Carberry Red Squirrel Breeding Program

Helping to bolster the indigenous Red Squirrel population in the UK hosted at


We aim to build another small, healthy and viable breeding population to add to the soft-release program already instigated successfully across the UK.

  1. By providing the most natural and hospitable environment possible to encourage successful breeding, and to improve the survival rates of juvenile Red Squirrels.

  2. To collect and interpret as much data as possible on a wide range of environmental and micro-habitat conditions and the associated behaviour and response of the Red Squirrels.

  3. Work with third party Red Squirrel focused organisations, by sharing our findings and collaborating to greatest extent possible.

How to achieve them?

  • Build and maintain the best possible breeding environment

  • Encourage successful breeding with better-than-the-wild kit survival rates

  • Extend the body of knowledge on the eco-physiology of the species 

  • Actively collaborate with other centres of excellence

Closed-circuit TV behavioural monitoring

"Sciurus vulgaris about to enter the nest box triggering the CCTV beharioural monitoring"


The CRSBP started as an idea of something I could 'give back' to the planet after my years in biological research, African safaris and wildlife photography, combined with an awareness that there is something very wrong causing the endemic Eurasian Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) to lose its toehold on the survival ladder in the UK.  It is estimated that there are only about 120,000 Red Squirrels remaining here.

There has been much published about the impact that exotic Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) have on their indigenous cousins, combined with viruses, parasite loads, habitat loss, adverse climate and direct intervention by man.  The reality is always going to be a complex balance of all of these, and what we want to do is provide another managed breeding population that is buffered from the others in the UK, so that all our eggs are spread across multiple baskets, as well as monitoring and observing our squirrels while measuring environmental conditions in a way that we can hopefully add to the body of knowledge about the eco-physiology of the species in a way that results in improving their survival chances on this island.

Young Red Squirrel tentatively stretches out to take a hazelnut

"Young Sciurus vulgaris on the camera monitored feeding platform tentatively stretching out to take a hazelnut"

How we work


In order to reduce any stress associated with being in the enclosure, we have attempted to create a diverse, florally rich and very varied "plant dressing" environment. Not only are there a vast number of branches criss-crossing the enclosure, along the sides, from floor-to-ceiling and from side to side, but also we have planted many of the plant species the red squirrels would normally find in and around the deciduous and coniferous forests they naturally occur in. 

While we have provided plenty of material to allow them to build dreys in the branches and trees within the enclosure, we have also provided nest boxes which are specially designed to provide secure, dry, well ventilated, spacious accommodation for the red squirrels to use and, ideally, breed in.

Furthermore the enclosure is set deep within a forest of trees, including overhanging branches, to increase the red squirrels' confidence that they are not exposed to aerial predators. The whole enclosure is set well away from the boundary to ensure that they are not disturbed by the general public.


The squirrels are observed from within the research hut which is set directly against one wall of the enclosure. This enables us to monitor the red squirrels activity without them being able to see us. Additionally cameras are mounted within the enclosure that enable remote recording of activity with a view to quantifying activities, behaviours, patterns and responses to environmental stimuli.


In addition to the visual and camera monitoring, we are recording environmental data (air temperature, humidity, rainfall, solar radiation, wind velocity etc) across the enclosure at various key positions with a view to determining microclimate trends which would then be associated with behavioural responses. 

Female Red Squirrel eating a Walnut

"Female Sciurus vulgaris eating a Walnut"

Program status


We will attempt to balance the natural growth of our red squirrel population against the need to keep the Gene pool as fresh as possible. This will mean that during the first few years we hope to regularly exchange individuals bred locally for new red squirrels from genetically separated captive breeding populations.  Thereafter we will maintain a continuous rejuvenation and replacement program to ensure that we avoid the risk of inbreeding.

The numbers projected below are based on assuming that we do not increase in the enclosure size meaningfully. If the program does prove to be highly successful, then we may revise our plans to incorporate new enclosure facilities.


The facility is housed in Carberry, Scotland, but is not open to general public viewing, as it would disturb the natural environment that has been created for the squirrels to breed in peace. Furthermore, access into the enclosure by the keepers is kept to an absolute minimum, with observations being done via telemetry, CCTV or from within the research hut's masked window.


The squirrels are not handled except occasionally by veterinarians for healthcheck purposes when and it the need arises. (See FAQs for more about this)


We are self-funded at this stage, but will be looking to secure external financial support as we grow.

Projected breeding population of Red squirrels at CRSBP(graph to be added)

Budget projections 2017 - 2021 (£k)(graph to be added)

The squirrel enclosure is designed to be as natural as possible, including a mist-spray system to emulate rain

"Besides CCTV monitoring, the enclosure is equipped with a mist-spray system to emulate soft forest rain"

Day to Day




Various regimes of food choices are offered and monitored

"Various regimes of food choices are offered and monitored"


Ian McNairn - FOUNDER

B.Sc Zoology, Physiology & Nature Conservation (Stell), B.Sc Hons Mammalogy (Pret), M.Sc Thermoregulatory Physiology (Pret)

Born in East Africa and educated in South Africa, Ian McNairn brings an eco-physiologist's perspective to the issues he believes are critical when addressing the breeding of endangered wildlife. He moved to the UK thirty years ago and located to Scotland in 2010, where he has now set up this new breeding program. Previously, his research has covered areas as diverse as "Bioenergetics and Thermoregulation of the Dassie (Procavia capensis)",  "Capture myopathy and stress in African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)", "VO2 max and fitness in professional spear fishermen" and "An alternative method of categorising social data using meta-tagging".  

