Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Rodentia / Sciuridae / Sciurus / Species
Sciurus vulgaris - Eurasian red squirrel (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Common squirrel
  • Red squirrel
  • Brown squirrel
  • Light-tailed squirrel
  • Feorag (Scottish Gaelic)
  • Iora rua (Irish Gaelic)
  • Ecureuil commun (French)
  • (Europäisches) Eichhörnchen (German)
  • Eichkätzchen (German)

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males  
Names for females  

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General Appearance

Typical squirrel with slender body and long bushy tail. Broad head with pointed muzzle and large protuberant eyes. Uniform colouring, reddish-brown, with tail usually paler. Tufts on ears conspicuous in winter (B142, B148, D30)

Similar Species

Differentiated from Sciurus carolinensis - Eastern grey squirrel by: smaller size, presence of obvious ear tufts particularly in winter, uniform brown colouring (D30).
Sexual Dimorphism Minimal. Ano-genital distance longer in males (about 10mm apart) than in females (very close together) (B142)

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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

Husbandry references:
B151, D24

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Squirrels (Rodents)

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Squirrels (Rodents)

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Husbandry Information


Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Length Head-body length: 180-240mm, mean 220mm (B142, D30); about 25cm (B148).
Height --
Adult weight General
  • About 250g (B148)
  • Variation in body weight may be considerable between individuals and in an individual between seasons, with about 10% increase in weight in autumn (B142).
Male 239 to 435g (B142)
Female 220-355g (B142)
New-born weight 0.3oz. / 8.5g (B144)
Growth rate --

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General Broad head with pointed muzzle. Vibrissae above and below eyes, on nose and under chin. (B142, B148)

Skull: condylo-basal length less than 50mm, nasals less than 16mm. Cranium deeper than in Sciurus carolinensis - Eastern grey squirrel and post orbital processes are longer and narrower (B142).

Nose: Muzzle pointed (B148).

Ears Tufts on ear tips, conspicuous in winter (B144, B147, D30)

Dentition (Teeth)
  • I 1/1 C 0/0 P 1-2/1, M 3/3 (B142, B147)
  • Cheek teeth rooted, low-crowned, quadrate, cuspidate. (B142, B147)
  • Deciduous lower and second upper premolars shed at 16 weeks of age; others not deciduous (B142)
Eyes Large, dark, protuberant (B147, B148, D30).

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Legs and Tracks

  • Long hind legs, shorter forelegs. Four toes on forelimbs, five toes on hindlimbs (B142, B147, B148).
  • Hind feet length: 49-63mm, mean 55mm (B142).

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  • Long, bushy, moult once a year. Usually chestnut, may be paler even creamy in summer, and occasionally very dark (B144, B147, D30)
  • Length: 14.0-19.5cm, mean 18.0cm (B142); about 20cm (B148)

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female
  • Dorsal: Uniform colour. In UK, dark red-brown to brownish-grey. 
  • Ear tufts: red brown, thick.
  • Tail: dense, dark red-brown
  • Ventral: white or cream

(B142, B148, D30)

Variations (If present) Summer coat: Dorsal chestnut, ear tufts small/absent, tail thinner and chestnut to creamy.
  • Dorsal coat colour variable depending on geographical location: light red to brown-black, grey and blue-grey.
  • Two or three distinct colour morphs (red, brown, black) may be found in one population, with constant ratio of the different morphs within that population.
  • Tail, feet and ear tufts may be as dorsal colour or contrasting.
  • Melanic form rare in Britain
  • Albino form rare in Britain.

(B142, B143, B148, D30)

  • Body moult twice yearly.
  • Spring moult: from front to back.
  • Autumn moult: from back to front.
  • Ear tufts moult once yearly, with new hairs growing in late summer/autumn, through to December.
  • Tail moult once yearly, with new hairs growing in late summer/autumn.


New-born / Juvenile Juvenile: darker than adult (B142)

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics

Blind and hairless at birth.(B142, B147)

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Reproductive: Six pairs of nipples (B144); four pairs of nipples (B142). Testes large and scrotal in breeding season, scrotum may be stained dark. Female reproductive tract Y-shaped (B142).

Scent glands: associated with large mucous glands on sides of mouth and sebaceous glands in tissue of lips (B142).

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Reproductive Stages

Breeding Season
  • Can be prolonged: December/January to August/September. Two mating peaks, winter and spring. (B142).
  • Delay or absence of first breeding may occur when supplies of seed foods are poor (B142)
Oestrus / Ovulation
  • Polyoestrous.
  • In heat one day per cycle.
  • Post-partum oestrus delayed until juveniles nearly weaned.


Gestation / Pregnancy
Parturition / Birth
  • Two peaks, February to April and May to August (B142)
Neonatal development
  • Birth: blind and naked. 
  • 8-9 days: dorsal skin pigmented, hairs start to emerge.
  • 21 days: hair covering body. 
  • 19-21 days: lower incisors appear.
  • 31-42 days: upper incisors appear. 
  • 28-35 days: ears open . 
  • 28-30 days: eyes open. 
  • About 7 weeks: leaving nest and eating some solid food. 
  • 8-10 weeks: weaned.
  • 3-4 months: gain adult coat.


Litter size
  • 3-5 (2-3 in younger females) (B144); 4-10, usually 5-7 (B147),
  • 1-6, occasionally more. Mean 3.6 for summer litters, 3.0 for spring litters (B142).
Time between Litters / Litters per year
  • One or two litters per year.
  • Two only when breeding season starts early
  • Only single litter for yearling females


Lactation / Milk Production
Sexual Maturity
  • One year (females) (B144)
  • 10-12 months (B142)
  • Within one year (B147)
  • 10-12 years (B144)
  • Maximum 6-7 years in wild, 10 years in captivity (B142).

