House of Commons Library

Potential red squirrel extinction

Published Tuesday, July 2, 2019

MPs will debate the potential extinction of the red squirrel on Wednesday 3 July at 9.30am in Westminster Hall. This House of Commons Library debate pack contains background information and press and parliamentary coverage.

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A debate on potential red squirrel extinction is scheduled for Wednesday 3 July from 9.30 to 11.00am in Westminster Hall. The debate will be led by Trudy Harrison MP.


There are two species of squirrel in the UK: the Red Squirrel and the Grey Squirrel. The red squirrel is native to Britain, but its population has declined since the middle of the last century as the American grey squirrel expanded its range across the mainland. The grey squirrel is widely accepted as the main reason for the decline of the red squirrel over the past century. This is because:

  • Grey squirrels compete with red squirrels for food and shelter and push them out to other areas
  • Grey squirrels carry the squirrelpox virus and transmit this to red squirrels. The virus does not appear to impact grey squirrels but is fatal for red squirrels.

Grey squirrels are also responsible for damage to broadleaf woodlands by stripping bark in the areas they inhabit.

Policy on wildlife is devolved, and this briefing concentrates on policy relating to squirrels in England.

Commons Debate packs CDP-2019-0174

Authors: Edward Potton; Elena Ares; Alex Adcock; Georgina Sturge

Topics: Animal welfare, Biodiversity

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