The red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris, is a type of tree squirrel that lives in Europe and Asia. It is in the genus Sciurus. The red squirrel is a rodent that lives in trees and eats mostly plants. In recent years, the number of members in Great Britain, Ireland, and Italy has dropped by a lot.
This drop is because people brought the eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) from North America to Europe. But the number of grey squirrels in Scotland is stabilizing because of conservation efforts, public awareness, and the growing number of pine martens. Pine martens are a European predator that eats grey squirrels.
Distribution: Where Do Red Squirrels Live?
Red squirrels like to live in Scots pine, Siberian pine, and Norway spruce forests in Siberia and northern Europe. In southern and western Europe, they live in woods with many different kinds of trees and shrubs, making it easier for them to find food all year long. Because the Grey squirrel was brought to the British Isles and Italy, broad-leaved woodlands are not as good for wildlife as they used to be.
Diet: What do red squirrels eat?
Most of what red squirrels eat are tree seeds. They will carefully strip conifer cones to get the seeds, nuts (especially hazelnuts, but also chestnuts and beech), berries, and young shoots inside. They sometimes eat bird eggs or young birds.
Red squirrel behavior
Most of the time, red squirrels are active in the morning or in the late afternoon. During this time, they eat the most. Moreover, during the spring and summer, they stay in their nests around noon to avoid the heat. During the winter, this midday break is often very short or not taken at all. Even though these squirrels spend most of their time in the trees, they come down to look for food and hide food.
Eurasian red squirrels don’t hibernate, but when there are strong winds or bad storms, they stay in their nests and only come out to find food. Females take care of their young for long periods of time while they are in their nests. Red squirrels don’t live in groups, but males will gather in a female’s territory to fight over the chance to mate with her.
Red squirrel Mating Habits
Mating can happen in the late winter, from February to March, or in the summer, between June and July. Some females can have babies with more than one male. The time from conception to birth is 36–40 days, and 1–8 babies are born on average. The young are born naked, blind, and pink. They grow slowly, and their eyes don’t open until they are 27 days old.
By day 30, they have fur all over and are ready to leave the nest. Within 7 weeks, they are moving around outside the nest, and soon after they are weaned, they are fully independent. By the time they are 9–11 weeks old, they have set up their own homes. They are sexually mature at 1 year old but still grow and change.
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Red squirrel Population
At the moment, there don’t seem to be any major threats to Red squirrels around the world. Locally, these squirrels may be hurt by habitat loss and fragmentation, too much hunting, the pet trade, and competition with species that have been brought in. Eastern grey squirrels from North America are killing off some Red squirrels in Britain and Italy.
IUCN says that red squirrels are common in most of their range, but they don’t have information on how many there are worldwide. People know that the grey squirrels have had a big effect on the Red squirrel population in the UK by making it harder for them to find food. In 2013, it was thought that there were less than 140,000, with about 85 percent of them living in Scotland. Overall, the IUCN Red List classifies Eurasian red squirrels as Least Concern (LC), but their numbers are going down.
Facts About Red Squirrel
- Squirrels don’t hibernate, but they do store up nuts and seeds to eat in the winter.
- Grey squirrels and Red squirrels can’t have babies together.
- Only one out of every six Red squirrels lives to be one year old. This is because they get sick, go hungry, or are eaten as prey.
- Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, red squirrels and their nests are safe.
- Each paw of a red squirrel has two toes and four fingers.
- Red squirel can find their buried food even when there is more than 1 foot of snow on the ground.
- People think that the red squirrel came to the British Isles from Europe around 10,000 years ago when the last Ice Age ended.
- They can swim and hang from the ceiling.
How Rare Is A Red Squirrel?
Since the early 1900s, the number of red squirrels has been decreasing, and now only about 140,000 of them are left. This is like how the 2.5 million North American grey squirrels have pushed the UK red squirrel out of most places since it was brought there.
Are There Red Squirrels In The US?
The American red squirrel is found in the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains and further south in the northern United States and the Northeast.
Why Are Red Squirrels Becoming Rare?
The loss of forest habitat and the invasion of the American grey squirrel has put the red squirrel on the verge of extinction. Unfortunately, the squirrel pox virus that the greys carry is fatal to the reds.
Are Red Squirrels Aggressive?
As a rule, red squirrels are far more combative than their much more subdued grey counterparts. Some of them can even give the impression of being timid. Despite this common misconception, red squirrels are just as busy as their grey counterparts all year round; the two species don’t even bother to hibernate during the colder months.
What Eats Red Squirrels?
Birds such as owls and raptors like the goshawk and buzzards may capture the red squirrel. Other arboreal predators include tiny mammals like the pine marten, wildcats, and the stoat, which prey on nestlings. When the red squirrel is on the ground, it is vulnerable to predators like the red fox, cats, and dogs.
Do Red Squirrels Fly?
Like other flying squirrels, the red giant flying squirrel is mostly active at night. It can glide long distances between trees by spreading out its patagium, the skin between its limbs. It does not fly like a bat.
Do Red Squirrels Hibernate
Red squirrels don’t hibernate but store food to survive when there isn’t enough fresh food. In their preferred habitats of mixed broadleaf and coniferous woodland, pine seeds are available all year long, so they can eat all year long.
How Long Do Red Squirrels Live
On average, red squirrels live for three years, but in safe places, they have been known to live up to ten years. This is because of the predators that live in the natural world. However, they do not face these predators with protection in a zoo or at home. Moreover, the survival age varies from species to species. So, some squirrel species have larger life spans while other have smaller.
How To Get Rid Of Red Squirrels
When your plants are ready to bloom, try sprinkling cayenne pepper, ground chili peppers, pepper flakes, and/or garlic pepper on and around them. Once they’ve tried cayenne, squirrels won’t eat anything else with it, and you can often buy it in bulk.
Parvaiz Yousuf is a senior SEO writer and editor with an experience of over 6 years, who also doubles up as a researcher. With an MSc zoology degree under his belt and possessing complete Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knowledge, he works as a science journalist for a US-based website and Asian Scientist (A Singapore-based magazine). He also works as Director of Wetland Research Centre, Wildlife Conservation Fund YPJK since 2018. Besides, he has several publications to his name on cancer biology and biochemistry in some reputed journals such as Nature & International Journal of Molecular Sciences, & magazines such as Science Reporter, BUCEROS BNHS, and has an abiding interest in ornithology. He also worked as a Research Associate for JK Policy Institute.