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Natural Diet

  • Mainly seeds.
  • Tree seeds, Coniferous seeds, beechnuts, acorns, hazelnuts, walnuts, hornbeam seeds, chestnuts,berries and other fruit, fungi.
  • Also buds, shoots and flowers of trees, bark, sap, other green plant maerial, lichen.
  • Invertebrates such as caterpillars and snails.
  • Birds eggs and nestlings not normally taken.

(B142, B144, B148)

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Temperature --
Pulse --
Respiration --
Faeces --
Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes 2n = 40, FNa = 70 and 72 (B142).
Other --

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Feeding Behaviour

  • Opportunistic foragers.
  • Foraging and feeding may take 60-80% of active time.
  • Strip bark from conifers 10-40 years old to get sap.
  • Gnaw scales off cones to get seeds.
  • Cache food.
  • Foods such as hazelnuts, beech nuts, acorns, conifer cones are scatter-hoarded, just under soil surface, one to four items per cache.
  • Fungal fruiting bodies may be caches singly in trees.

(B142, B148).

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Parental Behaviour

  • Tended by female only.
  • Female may carry in mouth to new nest during rearing period.
  • Female may protect young following weaning.
  • Female covers young with nest material when she leaves the nest.


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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

  • Generally solitary
  • Communal nesting occurs particularly in winter and spring
  • Dominence hierachies exist among and between sexes
  • Dominant individuals are larger and older
  • Home ranges average 7.4 hectares, but considerale variation.
  • Home ranges may overlap, particularly where food abundant.
  • Dominant animals often have larger home range.
  • Range of adult males larger than that of adult females.
  • Territory males 125 acres/50 hectares, females 50 acres/10 hectares (B144)
  • Range size of females and juveniles similar
  • Femlaes deter other squirrels from entering home range while suckling young
  • Larger home range in deciduoud than coniferous forest.
  • "Mating chases" involving several males may occur, following oestrus female
  • Males are not always dominent to females.
  • Juveniles and some adults disperse in autumn.
  • Some spring and summer dispersal.

(B142, B144)

Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

  • Promiscuous.
  • Little courtship.
  • Males may congregate on home range of estrus female, and fight.
  • Mating chases of several males after one female may occur; dominentmale presumed to mate with female.
  • Pair separate after mating.

(B142, B147),

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Predation in Wild

  • Marten, predatory birds, (B144)
  • Pine marten, wild cat, owls, raptor (e.g. goshawk) (B142)
  • Also foxes, cats, dogs while on ground (B142)
  • Stoats may take nestlings (B142)

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Activity Patterns

  • Highly arboreal.
  • Good jumper and climber.
  • Extremely agile traveling along branches.
  • Can swim.
  • Do come to ground to forage, and to bury food.
  • Reduced activity if very hot, very cold, high winds or heavy rain.
  • Do not hibernate, but if stormy/very cold, may stay in nests several days in winter.
  • Sometimes in very hot weather lie on branch to keep cooler.

(B142, B144, B147, B148)

  • Diurnal.
  • Start of daily activity is related to sunrise.
  • Peak activity early morning (2-4 hours after sunrise) and late afternoon (2-4 hours before sunset) in summer.
  • Peak activity late morning in winter.

(B142, B144, B147)

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

  • All types of forests, also parks, gardens.
  • Boreal coniferous forest (Scots pine, Norway spruce, Siberian pine).
  • Broad-leaved woodland in western and southern Europe
  • Depend on constant adequate supply of seeds.
  • Mixed tree-species rather than single tree species forests provide more reliable year-round food supply.
  • Up to 2,200m (tree line) in Alps

(B142, B143, B144)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

  • Nest is called a dray.
  • Sited in trees, near trunk or in fork of branches, about 6m up or higher.
  • About 30 cm diameter.
  • Outer layers twigs.
  • Inner lining of moss, leaves, bark.
  • Inner cavity about 12-16 cm diameter.
  • Two or more drays used at any time.
  • Occasionally use hollow trees, particularly in broad-leaved woodland.

(B142, B148)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Palearctic, found throughout Europe and northern Asia..
  • Common throughout Europe, from British Isles south to Mediterranean to southern Urals and Altai mountains (central Mongolis) and north-eastern China.
  • Sakhalin Island (off east coast of Russia) and Hokkaido (most northerly island of Japan).
  • Britain: distribution reduced. Now mainly Scotland, also Wales, Cumbria, Isle of Wight, Thetford forest in Norfolk, Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, three islands in Poole Harbour in Dorset..
  • Still common in Ireland.

(B142, B143, B147, B221)

Occasional and Accidental --

Caucasus (B143)

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Intraspecific variation

Up to 40 subspecies described: taxonomic status uncertain (B143).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Common in most of range (B143)

  • British population: endangered. Europe: vulnerable (B143)

  • Declining in Britain - replacement by introduced Grey Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis - Eastern grey squirrel) (B143)

(B142, B143)

  • In Britain: native, although there have been multiple introductions of animals from mainland Europe. Locally common in Scotland but vulnerable in England and Wales, being extinct in most areas. Pre-breeding population estimate of about 161,000, with 30,000 in England, 121,000 in Scotland, 10,000 in Wales. Population estimate of this widely-distributed species was based on a limited amount of data and considered likely to be inaccurate by up to 50% in either direction (B221).

General Legislation
CITES listing --
Red-data book listing
  • Lower risk - near threatened (B143).
  • Hunting for fur (sought for luxurious winter pelts, Soviet Union), food or sport
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Introduced grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis - Eastern grey squirrel) in Britain and in northern Italy.
  • Parapox virus infection
  • (B143, B147, B221)
Captive Populations --
Trade -

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