Protected species: red squirrels

Scotland’s native red squirrels are specially protected. Grey squirrels, a non-native species introduced from North America, aren’t protected.

Red squirrels and their dreys (resting places) receive full protection under Schedules 5 and 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

Read about the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Schedules 5 and 6

Grey squirrels don’t receive any formal protection (other than through animal welfare legislation). But the Wildlife and Countryside Act also covers their release into the wild. This is because of the grey squirrel’s alien status and its impacts on our red squirrel populations.

You can see our summary of offences in relation to wild squirrels below. For the definitive list of offences, you should consult the actual legislation.

Discover more about the red squirrel and how it lives.

Offences: wild squirrels

It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly:

  • kill, injure or take a red squirrel
  • damage, destroy or obstruct access to a drey or any other structure or place which a red squirrel uses for shelter or protection
  • disturb a red squirrel when it is occupying a structure or place for shelter or protection

This protection does not apply to areas where red squirrels only feed.

It is also an offence to possess or control, sell or offer for sale, or possess or transport for the purpose of sale any living or dead red squirrel or any derivative of such an animal.

It is an offence to release a grey squirrel into the wild.

Knowingly causing or permitting any of the above acts to be carried out is also an offence.


Licensing allows named individuals to carry out actions that could otherwise constitute an offence. If you’re planning any activities that could affect red squirrels, you must make sure you stay within the law.

Find out about red squirrels and licensing.

Learn more about licensing.

Find out more

Listen to our latest Podcast - Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels and tackling the threat of Invasive Non-Native Species

Protected species known to occur naturally in Scotland and their protection

Protected Species Advice for Developers: Red squirrel


If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.

Licensing Team

01463 725364

[email protected]

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