Red squirrel close up (Sciurus vulgaris). By Piotr Krzeslak |
Red squirrel close up (Sciurus vulgaris). By Piotr Krzeslak |

About red squirrels.

They are solitary animals that live in treetops and try to remain there as much as possible, leaping from tree to tree.

These squirrels build nests with twigs, moss, etc. and sometimes they use tree hollows for that purpose. Generally, each squirrel has more than one nest, to be able to have alternatives if one is discovered by predators or gets infested by fleas. These animals don’t hesitate to swim if they have to.

Squirrels get part of the calcium they need, especially to keep their teeth healthy, from deer antlers they find in the forest. These animals shed and regrow their antlers every year, and squirrels benefit from the calcium they contain.

Unlike grey squirrels, red squirrels have trouble digesting acorns. They prefer hazelnuts.

These animals have an acute sense of hearing. They can rotate their ears to determine the sound direction and they remain always alert to danger. Their sense of smell, however, is even better than their hearing. They can detect food buried under a thick layer of snow or know if a nut is rotten without opening the shell.

A female can have up to 6 babies per litter, even though they are so vulnerable that an average of only one survives predators.

Red squirrels use their tail to keep themselves steady in treetops, as a rudder for leaping, and to communicate with each other.

This type of squirrel doesn’t hibernate, so it stores part of the food for periods of scarcity. They can dry mushrooms in their nest or bury food they collect when the weather grows harsh. This is important for their environment, as they often forget some of the seeds, which end up growing into trees.

They are able to jump a distance of two meters and fall from a height of 12 meters without getting injured.

They have 4 fingers in each paw, with a thumb to hold food. They have 5 fingers in their “feet” and ankles that allow them to climb down trees head first.

Despite being very similar animals, red squirrels can not interbreed with grey squirrels. There are physical differences, like the color of their coats, the ear tufts and other characteristics, but also at other levels. An example would be the squirrel pox, a fatal disease transmitted by grey squirrels that only affects red squirrels.

Even though they normally have a showy reddish coat during spring/summer and a more graysh one in winter/fall, there are multiple mutations that can turn them brownish in color, almost black or even blond.

Red squirrel. By Menno Schaefer |
Red squirrel. By Menno Schaefer |
Red squirrelLeast concern
Sciurus vulgaris19 – 23 cm (7.5 – 9 in) + 15 – 20 cm (6 – 8 in) tail
Sciuridae250 – 340 g (8.8 – 12.0 oz)
Rodentia3-10 years
Mammalia38-39 days
This species is commonSeeds, mushrooms, nuts, berries and sprouts.
It inhabits several kinds of forestsEntire Eurasia

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Zoo portraits is a creative and educational project based on the animal kingdom and is divided into three main areas: Image, education and awareness.


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