Why should we think twice before shooting a squirrel?
Members of the squirrel family include tree squirrels, flying squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, prairie dogs, and woodchucks. Squirrels dig holes in lawns and gardens in search of roots, stems, bark, shoots, leaves, flowers, fruit, and nuts. These cute critters also like to “cache” or hide supplies, burying nuts and seeds to help them survive harsh winters.
Squirrels traditionally spend most of their time in trees foraging for food, bearing their young, taking shelter from the weather, finding food, and escaping from predators. Because humans have altered the landscape so extensively, squirrels have been forced to use almost anything that resembles a tree to hide from predators, take shelter from the elements, store food, and raise their young.
Squirrels give birth at varying times of the year, depending on the species and location. Courtship is characterized by frantic chases, normally with several males pursuing one female. Females give birth to between two and five babies, who are born naked and helpless. The mother squirrel raises them all alone, and young squirrels are weaned at 10 to 12 weeks. Their mother usually drives them away soon after that and may raise another litter of young before the fall.
Why are Red Squirrels being Conserved?
Because grey squirrels (greys) are now an established part
of our forest wildlife, with a population of 2.5 million, it
is not practical to aim to re-establish red squirrels (reds) to
their former range. The current distribution of reds is
shown on the map (Figure 1). Greys continue to expand
their range and this threatens the remaining red
population. For example, where major red populations
meet the potentially expanding greys (the ‘red/grey
interface’) reds are usually displaced within 15 years of
the arrival of greys. However, the population dynamics
are not clearly understood. Many Scottish Highland
conifer forests could remain core areas of suitable habitat
where reds will not be threatened, but there is no room
for complacency, as greys have colonised extensive conifer
forests in Derbyshire, North York Moors and Thetford.
Also, many of the discrete Welsh, northern English and
southern Scottish red populations are likely to contract
A. They are in conserved areas.