Red squirrels spotted across Dales — but experts say this may not be good news

A red squirrel at Washfold FArm, near Leyburn. Photo: Thomas Metcalfe.

Red squirrels have been spotted in new areas of Richmondshire in recent months — but experts say this may not be good news.

The native animals have been seen as far east as Leyburn, with regular sightings further up Wensleydale in the Askrigg and Bainbridge area.

However, experts say the increase in sightings may not be a sign reds are expanding into new territory.

Ian Court is the wildlife conservation officer at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

He said: “We cannot say that red squirrels are increasing in numbers or expanding their territory in the Dales.

“There has probably been a very good breeding system this year, linked to there being a good pine cone crop, but there could be other factors – such as tree felling – that might have encouraged some reds to wander outside their usual areas.”

Ian said the sightings were likely to be younger reds which had been pushed out to find new territories of their own.

He said these ‘wanderers’ rarely manage to spread permanently beyond the refuge areas and the population often fell again when there was less food available.

Grey squirrels compete more successfully than red squirrels for food and habitat, they are larger and more robust, and can digest seeds with high seeds with high tannin content, such as acorns, more efficiently.

This means grey squirrels can access a more abundant food supply than red squirrel

Ian said reds were unlikely to be able to establish and sustain themselves until the grey squirrel population was completely exterminated.

Red squirrels have a stronghold at Snaizeholme, in Widdale, near Hawes, where there is a viewing platform created by the national park authority and landowners.


  1. As usual, the same tired old grey squirrel bashing. Stop blaming them for the woes of the reds – that honour is firmly at Man’s door. Man culled them almost to extinction and Man destroyed their habitat. The reds here now are Scandinavian so they’re no longer “native”. Squirrel pox accounts for only 2% of red squirrel deaths, the rest are caused by road traffic accidents and domestic cats. There is enough good science out there so please give the “eradication” rubbish a rest and leave these poor animals in peace. Let’s face it – “conservationists” are more interested in monetary reward than animal welfare.

  2. I totally agree that more needs doing to tackle the problems grey squirrels cause all over the british isles. We need to re introduce pine martens and a cull. Let’s save are red squirrels before it’s to late.

  3. It is cruel to want to exterminate the grey squirrels. Animal lovers love all animals and grey squirrels are not to blame. There are interesting articles on the subject. Please do not spread hate. Thanks

  4. I have noticed that grey squirrels are showing more red in their coats. The one in the picture does not have the ear tufts of a proper red.

  5. Fortunately it was possible to extirpate the Ruddy duck from the UK it might be possible to achieve the same result with the Grey pestilence. Culling is essential and they are not bad eating. Perhaps some other efforts like the Gloucester wildlife trust’s Pine Martin reintroduction project would not go amiss at all.

  6. I love all animals because they are spiritually pure it s human beings who are the real vermin on this planet and have caused beautiful animals to become extinct

  7. I’ve been eating grey squirrel for 3 years now and I’ve not yet grown a tail or foam at the mouth. I’m a grounds keeper and it’s a constant battle against greys to stop them damaging trees and stealing animal food and eating all the fruit from trees and an entire crop of sweetcorn one bank holiday weekend. Their skins are easy to treat and use but the meat is wonderful far better than rabbit to eat

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