Red Squirrels

PipThe red squirrel, the original ‘Squirrel Nutkin’ of Beatrix Potter fame, is one of our favouriteBritish mammals but it is declining in numbers and now classified as an endangered species.

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Pip – The diary of a red squirrel orphan

The diary of a red squirrel orphan, rescued in North Northumberland and then released in North Northumberland.

The Beginnings

It all began 34 million years ago with Protosciurus, the oldest known tree squirrel fossil. The first signs of the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris L.) appeared at the end of the last ice age, almost 10,000 years ago, when the land bridge between Britain and Europe was starting to disappear.

Squirrels Today

Squirrels in the 21st century don’t look very different from their prehistoric ancestors, but nowadays, there are at least 267 species of squirrel throughout the world, which come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

Red Squirrel Characteristics

Red squirrels have fur which ranges from blonde or pale orange, through deep reddish-brown to almost black with ear tufts which are easier to spot in winter.

Red Squirrel Habitat

The favourite habitat of the red squirrel is a large, mature Scots Pine wood but they will also live in deciduous or mixed conifer woodlands.

Red Squirrel Breeding

Red squirrels build nests, called dreys in the forks of branches, close to the main trunk. The drey consists of a hollow ball of twigs and leaves, which is then lined with soft hair (alpaca fibre in Fowberry squirrels’ case) grass and moss.

The end of red squirrels in Britain?

With evidence to suggest that the grey squirrel is continuing to benefit from British woodlands at the expense of red squirrels, the future seems bleak for our native species.