Red squirrels (Sciurus Vulgaris)
The native Red squirrels were once a common sight across the mainland of Britain, now they are sparsely situated around Scotland, and places thought to be inaccessible to the greys, such as the Isle or Wight and Anglesey. In fact more then 75% of Britain’s estimated 160,000 red squirrels are found in Scotland.
Now they could become extinct in the next 20 years, as their population has dropped 50% in the last 50 years.
Grey squirrels carry a virus called the ‘pox virus’, first discovered in Scotland in 2005, which they (the greys are immune to) but it causes deadly to the reds.
Pox disease and the loss of much woodland over the UK have contributed to their decline.
The red squirrel is facing a long tiring battle against the grey’s that are spreading this virus rapidly.
Red squirrels are most at home amongst sweet chestnut, wild cherry, hazel and beech trees, they prefer to travel within the tree canopies rather then the woodland grounds, unlike to grey squirrels.
They are highly adapted to the woodland habitat in which they live, with their lightweight bodies, long claws, and bushy tails for balance
Their ability to climb, swing and jump is actually incredible. You may of seen a squirrel in the past and noticed that it freezes when it has seen you move, they often stay frozen like that for up to 10 minutes, until they believe its safe to move again.
They build up large nests called ‘dreys’ made up of twigs, leaves moss and hair, in the forks or trunks of their chosen tree, and this is where they will bread and spend a lot of their nocturnal time when not out looking for food.
Their diet consists of seed, shrubs, nuts, shoots, flowers, and the odd birds egg if they are lucky enough to come across.
Which they can be right or left handed when eating. They need to eat daily to keep up their energies, if not then they quickly succumb to starvation and disease. The autumn food harvest is vital for their survival throughout the winter months.
They typically live up to 6 years but this age span is slowly getting shorter, as their food source gets harder to find and their competition thrives.
They mate between January and March and tend to have a litter of around 3-4 kittens, they often have 2 litters per year.
They encounter another danger when it comes to predators, one of which being the Goshawk which are powerful birds of prey who thrive on hunting there prey throughout the dark woodlands.
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