background image

RED SQUIRREL - Sciurus vulgaris

 

The red squirrel is Scotland's most endearing mammals.

I have a very close affinity to the red squirrel.  They are charming little characters whom I could watch their antics all day, every day.

They grow a winter coat and ear tufts by November which make them very photogenic.  They wrap their lovely bushy tail round themselves which acts as insulation. They start to moult by end of March.

Can be seen all year round but winter time is best. Listen for scrabbling sounds in branches above and look for movement in the trees. On the ground, their fluffy tail and ear tufts are un-mistakable.

Red squirrels don’t hibernate but in winter they are active for only a few hours each day usually at first light, they remain in their dreys in bad weather. In spring their daily activity is extended as daylight increases and temperature rises. From May to October they have two active periods in a day, one in the morning and, after a 'siesta' another in the afternoon.  Squirrels tend to use more than one drey at any given time and some of these may by used by other squirrels. 

 

The breeding season lasts from January to September, depending on weather and food availability.  There are two peaks of litter each season in Spring between February and April, and Summer between May and September.  Females come on 'heat' for only one single day.  Males living nearby are attracted to her, probably by smell, and follow her.  As other males join in, scuffles occur which results in the 'mating chase' which is characterised by squirrels crashing noisly around the trees at high speed, amazing to see. 

During the autumn red squirrels spend a lot of time on the ground foraging and storing food.  Storing food is very important to support them over cold periods and through periods of food shortage.

Highland Region is the only part of mainland Britain with red squirrels but no grey squirrels. 

Caledonian Pinewoods in Strathspey and mixed woods on either side of Loch Ness are hotspots.