The Surprising Rise: Understanding the Squirrel Population Boom

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In their 2012 publication “Squirrels” by the Mammal Society, John Gurnell, Peter Lurz, and Luc Wauters observe that Red squirrel densities range from 40 to 100 individuals per square kilometer, but there is a lack of current census data for this species. 

In a review of Britain’s mammal populations conducted in 1995, Stephen Harris, Derek Yalden, Steph Wray, and Pat Morris estimated the Red squirrel population in the UK to be approximately 161,000 individuals. According to Harris and colleagues, the majority of these squirrels were located in Scotland, comprising around 75% or 121,000 animals, while 33,000 were in England and the remaining 10,000 in Wales. 

Historical and recent fluctuations in Red squirrel populations have been significant. Throughout the 19th Century, there were numerous instances of Reds being imported from continental Europe, particularly Scandinavia, to augment populations during periods of decline..

Estimating the total population of mammals presents challenges, yet it is believed that the number of Red squirrels remaining in Britain and Ireland does not exceed 200,000 individuals.

In the early 2000s, notable declines were observed, particularly along the Sefton coast in north-west England, where the population plummeted by an estimated 90%. At Formby, the numbers dwindled to roughly 20 animals by 2008. 

However, more recent observations indicate a resurgence in populations. Presently, it is estimated that there are approximately 700 Red squirrels on Anglesey, up from around 300 during the turn of the millennium. 

The Isle of Wight in Hampshire is home to an estimated 3,500 Reds, while Brownsea Island in Dorset hosts around 250. Kielder Forest in Northumberland is believed to harbor 60-75% of England’s Red squirrel population, amounting to almost 25,000 animals, according to some assessments.

In general, the majority of squirrel charities seem to agree on an estimate ranging between 140,000 and 160,000 Red squirrels in Britain. While data regarding squirrel populations in Ireland is limited, the conclusive report from the Combined Research and Inventory of Squirrels in Irish Silviculture (CRISIS) summit, released in 2008, indicated that there could be as few as 40,000 red squirrels left in Ireland.

An estimated 2 million Grey squirrels roam Britain, outnumbering Red squirrels by a staggering 10 to 1, as stated by Marc Baldwin. Unlike their Red counterparts, Grey squirrels have flourished, expanding their territory and population. 

According to Gurnell, Lurz, and Wauters in 2012, densities of Grey squirrels can exceed 800 per square kilometer. Earlier estimates from Harris and colleagues in 1995 suggested around 2 million Greys in England, 200,000 in Scotland, and an additional 320,000 in Wales, totaling approximately 2.5 million across the UK. While recent surveys are lacking, trends can be inferred from gamekeeper reports. 

The number of squirrels killed, known as ‘gamebags’, doubled in Scotland and rose by 58% and 88% in England and Wales, respectively, from 1995 to 2009, offering insight into the population dynamics.

For many species, game bags may provide a misleading impression, as the number of individuals taken can fluctuate with changes in hunting effort. However, these records do indicate an overall increase in population since the 1995 estimate. Data from the Breeding Birds Survey also suggest population growth, showing a 28% increase in overall abundance in the UK between 1995 and 2002. 

There have been claims that Greys now outnumber Reds by 66:1 in Britain, suggesting a population of around 10 million. However, this assertion may slightly misinterpret a 2002 Forestry Commission press release, which stated that Greys were “estimated to outnumber” Reds by 66:1 in England, closer to the 1995 estimate of around 2 million.

Recent reports in the UK media estimate the population of Greys in the range of 3 to 5 million, yet no specific sources are cited. Meanwhile, the 2008 CRISIS report approximated the Grey squirrel population in Ireland to be around 300,000.


What is the population of squirrels?

The population of squirrels varies by region and species, making it difficult to provide a precise global estimate.

How many squirrels are in the UK?

A: Estimates suggest there are between 3 to 5 million Grey squirrels in the UK, but specific numbers can vary.

How many squirrels are in Canada?

Canada is home to several species of squirrels, including the Eastern Grey squirrel and the American Red squirrel. Population estimates vary by region and species, but Canada likely has a substantial squirrel population.

Are there squirrels in Australia?

No, squirrels are not native to Australia. However, there are similar native animals such as the sugar glider and the squirrel glider.

What is the Australian equivalent of a squirrel?

The Australian equivalent of a squirrel could be considered to be animals such as the sugar glider or the squirrel glider, which are marsupials with similar ecological roles.

Are there squirrels in New Zealand?

No, squirrels are not native to New Zealand.

Are squirrels a pest in Australia?

While squirrels are not present in Australia, other introduced species such as rabbits, foxes, and cane toads are considered pests due to their impact on the native ecosystem.

How did squirrels get to the UK?

Grey squirrels were introduced to the UK from North America during the 19th century. They were initially brought over as ornamental additions to parks and estates but later became established in the wild.

How many black squirrels are there in the UK?

Black squirrels are a color variant of the Grey squirrel. While they are less common than Grey squirrels in the UK, specific population estimates for black squirrels are not readily available.

About Sabrina Tulip

I'm Sabrina Tulip, and I have a deep passion for all things animal world. I'm committed to helping others who loves wild animals. Reach out to me at for gardening advice and tips. Let's make the world a little greener together!

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