Is this a hy­brid squir­rel?

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - SPORTING ANSWERS -

Do grey and red squir­rels ever in­ter­breed? My pho­to­graph, taken in Fin­land, shows a squir­rel that looks like a cross be­tween the two.

Grey and red squir­rels may look very sim­i­lar, but they are ge­net­i­cally only dis­tantly re­lated and it is im­pos­si­ble for them to hy­bridise. The squir­rel in your pho­to­graph does ap­pear to have the fea­tures of both species, but if you look closely you will see that it is in fact a red, and only the grey fur makes it look like the North Amer­i­can an­i­mal with which we are so fa­mil­iar. The red squir­rel has a much more bushy tail than the grey, while the small tufts on the ears are also char­ac­ter­is­tic.

De­spite their some­what mis­lead­ing name, red squir­rels vary con­sid­er­ably in colour. They can range from black to bright red and many shades be­tween the two. Colours can vary con­sid­er­ably even in one lo­cal­ity. Red squir­rels are vis­i­bly much more dainty than greys, nor­mally weigh­ing around 300g, com­pared with around 500g or more for a grey squir­rel. It is worth adding that there are no grey squir­rels in Fin­land and the only other Eu­ro­pean coun­try where the grey has be­come es­tab­lished is Italy. DT We re­planted a block of wood­land with Sitka spruce and na­tive hard­woods. The hard­woods had deer guards around them, the soft­woods did not. Three years in and de­spite an ac­tive stalk­ing syn­di­cate and an in­crease in our deer cull, most of the hard­woods have signs of brows­ing. Is there any­thing we can do to re­duce the dam­age?

Shoot­ing more deer is the ob­vi­ous an­swer, but culls do need to be tar­geted and timed to co­in­cide with when the dam­age is be­ing done if they are to have any ef­fect. There is no point in­creas­ing your roe cull if the dam­age is be­ing caused by tran­sient fal­low. Iden­tify the species caus­ing the dam­age, re­place the tree guards with taller ones if they are shorter than 1.4m and in­crease the cull around the dam­aged trees. Brows­ing by deer does seem to have been heavy this year, no doubt caused by the lack of green­ery in the woods, which in turn was caused by the sum­mer drought. LB

Red squir­rels vary con­sid­er­ably in colour and can range from black to bright red and manyshades be­tween

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