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Red squirrel

Much rarer than the non-native grey squirrel with about 85% of them living in Scotland. Red squirrels are susceptible to the parapox virus, carried by grey squirrels (who seem to be immune), they also are out competed by these bigger, stronger greys and to make matters worse the red squirrels wont breed as often when put under pressure.

Red Squirrel with pronounced winter ear tufts ...

Image via Wikipedia

Breeding occurs between February and March and again between June and July with a gestation period of approximately 40 days, after which 3 -4 young are born blind, deaf and naked, but by one month old they will have fur and their eyes and ears will be fully opened. They will leave the nest a couple of weeks after this and be fully weaned at 2 – 3 months old, living solitary for most of the year, gathering in groups in the winter to keep warm.

Red squirrels can live up to about 3 years in the wild but sadly many end up perishing during their first winter.

Identification

  • Much rarer than its non native cousin, the Grey Squirrel
  • Males and females are the same size, 9 – 23 cm in body length and another 15 – 20cm of red bushy tail
  • Distinctive red coat with white underside
  • Furry tuffs on ears, which are most predominant in winter time
  • Tree dwelling

Latin name: Sciurus vulgaris

 

Sciurus vulgaris (Red Squirrel) in Lazienki Wa...

Image via Wikipedia

In the Garden

If you are lucky enough to have red squirrels visit your garden you can feed them a variety of foods such as hazelnuts, beech nuts (otherwise known as cob nuts), and pine nuts are a favorite as are sunflower seeds, walnuts and chestnuts. Peanuts can be fed but not exclusively as red squirrels can suffer from calcium deficiency so should only be fed as part of a varied diet. In light of this you could feed a calcium supplement in the form of carrots and apples (chopped up) or you could even leave a cuttlefish or deer antler out for them to nibble on! You should avoid dried fruit as this is hard for squirrels to digest (and may again cause calcium deficiency). Place food high up so that squirrels don’t have to cross open ground and risk becoming victims to cats and other predators. Another major problem for reds is competition from the greys for food, you can help resolve this by using special red squirrel feeders than actually prevent greys from entering to get the food, you can probably find these at your local garden store or on line. Please make sure you keep your feeders and feeding station clean just as you would with bird feeders, this will not only help keep germs and bugs at bay but may also help to reduce the spread of the deadly parapox virus.

A european squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) eating ...

Image via Wikipedia

Did you know?

  • Red squirrels are native to Britain
  • Red squirrels are good swimmers
  • The nest of a squirrel is also known as a drey
  • Red squirrels do not hibernate but can stay in the dreys for several days at a time in bad weather
  • Red squirrels shed their coats twice a year – once in the summer for a cool,thin coat and once on the summer when they swap it for a thicker, warmer one.
  • The parapox virus enters a squirrel through cuts or lesions causing tumors atsite of the infection and can also cause skin ulcers, lesions and scabs and can spread to the internal organs causing the death of the squirrel.