Squirrels commonly found in Hampshire 'don't deserve bad reputation', study finds

The new study, which involved comparing the DNA of nearly 1,500 grey squirrels found that different squirrel populations are still genetically distinct. Credit: Peter Byrne / PA Archive/PA Images

Grey squirrels do not fully deserve their reputation as dastardly woodland villains, a study has found.

Genetic research has shown the animals - most commonly found in Hampshire and the New Forest - have been unjustly accused of ecological crime committed by the real guilty party - humans.

The bushy-tailed rodents were imported into the UK from North America in the 1800s and spread rapidly across the UK, stripping bark from trees, robbing songbird nests, and driving native red squirrels from their habitats.

Different populations of grey squirrels were thought to have interbred into a "supersquirrel" that was better able to adapt and spread.