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Eurasian Red Squirrel Fact File

Appearance

Despite being known as the red squirrel their fur color can vary from red to brown, grey or black. There is some regional variation in color, for example only red colored individuals live in the United Kingdom. The underparts are a pale white color on all individuals.

At the end of the body is a large bushy tail which is the same length as their head and body. This can measure between 15 and 20cm (6-8in).

On top of each ear the red squirrel has tufts of fur and these grow longer during winter. Their feet also have more fur over them during winter. While they molt most of their fur twice per year the tail fur is only molted once.

An average Eurasian red squirrel has a head and body length of 20-25cm (8-10in) long and weighs 200-475g (7-17oz).

Diet

The red squirrel is a herbivore and feeds on nuts, fungi such as mushrooms, shoots, fruit, soft bark, sap and seeds. They show a preference for the seeds of the conifer tree.

Some observations of them eating animal prey such young as birds and eggs have been made.

Eurasian Red Squirrel

Scientific Name

Sciurus vulgaris

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

200-475g (7-17oz)

Length

20-25cm (8-10in)

Lifespan

7 years

Diet

Herbivorous

Range

Eurasian red squirrels can be found across Europe and Asia.

They are a native resident of the following countries, Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of, Korea, Republic of, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

This species has been introduced to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan along with Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Habitat

They make their home in forests especially the coniferous forest. In human inhabited areas they may be found in parks and gardens.

Nests are created by the Eurasian red squirrel in a hollow tree cavity.

Eurasian Red Squirrel

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Reproduction

Females will give birth twice per year. The first is usually between February and March with the second litter born between May and August.

Females come in to estrus and this causes a large group of males to gather in her territory. They will compete for mating rights with the females. Following this the males disperse and are not involved in raising the young.

The successful male will chase the female in a prolonged run through the trees.

Each litter includes between two and five young which are blind and naked. He gives birth in a nest known as the drey which is lined with soft material such as grass and soft moss. This can be built in the fork of a tree or a hollow.

The eyes open at five weeks old. They are weaned and independent by eight to ten weeks old. Following weaning they will remain with their mother for a period of time.

Sexual maturity is achieved at a year old.

Behavior

They do not hibernate and instead store food which they use to survive through the winter.

During summer they will rest in their drey during the heat of the day. During the rest of the year their activity is focused around early morning and late evening when they will complete most of their activity.

Much of their day is spent in the trees. They will go to ground to find food if they cannot find enough in the trees. Their food is also buried in the ground to save for winter. They are agile climbers due to having double-jointed ankles.

A Eurasian red squirrel can jump up to 2m (6.6ft) between two trees.

They are solitary and do not associate outside of breeding season. The range of a Eurasian red squirrel may overlap with that of many others as they are not territorial.

Eurasian Red Squirrel

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the Eurasian red squirrel include birds of prey, martens, cats, red foxes and stoats. Young which are in the nest face further predators such as snakes.

In parts of their range they face competition from the introduced grey squirrel which may lead to the complete disappearance of this species from parts of their range. They are further threatened by the introduction of the squirrelpox virus which grey squirrels carry and can be fatal to the red squirrel.

Humans affect their population through hunting for fur.

In some areas they are a popular pet and are captured for this.

Quick facts

A Eurasian red squirrel can jump up to 2m (6.6ft) between two trees.

Eurasian Red Squirrel
Eurasian Red Squirrel

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Photo Credits

Under License

References


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley,


Seinfeld, J. 1999. “Sciurus vulgaris” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 04, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Sciurus_vulgaris/


The European Nature Trust. 2020. Animal Profile: Eurasian Red Squirrel | The European Nature Trust. [online] Available at: <https://theeuropeannaturetrust.com/animal-profile-eurasian-red-squirrel/> [Accessed 5 October 2020].


Shar, S., Lkhagvasuren, D., Bertolino, S., Henttonen, H., Kryštufek, B. & Meinig, H. 2016. Sciurus vulgaris (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T20025A115155900. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T20025A22245887.en. Downloaded on 05 October 2020.


Woodland Trust. 2020. Red Squirrel. [online] Available at: <https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/mammals/red-squirrel/> [Accessed 5 October 2020].


Wildlifetrusts.org. 2020. Red Squirrel | The Wildlife Trusts. [online] Available at: <https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/mammals/red-squirrel> [Accessed 5 October 2020].

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