Typical fur varies in colour from dark red/brown or grey/brown (appears greyer in winter) with white underside. However, extremes of colour exist and you sometimes see black or white squirrels. Distinctive ear tufts present in winter, not in summer.
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Tracks can be seen in mud, sand and snow. Squirrel leave tiny tracks, which can be easily overlooked. Forefoot width 2.5cm, length 3.5cm, hind foot width 3.5cm, length 4.5cm.
The red squirrel eats nuts, acorns, berries and the cones of conifer trees (see photo). They split acorns and hazelnuts and leave rough often jagged edges. Pine cones are stripped leaving the top sections are untouched.
The nests of red squirrel (and grey squirrel) are known as dreys. They are spherical collections (approx. 30cm across, at least 6m above the ground) of twigs and leaves which are usually located in the fork of the branches, close to the trunk.
It is easier to observe these in winter, when there are fewer leaves on the trees. It is not possible to distinguish between red and grey squirrel dreys.
Widespread in Scotland and northern England. Isolated populations in Wales, the Isle of Wight and Brownsea Island. Present across Ireland. (Maps are based on expert advice, as of 2007. Some species ranges may have changed in the time since. We are currently in the process of updating the maps.)
Mainly seeds but opportunistic; variety of other foods taken when seeds not available, such as fruits, berries and fungi. May eat buds, shoots and flowers or bark of trees.
Up to 6 years in the wild.
Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Grey squirrel has grey fur which often has brown tinge and sometimes appears slightly red. Red squirrel has red fur, but can vary and at times may appear greyer. Grey squirrel has a larger head and body size. Red squirrel grows noticeable ear tufts in winter which the grey does not have.
Andy Rothwell, Hampshire County Mammal Recorder, says:
“Recording mammals is not always easy; many are small, nocturnal and elusive. But actual sightings aren’t the only way to find out where mammals are; tracks, signs and burrows can provide us with lots of reliable records (consider; sightings of molehills are much easier to spot than a mole itself). It is often the common mammals that are underrepresented on our maps, because they tend to be overlooked and considered unimportant. However it’s just as significant to record the common species because they too may become scarce in the future; after all, polecats, water voles and red squirrels were all common once!
You may notice from current distribution maps, there are still gaps where mammals have not been recorded. If you live near such an area, why not check it out and maybe you can be the first to add to the data and ensure valuable knowledge on the mammal distribution.”