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Red Squirrel

Fact File

Classification:  Animals, Mammals, Rodents, Bushy tailed Squirrels.

Average weight: 295g

Average head and body length:  21cm

Life expectancy:  Life span in the wild up to: 7 years

Life span in captivity up to:  12 years

Diet:  Herbivore – forage on coniferous seeds, beechnuts, acorns and nuts.

HERBIVORE

Conservation status:

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Sciurus vulgaris

Habitat:  Prefer to live in large mature trees in deciduous and coniferous forests.  These trees can provide them with a source of food in the form of seeds or acorns.

Threats: the main threats to their survival are the increasing number of Grey squirrels,
disease (squirrel poxvirus) and road traffic.

Characteristics:

In areas where they are common, such as central Europe, the fur colouration varies from red to black.  In Great Britain all have red coats.

Body hair changes twice annually, while the tail hair changes only once.  The winter coat covers more of the soles of the feet, has longer ear tufts and is thicker than the spring and summer coat.

The daily behaviours of these squirrels centre around obtaining food.

Time is spend mainly in the trees but they do occasionally come down to the ground for food or to bury food items such as acorns and nuts.

They do not hibernate.

Have a keen sense of vision, smell, touch and hearing.  Communicate with body signals, sounds such as warning calls and chemical cues.  Within family groups touching is also used as a method of communication.

Reproduction:

Average gestation:  39 days

Average no of young:  5

Trees chosen as nesting sites usually have hollowed out cavities or large holes in their trunks which can be used as nests.  Individuals always maintain several nests to which they can escape when being pursued by a predator.

Females give birth to an average of 2 litters per year of usually 5-7 young.  Young weigh 8-12g at birth and are born hairless and blind.  Their auditory canals are unopened and their ears are undeveloped and lay flat against their head.  Eyes open after 30 days at which point they become active cleaning themselves and running around the nest for the first time.   At this point the young also begin to eat solid food.  By 8-10 weeks offspring are fully weaned and independent, even though they tend to remain near their mother’s for some time.  Young become reproductively mature within a year. Predation from birds and mammals is a big problem for young and less than 1 in 4 survive to their first birthday.