red squirrels into your garden, bear in mind that this method could also attract more grey squirrels, too.

If you notice any grey squirrels feeding, then it might be best to take the food away and use another method instead.

Remember: do not do this to excess, as it can attract pest species such as rats. Use a table or feeder basket if possible, to catch any off cast seed.

In urban areas, taking in feed at dusk is a way to remove an easy food supply during normal feeding time.

PestAware Tips for Attracting Red Squirrels 2

4. Remove grey squirrels

Apart from being a danger to the red variety, grey squirrels can also cause damage by chewing on wood, wires and insulation if they manage to get into the roof space of your home.

They can also strip trees of their bark, which can cause the tree to die.

Although there's no way to deter grey squirrels from your garden without also discouraging red squirrels, it might help to find a company who can control the number of grey squirrels for you.

Red squirrel numbers are sadly in decline but, by following the tips in this guide, you can help to attract more of these furry friends into your garden and help to boost their numbers.

Source: Online

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