Facts about Red Squirrels
- Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) are known for their striking orange-red fur, but their colouration can in fact be quite variable; from wheaten through ginger to dark brown. Their fur can slightly change in winter which is also when their characteristic ear tufts develop.
- Red squirrels live for three years on average, although they have been known to live up to ten years in safe enclosures.
- There is a perception that red squirrels prefer living amongst conifers and, though they successfully exist in pine woods – rather more so than the grey squirrel – ideal population densities of red squirrels will occur in mixed or broadleaf woodlands. Red squirrels are becoming increasingly restricted to conifer forests by competition from encroaching grey squirrels.
- Squirrels have an exceptional sense of smell. They can find food buried underneath a foot of snow and sense a rotten nut without having to open it.
- Squirrels can be left- or right-handed or even ambidextrous. Left-handed squirrels hold a pinecone with the top towards the left and use the left hand to rotate it. Right-handed squirrels do the opposite.
- Squirrels make more than one drey (nest) to reduce the risk of it being found by predators and in case one gets damaged. They will abandon a drey if it has too many fleas or has become waterlogged.
- Squirrels don’t hibernate and bury or place food in holes to be eaten later when food is scarce.
- They have no fixed partners and mate between February and March and again between June and July.
- Pregnancies last for 38-39 days and on average produce three kittens. Born blind with no hair or teeth, they are vulnerable to disease and attacks from carnivores and birds of prey. The mortality rate is as high as 50% in the first year of life. In a good year there might be two litters.