#791  ALEXIA 791  ~  Please Wait while the decoder finds all of your page.    Last Edit:  Tue05-03-13


Animal Learning Education for Children, Students, Infants & Young Adults



  For Schools, Colleges & Universities 

Welcome to our resources section!  Over a number of years, since 1995, we receive many requests from students for information about the wild animals that our organisation specializes in. These are mainly squirrels, foxes and hedgehogs. On this page, we will be adding information when time permits - which will include very interesting & important data from our own records.

More information will follow here.


Red Squirrel - Sciurus vulgaris.  This species of tree squirrel is found over a huge range around the world, West to East, with some 40+ described subspecies. S. vulgaris ranges in distribution from the UK & Ireland, across all of Europe up to the Northern coniferous forests, through Russia to Asia. In more detail, the species as a whole is found in all countries of the UK - although restricted to only a few locations in England and Wales, with the main stronghold being in Scotland and the very North of England (coniferous forests). As such, here, it is protected by law - under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 - handling them requires a licence. Elsewhere, these small animals are found in:  France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Finland,  Norway, Russian Federation, Siberia, and even as far as China.

The species relies heavily on coniferous forests for its native habitat and for food. Destruction of these forests (by humans) is to blame for the loss of this species in some areas, meaning that the Grey Squirrel is often used as a scapegoat. However, that species is larger and more adaptable - therefore competes for food, but does not kill Red squirrels directly!  Food of the Red Squirrel includes mostly pine cones/ seed, insects & invertebrates, bird eggs (and occasionally chicks), fruit and fungi, and tree-sap. They will also eat hazelnuts - and visit bird feeders in gardens. The species also has the same bark-stripping habit of the Grey Squirrel and other species, but perhaps less damaging to trees because the Red Squirrel is much smaller than say the Grey Squirrel. Squirrels do like to eat the sap from under the bark, and any fungi. Squirrels use bark within the construction and lining of their nests (dreys).

The Red Squirrel is a small, dainty and graceful little animal with beautiful ear-tufts - especially in Winter; being only about half the body-mass and weight of a Grey Squirrel. In Winter, a Grey weighs up to 600 g. but the Red weighs only up to about 350 g. Neither species hibernates; both UK tree squirrels need to find food and eat after three days of any inactivity in severe Winter weather. They seem to hibernate, but actually, they don't. Instead, they decrease their activity to a bear minimum - and a useful habit is to store (cache) food within their drey and right near to it. When daylight is short, this is advantageous because far less energy is used. The long nights are spent sleeping in their dreys; in severe cold, it is not uncommon for several squirrels to sleep together in the same drey. They tend to restrict their activity in mid-Winter. However, during Summer, there are several activity-peaks through each day. Autumn tends to be the most bountiful time of food - the squirrels making the most of ripened nuts, seed, fruit and fungi. Surplus food is cached for later use.

Life-history:  Breeding usually occurs twice a year; each female can have two litters per year - with 1- 3 kittens in a litter. (Baby squirrels are called "kittens"). The first litter is usually conceived very early in the year, whereby one female can be followed and chased by several males when she is on-heat (oestrus). The successful male to reach her first will be allowed to mate. After a gestation of about 6 weeks the first babies are born in late-February at the earliest, but usually by average in early-March. The second litter is usually born in Summer, July or August. At this early stage they are called "pinkies", because they have no fur, are blind and deaf and rely completely on their mother's milk and warmth. Their suckling is strong, but by just over three weeks old their front incisors start to appear - lower first. At 3 and a half weeks approximately, their eyes open for the first time and by this stage have fur - and looking extremely attractive!

The babies start to nibble on solid food (weaning process) after their eyes have opened, from between weeks 4 - 5, as well as suckling from their mother. By week 5, they start to follow their mother outside the drey - any baby that strays too far will be carried back into the drey by its mother. The babies have a high-pitched repeated contact or distress call, a loud squeal when hungry. Weaning completes at around weeks 8 - 10, although some kittens can wean earlier than this, especially hand-reared orphans. They do stay in contact with their mother and siblings for some weeks following this - play being an important part of their development.  

S. vulgaris is also called the Common Squirrel - the name it used to be known by in England, (hence "vulgaris"= common). It used to be considered vermin in the UK, even until the early part of the 20th Century after the Grey Squirrel had already been introduced (firstly in 1876). The species was hunted for its fur, and there were even squirrel hunting clubs.

This is not the same as the Red squirrel species found in the USA and Canada - of which there are several which have the same name, but also alternative names, (e.g. the Fox Squirrel Sciurus niger and the Pine Squirrel Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) - the latter species has differing nesting habits in making "middens" on the ground, (with huge hoards of food!).      


   Alexia Arts 4 Kids - 701,    Resources - 791,    Main Menu