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Discover: Nature and Wildlife

Red Squirrels

Introduced to Jersey in 1885, the Islands woodlands now provide Red Squirrels with an important refuge.

Red Squirrels are fairly widespread in Jersey, and can commonly be found in conifer trees and patches of broadleaved woodland. They are regular visitors to gardens, especially when feeding stations are provided. Early morning is the best time to observe Red Squirrels as they are most active at this time of the day. The presence of Red Squirrels in an area is indicated by characteristically gnawed pinecones and broken nut shells, usually found scattered below a favourite feeding branch.

The Red Squirrel was introduced to Jersey at the end of the nineteenth century and is the only species of squirrel found on the Island. Genetic studies have revealed that some individuals were introduced from continental Europe, while others were brought to the Island from Southern England.

The Red Squirrel is a species of tree squirrel belonging to the Family Sciuridae, which falls within the Order Rodentia, a taxonomic group of animals characterised by their gnawing front teeth. They are easily identified in the wild by their reddish brown coats, relatively large heads and ears, and bushy tails. They have sharp, curved claws for climbing trees, and strong hind legs enabling them to leap from branch to branch and they are even able to swim short distances, although this behaviour is rarely observed. They shed their coats twice per year, switching from a thicker winter coat to a thinner summer coat. During the summer months their coats are a uniform reddish brown with creamy white underparts. In the winter their coats are thicker; the back portion of the body commonly turns a greyish brown colour, while the legs and head remain reddish brown.

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Red Squirrels are typically solitary although neighbouring territories sometimes overlap, and during the winter months several Red Squirrels may share a drey in order to keep warm. They can be found in coniferous trees and broadleaved woodland, feeding on a variety of different material: nuts extracted from pinecones, hazelnuts, beech nuts, chestnuts, acorns, berries, buds, shoots, some species of fungi, insects, and occasionally birds' eggs. Excess food is stored in nooks or holes in trees, or buried underground to be eaten when food is scarce. The majority of feeding activity takes place in the early morning and late afternoon. Red Squirrels typically spend the rest of their day resting in their drey. Dreys are constructed from twigs lined with moss and grass. Red Squirrels tend to construct dreys in branch forks (although tree hollows and woodpecker holes are also sometimes used) close to the trunks of trees, approximately 10-15m above the ground.

Best Places To See Red Squirrels

La Vallée Des Vaux
Vallée des Vaux is a wooded valley on the outskirts of St. Helier. The National Trust for Jersey owns several separate blocks of the woodland in the valley. More information can be found on La Vallée Des Vaux page.
St Peter’s Valley
The National Trust for Jersey owns several areas of mature woodland in St. Peter’s Valley. The largest of these woodland sites is called Le Don Gaudin. More information can be found on the St Peter’s Valley page.
Fern Valley
Fern Valley is a wet meadow bisected with a stream and surrounded by woodland. It is situated in the Parish of St. Helier. More information can be found on the Fern Valley page.

Reproduction

The mating season for Red Squirrels is typically from February to March. Litters of 3-5 kittens are born approximately 7 weeks after mating. Females are capable of producing up to 2 litters per year. Young Red Squirrels remain with their mother for a few months before dispersing to establish territories of their own. Red Squirrels surviving their first winter have a life expectancy of approximately 3 years, although some individuals can live as long as 7 years in the wild. The year to year survival of Red Squirrels is heavily dependent upon the availability of autumn and winter tree seeds.

Conservation

In Jersey the biggest threats to Red Squirrels are habitat fragmentation and habitat degradation. Predation also reduces numbers. Red Squirrels are predated by birds of prey (Owls and Raptors), as well as domestic cats. Cars are a further cause of mortality.

Red Squirrel Facts:

  • Average body length 20-25cm.
  • Average tail length 15-20cm.
  • Weight 300-350g.
  • Red Squirrels can live up to 7 years.
  • Their nests are called “dreys’.
  • The mating season for Red Squirrels is typically from February to March.
  • Litters of 3-5 kittens are born approximately 7 weeks after mating.