Red Squirrel Facts, Diet, Lifestyle & Behavior
Red squirrels are a type of squirrel that live in trees and can be found all over Europe. They are also called Eurasian red squirrels so that people can tell them apart from American red squirrels. Red squirrels are known for their bright red color, but sometimes they can also be orange or brown.
It is a small rodent that has a bushy tail. It has typical red color outside and white and the cream color underside and some white color near its tail. Red squirrels usually shed their coat twice a year. The coat colors also depend on the season as well as the regions. Red squirrels are active during the day. They spend their whole summer searching for food and hiding palace for winter. In winter, they do not hibernate, but they spend few months in their nest hiding from cold weather.
Where Do Red Squirrels Live :
Red squirrels live in coniferous forests in Europe and northern Asia. The range extends from the UK, Ireland, Russia, Mongolia, and northwest China. In western and southern Europe, they agave occupied broad leaves wood which is also a good food source from trees and shrubs. In most parts, broad leaves woods are not suitable because of the competition of indued grey squirrels. Sadly in Italy, Ireland, and Great Brittan, the population of these red squirrels is extinguishing.
The red squirrels live on trees, .so these tiny mammals need tress with adult species. The red squirrel prefers two types of habitat. Coniferous and broadleaf woodland .these forests have large adult trees with lots of nuts and plenty of seeds to eat. Adult trees also offer them to build a nest at a safe location from a safe distance from the earth. Some parks also have the same tree species, so these squirrels prefer to live in urban places.
Red squirrels mainly have a vegetarian diet, including seeds, hazelnuts, ripe acorn, fungus, and bark. They occasionally take animal food, such as young birds and their eggs. Pine seeds are their favorite food, but they also take larch and spruce seeds .when they eat seeds, they disperse many of them ad it helps in reforestation.
Red squirrels do not hibernate during winter. They store food and fungi in a tree, and when winter comes, they eat them. When the food is plenty, they put on weight, and it’s especially good for females, so when breeding season comes, they are healthy enough to reproduce.
For Extra Reading: Do squirrel eat meat?
Making an attractive habitat for red squirrels:
In a region where red squirrels are still present, careful woodland management can help the red squirrels survive. There are two key principles for managing woodlands: making it attractive for red squirrels and making it unattractive for grey squirrels. While managing habitat, it should be ensured that a healthy food supply is available all around the year.red squirrels mostly eat nuts and seeds, but you can compensate their food with plants, fruits, vegetables, and fungi when their preferred food is not available. Conifers do not produce seeds every year, and most of the trees do not start producing seeds until they reach the age of 20 years.
Woodlands can be managed to ensure that the seeds are present throughout the year and the species trees are of the desired age to fulfill their food needs. There should be a balancing act in squirrel food that should be attractive for red squirrel and unattractive for grey squirrel.
The location and timing of forestry work so important. Before cutting a tree, one should be aware that young squirrels are still present in their drey or not. Red squirrels also like to have canopies to move through the seeding trees. In this way, you can make an attractive woodland habitat for red squirrels where you feel that red squirrels are still present, and you can save them by providing the desired habitat to them.
For Extra Reading: Do Squirrel eat oranges?
Red squirrels are most active during the morning or late afternoon when they have taken their food. In spring and summer, they rest in
their nest to avoid heatstroke and go to search for their food in the evening. In winter, they do not hibernate but rest for few months to avoid cold weather. They used to eat stored food which they gather in the summer and spring season. Females stay in their nests to look after their babies. Most of the time, they remain on the trees and come down only to search for food. Usually, red squirrels do not form groups. The male squirrels form a group to search their compatible females for mating and completing their territory.
Read More About: Do Squirrels Eat Cat Food?
