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Fascinating red squirrel facts

  • Their scientific name is Sciurus vulgaris.
  • Red squirrels eat seeds, buds, flowers, shoots, nuts, berries and fruit from many trees and shrubs. They also eat fungi and insects, and occasionally birds’ eggs.
  • They store nuts in the ground in the autumn.
  • They can be right- or left-handed when they eat a pine cone!
  • They will occasionally strip bark from trees (usually conifers).
  • Squirrels moult their coat twice a year, once after winter and then in the late summer before the weather gets colder again.
  • They moult their ear tufts only once a year, in late autumn.
  • They can live to six years of age.
  • They have four fingers and five toes.
  • They are not always red in colour but can also be brown, almost black or quite grey!
  • They weigh 275-300g, the same as four Mars Bars or a packet of biscuits.
  • Their body is 18-22cm long and their tail is 14-19cm in length.
  • Squirrels live high in trees in a nest made from twigs, leaves and moss. This is called a drey.
  • The drey may be in a hole in the tree or set against the trunk and branches.
  • Pregnancy lasts 36-42 days and their young are called kittens.
  • Kittens are born with their eyes closed, without teeth and with no hair. After about seven weeks they look just like small versions of their parents and are ready to leave the drey.
  • There can be two litters a year, with 3–4 kittens in each litter.
  • Average densities in conifer and broadleaf areas are 0.5–1.5 red squirrels per hectare.
  • They do not hibernate over winter, but may be less active when weather conditions are bad.
  • They can hang upside down!
  • They can swim!
  • Red squirrels are extremely susceptible to Squirrelpox virus, which is lethal.


Last updated: 17th August 2016