Let’s be up front about it. Through the introduction of disease and competition, this widespread, non-native squirrel has driven our native red squirrel out of much of its traditional range in the UK. It is primarily for this reason that they are often disliked but, as a common visitor to gardens, many people enjoy their presence.
The resourceful grey squirrel shares a habit with our native species, storing seeds and nuts in the ground for hard times in winter. This has the unintentional result of keeping the earth fecund for the spring when forgotten seeds germinate.
Their less welcome habit of eating birds’ eggs and chicks has led some to believe that grey squirrels may be implicated in the decline of some woodland bird species. However, at the moment there is little evidence to suggest that this is the case.
As a nipper the sight of these rodents was a treat because I almost never saw wild mammals. While their increasing abundance has taken away some of this excitement, I still can’t help but look up when I hear their squeaky voice and a rustle of leaves over head.
It is helpful for us to get a better understanding of how many of these mammals there are in the UK and where they occur. They are part of Make Your Nature Count so be sure to get involved and let us know if they’re in your area before 10 June.