The red squirrel or Eurasian red squirrel is a species of tree squirrel common throughout Eurasia. The red squirrel is an omnivorous rodent. In western and southern Europe they are found in broad-leaved woods where the mixture of tree and shrub species provide a good year round source of food.
In Great Britain, Ireland, and in Italy numbers have decreased drastically in recent years. This decline is associated with the introduction by humans of the eastern grey squirrel from North America. The grey squirrel carries the Squirrel Pox Virus, and is usually fatal to red squirrels. Greys have developed immunity to the disease having been exposed to the virus for many years.
The mortality rate for untreated infected red squirrels in the wild appears to be 100%, most dying within 15 days of being infected.
- If you find a sickly red squirrel or a dead red squirrel (which does not have obvious signs of injury like road kill), please get in touch with Northern Squirrels urgently on their HOTLINE number: 07878 061880. If no reply, please leave a message.
The population of Red Squirrels in some areas is stabilising due to conservation efforts, awareness and the rise of the natural predator of the grey squirrel, the pine marten.
The red squirrel, like most tree squirrels, has sharp, curved claws to enable it to climb and descend broad tree trunks, thin branches and even house walls. Its strong hind legs enable it to leap gaps between trees. The red squirrel also has the ability to swim.
The coat of the red squirrel varies in colour with time of year and location. There are several different coat colour morphs ranging from black to red. Red coats are most common in Great Britain; in other parts of Europe and Asia different coat colours co-exist within populations, much like hair colour in some human populations. The underside of the squirrel is always white-cream in colour. The red squirrel sheds its coat twice a year, switching from a thinner summer coat to a thicker, darker winter coat with noticeably larger ear-tufts (a prominent distinguishing feature of this species) between August and November.
- For sightings of the Red Squirrel, please report them to Red Squirrels Northern England. It is critical that it is known where red squirrels have been spotted… it helps to understand more about their range so that they can better protected.