Is this a hybrid squirrel?
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