Red squirrel

Red squirrels are rare in Wales. The main populations are on Anglesey, in Clocaenog Forest and in mid-Wales, but there are a few other sites that still have red squirrels. The red squirrel is threatened by the non-native grey squirrel, through disease (the squirrelpox virus) and competition for food.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) gives full protection to red squirrels under Schedule 5.

For Schedule 5 species, the following are offences:

  • Intentional taking, killing or injuring
  • Intentionally / recklessly damaging or destroying its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally / recklessly disturbing it whilst occupying its place of shelter / protection
  • Intentionally / recklessly obstructing access to its place of shelter / protection
  • Sale, or offering / exposing for sale
  • Possession

It is also listed on Schedule 6, which prohibits certain methods of capture and killing, which are specified in Section 11. These include using the following:

  • Any trap or snare, electrical device or poisonous / stupefying substances
  • Any net
  • Any automatic or semi-automatic weapon
  • Any device for illuminating a target / sighting device
  • Any dazzling device
  • Any gas or smoke
  • Any sound recording as a decoy
  • Any mechanically propelled vehicle

If you are setting traps to catch pest species (such as grey squirrels), or under a licence from Natural Resources Wales, we advise you to read the following guidance notes: Incidental trapping of Schedule 5 and Schedule 6 animals and Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Grey squirrels

Grey squirrels are a species of special concern under the Invasive Alien Species legislation.

It is illegal to:

  • import
  • keep
  • transport
  • breed
  • sell or exchange them
  • release them
  • allow them to escape into the wild

You must have the landowner’s permission to enter their land to trap grey squirrels. 

If you live trap a grey squirrel, you must not release it into the wild unless you first obtain a licence from us. Please contact us directly for advice.

You must kill grey squirrels without causing them unnecessary suffering (humanely dispatch), using approved trapping, or shooting methods. You must be competent to trap and kill grey squirrels.

Causing unnecessary harm to any animal can result in a fine or imprisonment.

If you are trapping grey squirrels in an area where red squirrels are present, you must only use live traps. You must not trap red squirrels by mistake.

You should also carry out appropriate biosecurity to prevent the spread of disease from grey squirrels to red squirrels.

When you can apply for a licence

Find out who can apply for a protected species licence

Apply for a protected species licence

If you cannot avoid disturbing protected species, or damaging their breeding sites and resting places, you can apply for a licence for a range of different activities:

Contact us

You can contact us for help at any time before or during your licence application.

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