The red squirrel, the original 'Squirrel Nutkin' of Beatrix Potter fame, is one of our favourite British mammals but it is declining in numbers and now classified as an endangered species.
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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 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.