Welcome to the official website of the Wight Squirrel Project - the Isle of Wight's most comprehensive guide to Red Squirrels.
Red squirrels are the only squirrel native to the British Isles. They are disappearing from the mainland fast and are being replaced by the introduced American grey squirrel.
The Isle of Wight is an important stronghold as the Solent provides a barrier to grey squirrels. However a grey does find it's way to the Island sometimes, so we need to be vigilant. There are contingency plans for dealing with greys that arrive on the Isle of Wight. Not only do grey squirrels outcompete reds, they carry the deadly squirrelpox virus, which is fatal to the reds.
It is illegal to bring a grey squirrel into red squirrel territory. The penalty is 2 years imprisonment or £5,000 fine. It is also illegal to release a grey anywhere, once it is caught.
The Isle of Wight's woodland can provide habitat for around 3,500 squirrels. Numbers fluctuate annually according to the success or failure of the autumn seed crop. They also fluctuate seasonally when young are born.
Red squirrels on the Island live mainly in broadleaved woodland - which is unique nowadays as greys dominate this habitat on the mainland. The Island is also free of deer, who nibble young shoots and retard regrowth of understorey trees.
The WSP needs both practical and financial offers of help. The easiest way to offer financial help is to become a friend of WSP and set up a standing order with a monthly or annual donation. In return we will send you a welcome pack and keep you updated about the project with regular newsletters.
Red squirrels are ‘granivore-herbivores', meaning they primarily eat seeds from plants and trees, but their diet can vary greatly throughout the year. Food is plentiful during the autumn and winter months when trees are rich with seeds and fungi are available. However, food can be scarcer during spring and summer, when their diet extends to include plant shoots, bulbs, flowers, wild fruits and berries, and even insects and occasionally bird eggs. The remains of cones that squirrels have been feeding on can often be found on the forest floor. Squirrels gnaw the scales off cones to get at the seed within, and discard the worthless cores as illustrated below.
For more information on red squirrels and projects on the island, visit the IOW Red Squirrel Trust website.
You can easily and effectively help red squirrels by becoming a Friend of the Red Squirrel. Become our Friend.
Have you seen a Red Squirrel on the Isle of Wight?. Please let us know.