Eurasian red squirrel
Published: February 7, 2016
Eurasian red squirrel, The red squirrel or Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is a species of tree squirrel in the genus Sciurus common throughout Eurasia. The red squirrel is an arboreal, omnivorous rodent.
In Great Britain, Italy and Ireland, numbers have decreased drastically in recent years. This decline is associated with the introduction by humans of the eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) from North America, In addition, habitat loss is a factor. Due to this, without conservation the species could disappear from those shores within a generation.
Unlike some other rodents, the Eurasian red squirrel is not a direct threat to humans.
The red squirrel has a typical head-and-body length of 19 to 23 cm (7.5 to 9 in), a tail length of 15 to 20 cm (5.9 to 7.9 in), and a mass of 250 to 340 g (8.8 to 12 oz). Males and females are the same size, which means that the species is not sexually dimorphic. (The red squirrel is somewhat smaller than the eastern grey squirrel which has a head-and-body length of 25 to 30 cm (9.5 to 12 in) and weighs between 400 and 800 g (14 oz to 1.8 lb).)
The long tail helps the squirrel to balance and steer when jumping from tree to tree and running along branches, and may keep the animal warm during sleep.
The red squirrel, like most tree squirrels, has sharp, curved claws to enable it to climb and descend broad tree trunks, thin branches and even house walls. Its strong hind legs enable it to leap gaps between trees. The red squirrel also has the ability to swim.
The coat of the red squirrel varies in colour with time of year and location. There are several different coat colour morphs ranging from black to red. Red coats are most common in Great Britain; in other parts of Europe and Asia different coat colours co-exist within populations, much like hair colour in some human populations. The underside of the squirrel is always white-cream in colour. The red squirrel sheds its coat twice a year, switching from a thinner summer coat to a thicker, darker winter coat with noticeably larger ear-tufts (a prominent distinguishing feature of this species) between August and November. A lighter, redder overall coat colour, along with the ear-tufts (in adults) and smaller size, distinguish the Eurasian red squirrel from the American eastern grey squirrel.
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