Habitat: The species preferred habitat is mature woodlands with a diverse understory however; in Ireland the species is common in agricultural lands, planted forests, scrub or shrublands, and urban areas.
Description: The grey squirrel is a larger tree squirrel than the native red squirrel. It has a distinctive long bushy tail and characteristic short front legs. Colouration is known to vary with some specimens displaying ‘chestnut’ markings on paws, hips and face which can lead to misidentification. In winter the species displays a thick winter grey/silver coat on the upper side of the body with a white under side. The total length of these squirrels ranges from 430-500 mm, tail length ranges from tail 210-240 mm, and generally is 400-710 g. in weight.
Origin and Distribution: Originated from North America but was introduced to Europe to ‘improve’ diversity of estates in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Impacts: Grey squirrel is considered the main threat to the endangered and protected red squirrel. They out compete the red for space and food and are also a known vector for the Parapox virus which can be fatal to red squirrels. Grey squirrels also cause economic loss to forestry plantations by stripping the bark of trees which can lead to tree die off
- How did it get here? Deliberate release.
- Where is it found in Ireland? Grey squirrel was first released in Ireland at Castle Forbes, County Longford and has since spread and is now widespread in the east, south and north of the island.
Methods for prevention: This species is very widespread across the island of Ireland, and total eradication is unlikely. Focus remains on humanely controlling the species to prevent the spread of damage to habitats and other wildlife.
Current Legislative Position (Listed on 03 August 2016) This species must not intentionally be brought into the Union; kept; bred; transported to, from or within the United Kingdom, unless for the transportation to facilities in the context of eradication; placed on the market; used or exchanged; permitted to reproduce, grown or cultivated; or released into the environment. For further queries, you can contact the Non Native Invasive Species Team in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency on 028 9056 9558.