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