Red squirrel


Latin name: Sciurus vulgaris

Size: Body length 18 - 24cm plus 18cm tail

Weight: 280 – 350g

Where: Viewing hide at Ardentinny; David Marshall Lodge Squirrel Hide; Woodlands of Strathyre, Lochgoilhead, Ardgarten, Bracklin Falls (Callander)

When: All year round; early morning spring and autumn in the viewing hides

The sight of a red squirrel is all the more exciting now because in many parts of Britain they have been driven out completely by invading grey squirrels or loss of habitat.

The dainty, russet-red animal with the tufted ears and bushy tail was once our only squirrel, before greys were introduced from the USA just over 100 years ago. Bigger, stronger and more adaptable, the greys have rapidly taken over the reds’ habitat and more besides.

Red squirrels feed mainly on conifer seeds. Pine cones are a favourite. If you find a pine cone gnawed like an apple core it’s a good sign there are red squirrels about. They will also eat fungi, fruit, birds’ eggs, and nuts, which they bury in autumn to get them through the winter months. Anyone who has read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will know they have a special skill – they can tell a good nut from a bad one before they bury it by holding it in their paws and tapping it!

You can see red squirrels all year round. They don’t hibernate, though they may stay huddled in their nests (called dreys) for a number of days if the weather is very cold. A good time to look out for them is when a thaw sets in, when they will start hunting and digging for the food they cached in the autumn.

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Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods