Feeding call as National Red Squirrel Week looms

IF YOU live in an area with red squirrels then keep feeding them during the autumn and winter.

That’s the message from the Red Squirrel Survival Trust ahead of National Red Squirrel Week, which runs on 10-16 October.

The trust recommends a mix of hazelnuts in their shells, walnuts, unsalted peanuts, and sunflower seeds, along with sweet chestnuts and pine nuts.

“This is a diet rich in all the protein they need to survive the autumn and winter weather and ensure they are in good health for the spring breeding season 2023,” explained Vanessa Fawcett, the trust’s campaign director.

“Reds can suffer from a calcium deficiency and this diet – plus some apples and carrots – will help overcome this.

“Avoid adding raisins and sultanas as this does cause their calcium levels to fall.”

The trust also recommended leaving out clean, fresh water.

Feeders should be placed at least two metres above the ground, and food should not be left on the ground because cats will hunt squirrels, the charity advised.

“We need to encourage the reds to forage for themselves in the wild and not become dependent on supplementary feeding,” added Fawcett.

“Putting out small amounts of food twice a week will ensure the reds also hunt for themselves.”

If there’s a mix of red and grey squirrels in your area then the charity recommended not leaving out food because it will encourage competition between the two species and the spread of diseases.

Similarly, the trust also advised removing feeders if there’s a squirrel pox outbreak in your area, and to clean feeders regularly.

The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey

Ahead of this month’s National Red Squirrel Week, members of the public are also being asked to report sightings of both red and grey squirrels.

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels, a campaign led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, is asking walkers to add their sightings to anonline map at scottishsquirrels.org.uk

“Red Squirrel Week is great time to get outside for an autumnal walk,” said Victoria Chanin, project officer for the south of Scotland.

“Engaging with nature in this way is very beneficial for people’s wellbeing and adding sightings of red and grey squirrels to our online map helps us to keep track of squirrel movements in Scotland.”

The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey continues all year round.

Read more stories on Scottish Field’s wildlife pages.

Plus, don’t miss Keith Kingland’s Arctic tern article in the October’s luxury issue of Scottish Field magazine.