Matting Habit :
Matting usually takes place in late winter from February to march and in summer from June to July. Females usually breed and produce two litters of offsprings per year. The gestation period is about 38 to 39 days. And the female gives around a litter of 3 kids, which are called kits. The young are cared for by their mother alone, and they are born helpless blind, and deaf. The hair covers the young open their eyes after 3 or 4 weeks and the body after 21 days. They develop their teeth after 42 days of birth. The red squirrel babies can eat solid early and leave their nest to hunt their food alone after 40 days of birth, but the mothers do not feed them until they are 8 to 10 weeks old. The male detects the females through oestrus, the smell that female produce. The male chases the female before mating for up to an hour. Usually, multiple males chase a single female, and the dominant male gets a chance to mate with the competent female. The females mate with multiples males many times. Heavy females produce more kids than thin females. If there is a shortage of food, the breeding process is delayed. The female usually reproduces in the second year of matting.
Life Span :
The red squirrels who survive their first winter may survive for three years. But those who are in captivity have a life span of 7 to 10 years. Survival is related to the availability of food, seeds, and shelter. Almost 75 to 80 percent of juvenile squirrels die in their first winter. The mortality is about 50 percent in the first winter.
Red Squirrel and Human Interaction :
human has introduced not only grey squirrels as an interaction that harms red squirrels. But as the population is growing, cities are enlarging the destruction of natural habitat for red squirrels. More people means more transport and more killing of squirrels on the road. In this way, humans have many negative impacts on the ecosystem.
Human has not killed red squirrels intentionally in any way.
Red Squirrels As A Pet :
Red squirrels do not make a good pet. Even they look cute because of the fur, but they are wild. Wild animals are not trustable, and they can bite at any time. In some countries, it is banned to take red squirrels as a pet.
Making squirrels as a pet is also not an easy task. Feeding is also a very difficult task if you have a squirrel as a pet.
You can feed them through a feeder hanging on the trees, or you can put food in the bowl. The feeder and food should be clean before feeding. The feeder should be clean at least once a week with disinfectant water. The disinfectant water is easily available at pet stores. The feeder should be placed in the highest place. The food should not be scattered on the ground. Ideally, a good location for hanging the feeder is against the wall. So the squirrels do not have to cross open ground. Sweet foods and dried foods such as raisins and sultanas should be avoided. These foods are hard to digest and cause calcium deficiency. Feeding red squirrels is wonderful entertainment as you can watch their amusing antics.
Why Red Squirrels Are Endangered:
In England, wales, and Northern Ireland, the red squirrels are officially called near threatened, but in Scotland, they are seen in enormous numbers. The main reason is the introduction of grey squirrels. There are three reasons why the greys are a threat to red squirrels. Both grey squirrels and red squirrel do not kill each other, but the greys carry the virus paropox virus which does not harm themselves but effect red squirrels made them sick and ultimately resulted in the death of red squirrels.
Grey squirrels are in large numbers, so they search for food and store it before red squirrels. Moreover, they eat green acorn and clear the area before reds get a chance. Red squirrels favor green acorn because they cannot digest polyphenol in mature acorns. When red squirrels are stressed, they have less food the breeding process gets slow.
Loss of woodland and the favored habitat is also a threatening situation to red squirrels. The favored habitat offers them various food and protection, which helps in fasting the matting process. One reason may be overpopulation, which leads to woodland habitat destruction, road traffic, and predators, but these are not the main reasons.
To protect red squirrels, grey squirrels should be kept apart from them.
How You Can Help The Endangered Red Squirrels:
There are certain ways through which you can help endangered red squirrels. Providing food :
If the red squirrels visit your garden, you can leave a certain variety of food for them to supplement their diet. the food includes Hazelnuts
Walnuts apple carrots
If you have sufficient outdoor place, trees and shrubs create natural food sources such as raspberries, wild cherries, and brambles for red squirrels.
If you have a feeding station, it is recommended to place them high on the tree or against the wall. Also, make sure that red squirrels have not crossed the ground to get the food.
Be Aware of Grey Squirrels :
The grey squirrels do not co-exist with red squirrels. This is because of the carry virus, which is contagious for the red squirrel. So before
feeding red squirrels, make sure there are no grey squirrels in the surrounding. The expert says to unattractive red squirrels to your garden if there are chances of grey squirrels in your garden.
Find and adopt red squirrels :
When you are out in the wood to try to sit and listen to your surrounding .when you will be quiet, you will listen to the squirrel before seeing them .you will see them munching on the pine tree, running on the trees, falling from the canopy and chattering loudly when they feel your presence. Most of the wildlife trusts offer red squirrels adaptation .you can adopt squirrels and receive special packs and certificates.
