Info: Live streaming webcam showing red squirrels in Scotland. The red squirrels are visiting a feeder which is in the grounds of Balmoral castle in Aberdeenshire.
The red squirrel, despite its name has a coat colour ranging from grey/brown to red. The throat, belly and eye rings are a distinctive white.
The red squirrel is the UK’s only native squirrel species and was once widespread across its islands. Red squirrel populations have drastically declined since the introduction of the grey squirrel. Grey squirrels were introduced to the UK from North America by the Victorians in the 1800s, the first record of them escaping and establishing a wild population is 1876.
Grey squirrels compete more successfully than red squirrels for food and habitat. They are larger and more robust, and can digest seeds with high tannin content, such as acorns, more efficiently than red squirrels. This forces red squirrels into other areas where they can find it more difficult to survive. Grey squirrels do untold damage to woodlands by stripping bark from trees.
Also, grey squirrels transmit a squirrel pox virus which can normally kill red squirrels. Once infected, red squirrels often die of starvation or dehydration.
The UK government has given its support to a project to use oral contraceptives to control grey squirrel populations. Environment minister Lord Goldsmith says the damage they and other invasive species do to the UK's woodlands costs the UK economy £1.8 billion a year.
The plan is to lure grey squirrels into feeding boxes which only they can access which will have small pots containing hazelnut spread. These would be spiked with an oral contraceptive. It is thought this could reduce grey squirrel numbers by 90%.