Nuts about squir­rels

10 rea­sons we love them

World of Animals - - What's Inside - Words Amelia Jones

1. Squir­rels are found on every con­ti­nent ex­cept Antarc­tica and Aus­tralia

Squir­rels come in a range of shapes and sizes, from the In­dian gi­ant squir­rel at around a me­tre (3.3 feet) long and a weight of two kilo­grams (4.4 pounds), to the tiny African pygmy squir­rel, at just ten cen­time­tres (3.9 inches) in length. There are over 200 species of squir­rel, and they are found all over the world ex­cept for Antarc­tica and Aus­tralia.

Yet de­spite squir­rels be­ing pro­lific across the globe, the UK’s only na­tive species is strug­gling to sur­vive. With around 120,000 left in the wild in the

UK, red squir­rels are the sixth most en­dan­gered species and their pop­u­la­tions have halved in the last 50 years. The main rea­son for this is the in­tro­duc­tion of grey squir­rels, who of­ten carry the para­poxvirus, which is fa­tal to red squir­rels. They also tend to eat more green acorns, leav­ing the red squir­rels with lim­ited food sup­plies.

Grey and red squir­rels can­not breed and when faced with dis­ease and food short­ages, red squir­rels pro­duce fewer lit­ters. They of­ten pro­duce an ex­tra lit­ter if they ex­pect a good sea­son, but sadly only 20-50 per cent of these will sur­vive.

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