You can design woodland and habitat for red squirrels, making them attractive by providing a variety of foods and shelter, establishing a buffer zone around the area where they are present, and monitoring them.
Interesting Facts About Red Squirrels:
The red squirrels are distributed in all of Europe and Asia. Their global population is safe, but some localized populations are failing. There are few reasons behind these.
Squirrel surplus :
Humans have introduced grey squirrels that usually live in North America. Nowadays, grey squirrels are spreading throughout the united kingdom. Grey squirrels are a real threat to native red squirrels.
The two species, red squirrels and grey squirrels, don’t kill them directly. But then what is the reason for their deaths. One of the reasons is sick squirrels. The grey squirrels carry parapoxvirus, which does not kill them but does kill red squirrels.
Less food :
The grey squirrels are larger in number than the red squirrels. This favors them to collect more food and store it. Because of this reason red squirrels suffer and have less food.
Pine predators :
Pine martens are the predator who preys on these little creatures, squirrels. As the population of grey squirrels induced by humans is increasing, the pine martens are also increasing. These carnivores preferably and selectively hunt grey squirrels over red squirrels hence helping in protecting red squirrels.
The long bushy tail is very helpful for the squirrels. It helps them to keep their balance while leaping through the treetops. It also helps them to maintain balance while swimming. Also, it acts as a blanket to keep them warm and dry in their drey during winters.
They are not strictly red :
The red squirrel has a very beautiful rusty color. In winter, the coat fades to dark brownish-grey color. In few mammals, the coat color can also be affected by a gene mutation. You may see a squirrel with dark color, and that might change into a black shade.
Carnivores side :
Red squirrels predominately love vegetables, but they also have some interest in eating birds and their eggs. However, they also have a great love for nuts and prefer that forest that provides them with various nuts.
They built their natural habitat:
Red squirrels are also known as natural tree planters. The red squirrels occasionally forget where they stashed their food. The seeds and nuts left under the ground squirrels often result in growing trees and expanding natural habitat.
They do not hibernate:
Unlike other small mammals, they do not hibernate. They forage for plenty of food during spring and summer and store them for winter. During winter, they do not hibernate but keep in their drey for few months—they need more energy to keep them warm and active during winter.
They live in the nest :
The squirrels live in their nest called drey. The drey is built of moss, twigs, and grass close to the trunk of the tree. In winter, they mostly share their drey to keep them warm.
For Extra Reading: Squirrel Nest
They are good at reproducing :
When red squirrels are one year old, they can start having babies. They have two sets of babies every year, which means they have six babies in total. If a female squirrel lives her whole life without any problems, she can have up to 66 babies. But sometimes, if there isn’t enough food or if the squirrel isn’t healthy, she might not have as many babies. And the place where the squirrels live is also important for their babies to grow up healthy.
A Range expending incontinent :
Red squirrels are not just British species. They are also found in Europe. In the Alps and the Pyrenees, they are found living 2000 m high.
They can swim :
The red squirrels are not afraid to take a swim. They can swim, which surprises the tourist when they see a red squirrel swimming in the middle of uls water in the lake district. That red squirrel swam for 300 meters.
They have a fantastic grip on things:
Red squirrels are both right and left-handed. They can hold seeds and nuts, climb well through the tree canopy. They have four fingers and five toes on each paw and foot.
Frequently Asked The Question :
Q1:Does a grey squirrel kill a red squirrel?
The grey squirrel carries a virus name parapox virus. This virus does not harm grey squirrel themselves but affect the red squirrel and kill them. When a grey squirrel is under stress, they do not breed often.
Q2:Why do we need to protect red squirrels?
Grey squirrels are essential because they are a natural way of planting coniferous trees. When they store food for winter, which is often left underground, it results in growing trees and their natural habitat. Another benefit is that when they eat seeds, they despise them on the ground resulting in trees.
Q3:Are red squirrels destructive?
Red squirrels and grey squirrels are both known for carrying diseases. Their feces and urine are toxic to humans also they damage the tree.