When not observing the behaviour of his Red Squirrels, he enjoys photography, heading off the beaten track in his old Defender 110 and 'R' and Python programming.


B.Sc Hons Biomedical Science (Bangor), M.Sc Neuroscience (Edin), M.Sc Cardiovascular (Edin), Ph.D (Edin)

Julie has recently completed her Ph.D at Edinburgh University into the control of salt appetite with an attenuated virus delivered using the sonic disturbance of the blood brain barrier with the aid of microbubbles.

Previous research into the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) in Rodentia gives her unique insight into breeding programs.

Passionate about her dogs and breeding, she brings her experience and an analytical dimension to this breeding program that all too often gets relegated to chance.

Julie also shares her father, Ian's passion for LandRover Defenders.


B.Sc Hons Nursing (Wits), Dip Nursing Education, PGCE (Oxon), Dip Special Needs Education

After having practiced as a registered nurse in ICU and Midwifery, she lectured in Nursing at Witwatersrand University Medical School. Once her children were safely on their way to becoming responsible adults, Jenni shifted her focus to Special Needs teaching with a particular focus on the visual arts dimension.

Her passion is split equally between painting in oils and horticulture, and her influence on the enclosure habitat that our squirrels live in reflects this in volumes.

The Red Squirrels are the main team members of course

"Of course the most important team members in this study are the squirrels themselves"


Our team comprises several scientists and boasts partnerships with the Welsh Mountain Zoo, Edinburgh University, Moredun Institute, Anglesea Squirrel Project, SRUC, University of Karlsruhe and the University of Stellenbosch.

Sometimes the Red Squirrels prefer the most simple nest boxes to build their dreys in

"Sometimes the Red Squirrels prefer the most simple nest boxes to build their dreys in"

Frequently asked questions


No. All our red squirrels were provided by other institutions who bred them in captivity. This means that we are potentially increasing the number of red squirrels that may eventually be able to be released into the wild.


No. As with any responsible breeding and releasing program, our red squirrels will only be released into the environment via approved and co-ordinated "soft release" programs and into a habitat where they are expected to thrive. For example, they would not be released into a forest that already is infested with grey squirrels, as this would be contra-indicative to their survival.


As little as possible. In order to successfully release Red Squirrels back into environment, it is best to keep them from becoming overly exposed or imprinted on humans, and for that reason we do not handle our breeding squirrels beyond necessary veterinary checks.


They eat a wide range of foods varying from Alfalfa to Wheat, Almonds to Tomatoes but generally they enjoy nuts and seeds (Almonds, Brazil nuts, Pine nuts, Chicory, Coconut, Choquito nuts, Hazelnuts, Peanuts, Pecans, Sunflower seed, Tamarind pods, Wheat), fruit, veg and berries (Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Beetroot, Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Courgettes, Cucumber, Dried Apricots, Figs & Prunes, Garlic, Grapes, Green & Red Peppers, Kiwifruit, Lettuce, Lychees, Mango, Nectarines, Oranges, Papaya, Pears, Plums, Raisins, Raspberries, Red & White Currants, Spring Onions, Starfruit, Strawberries, Saltanas, Sweetcorn, Tangerine and Tomatoes) as well as fungi (Oyster and Shi-take Mushrooms).


Scientific name - Sciurus vulgaris Linnaeus, 1758

Common name - Eurasian Red Squirrel

English - Red Squirrel

German - Eichhornen

Dutch - Eekhoorn

French - L'Ecureil

Danish - Egernet

Gaelic - feòrag ruadh

Welsh - gwiwer goch

Red Squirrel after the moult

"The amount of red fur ear-tufts varies with the seasons"

Terms of use


USER AGREEMENT is owned and operated by the Carberry Red Squirrel Breeding Program (CRSBP), which does business as CRSBP, and its entities, including the Squirrel Enclosures, and the CRSBP Trust for Conservation Research. This website is offered to the user on the condition the user accepts without modification the terms, conditions, and notices contained herein. By accessing and using this website, the user of agrees to the following terms: contains material which is derived in whole or in part from material supplied by the Carberry Red Squirrel Breeding Program and other sources and is protected by copyright and trademark laws. This site is for your personal, noncommercial use, and you may not modify, copy, sell, distribute, transmit, display, perform, reproduce, publish, or license any material from this site, including code or software.

The user acknowledges that bulletin boards, chats, conferences, guest books, and any other forms of communication hosted by this website are public and not private communications. The content of these communications forums by yourself and others are not to be considered an endorsement by the Carberry Red Squirrel Breeding Program and shall not be considered reviewed, screened, or approved by the CRSBP.

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Pages within these websites may contain links and pointers to other Internet Web sites that are maintained by third parties and are not under the control of the CRSBP. Accordingly, the CRSBP makes no representation or endorsement concerning the content of any third party website, which you shall review "as is" and use at your own discretion.


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Red Squirrel eating a Hazelnut and CRSBP title

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