Red Squirrels

Scientific Name:  Sciurus vulgaris

The red squirrel is native to Britain. They are also known as European Red Squirrel

1. Description - How to they Look?
2. Reproduction of Red Squirrel
3. Ecology of Red Squirrel
4. Conservation of the Red Squirrel

(1) How do they look?

Length: 19 to 23 cms. Their Tail length is 15-20 cm.
Weight: 250-340 gm
They are not dimorphic by gender, as males and females are of the same size. The long tail of the Squirrel helps the squirrel to balance and steer when jumping from one tree to the other and running along branches and may keep the animal warm during sleep.

Color: Changes with time of year and location.
Fur Coat:Red color Squirrel are found in Great Britain.  they sheds their coat twice a year, changing from thinner summer coat to thicker winter coat.


(2) Reproduction and mortality of the Red Squirrel

Mating Time: Late Winter and in Summer. up to 2 litters a year per female are possible.
Young per Litter:3 to 4 youngs per litter
Gestation About 38 to 39 Days

How do young look? The young are looked after by the mother alone and are born helpless, blind and deaf and weigh between 10 and 15 g. Their body is covered by hair at 21 days, their eyes and ears open after three to four weeks, and they develop all their teeth by 42 days. Young red squirrels can eat solid food after around 40 days following birth and from then can leave the nest on their own to find food; however, they still suckle from their mother until weaning occurs at 8 to 10 weeks.
How to they Mate: Male use their odour to attract female Squirrels. Even when there is no courtship the male Squirrel can chase the female Squirrel up to an hour before mating. Usually the largest in the group mates with the female. Males and females mate multiple times with many partners. Female Squirrels need to gain a minimum body mass before they enter oestrus and heavy females on average produce more young.

(3) Ecology and behavior of the Red Squirrel

They are found in both forest as well as broadleaf woodlands. The Squirrel makes a drey out of twigs in a branch. The drey are around 25-30 cm in diameter. They are made up of moss, bark, leaves and grass. Red Squirrels may share a drey to keep warm, but not in breeding season.

The red squirrel are active in the morning and in the late afternoon and evening. It often rests in its nest in the middle of the day, avoiding the heat and the high visibility to birds of prey that pose a threat during these hours. During the winter, this mid-day rest is often much more brief, or absent entirely, although harsh weather may sometimes cause the animal to stay in its nest for days together.

Predators for Squirrels are wild cats, stoat, pine marten, owls, raptors, fox and dogs

(4) Conservation of the Red Squirrel

They are protected in Europe while in some areas they are still hunted for its fur. The Red Squirrels are drastically reduced in numbers in UK. As per the recent calculations around 140,000 individuals are left. 85% out of them are in Scotland. The reduction in population is because of introduction of eastern grey squirrel from North America.

The major reasons why they are on threat is because:

  • The eastern grey squirrel can easily digest acorns, while the red squirrel cannot.
  • The eastern grey squirrel carries a disease, the squirrel parapoxvirus that does not appear to affect their health but will often kill the red squirrel. It was revealed in 2008 that the numbers of red squirrels at Formby have recently declined by 80% as a result of this disease.
  • When the red squirrel is put under pressure, it will not breed as often.

The eastern grey squirrel and the red squirrel are not directly antagonistic, and violent conflict between these species is not a factor in the decline in red squirrel populations.