Red Squirrels Named!

As you may aware, during the winter months we concentrate on “re-vamping” the aviaries and perform general maintenance duties around the Centre. This was very necessary down at the woodland walk, where we gave our Red Squirrel pen had a good tidy up and added a few optional extras to it, including more ropewalks and a newpond.

We had two new squirrels arrive to join the colony late last summer. Already in situ was the final remaining member of our our original squirrel colony, the older female called “Nutkin” who, with the introduction of the two boys, took to her bed for a few days!

However, up until now the new pair have been nameless, so over the Easter holidays we ran a questionnaire asking our visitors to suggest suitable monikers for them. The most common names to crop up were Rusty and Fluffy, but after much deliberation the winning names we have chosen are from Evan Walker from Letchworth, Herts with the name “ Chestnut”; and Mary Newlove from Pettaugh, Suffolk with the name “Copper”. Congratulations to these winners, who will be receiving cuddly red squirrels, a family pass to the sanctuary and the first of our new squirrel adoption certificates in due course.

Although our Squirrels live very happily together in the small colony here at S.O.S., in the wild they would usually live alone in small nests or “dreys” - usually in the fork of a tree - only getting together to mate. However, family groups will sometimes gather together within the dreys during the winter months to keep warm.

The Red Squirrel - readily identifiable by it's wonderful russet colour and distinctive red ear tufts - does not hibernate and so needs to gather a good store of food through the summer months from which to draw through the winter. Primarily, the Red Squirrel is a seedeater, favouring those from Larch & Spruce trees, and will eat pinecones too. They will also store fungi in hollows in trees.

During the Autumn when food is at its most plentiful, Red Squirrels put on weight - this is very important for a breeding female, so they are in tip-top condition for the following breeding season. Young squirrels are called kittens and are born in the spring, though very often a second litter may be produced later in the year, too.

Unfortunately, with the introduction of the American Grey Squirrel to these shores, our poor native Reds have been on the decline and suffer from a disease called Squirrel Poxvirus, which wiped out entire colonies of the native species. The Greys are immune from this disease and, being larger and stockier, often push the smaller Reds away from good feeding areas, making life even more difficult for them.

Thankfully our Reds here at the Centre never have to worry about Greys, and when you come to see us please wander down to the woodland walk and watch them going about their day-to-day fun and frolics. You WILL be amused!