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Posts Tagged ‘Eurasian red squirrel’

Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). Source for image.

Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). Source for image.

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Remember these two squirrels?

On a previous post, I said that these animals were hybrids between Eurasian red squirrels and North American Eastern gray squirrels, which are an introduced species in the United Kingdom.

I said that the squirrel in the top photo had been a confirmed hybrid, and because the other squirrel happened to be black, it was suggested that it was a hybrid between a melanistic gray squirrel and red squirrel.

Well, I was pulling your leg.

I’ve had one person check out the Wikipedia page on red squirrels and inform me that the gray one was actually a Eurasian red squirrel in its winter pelt. ¬†Though becoming rarer in the British Isles, red squirrels are still quite wide-ranging animals, and they vary greatly in color throughout their range and throughout the year.

The black squirrel isn’t even a gray squirrel or a red squirrel.

It is a melanistic Abert’s squirrel (Sciurus aberti), which is a species native to the southern Rockies.

Long-time readers know that I’m somewhat prone to pulling pranks.

And I like to keep you on your toes…

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am-red-squirrel

It is not unusual to hear the word “fairydiddle” to describe American red squirrels in West Virginia.

I do not know the origin of the term, but the term often also applies to flying squirrels in other parts of the country.

American red squirrels are not closely related to the tufted-eared red squirrels of Eurasia. Those squirrels are members of the genus Sciurus, which includes the three species of gray squirrel in North America and the fox squirrel (the big one). North American red squirrels are related to Douglas squirrels with which they share the genus Tamiasciurus.

Douglas squirrels live in the three Pacific coastal states and British Columbia. They also have two alternative names– chickaree and pine squirrel. The two species closely resemble each other and are roughly the same size. The American red squirrel is tawny colored with a white belly, while the Douglas squirrel is dun-brown with a yellow or tawny belly.

Douglas squirrel

Douglas squirrel

Both of these species are far more territorial than the grey squirrels, the fox squirrel, and the Eurasian red squirrel. Typically, you can find all of those species living in loosely knit colonies. Usually, if you find an American red squirrel or a Douglas squirrel, it is alone or fighting with another one so that it can be alone.

For some reason, I don’t find American red and Eastern gray squirrels in the same place. They don’t really share exactly the same habitat, but they do have a range that overlaps.

I have heard an urban (well, in this case, rural) legend that American reds are so aggressive towards the larger Eastern grays that they drive them from their territories.  They even invade their nesting holes and dreys and castrate their male offspring.

I don’t know whether these stories are true.

I do know that you almost never find the two species together.

And I also know that no one in their right mind would kill an American red squirrel and eat it. It’s far too small and bony.

The best “eating squirrel” is the Eastern gray– especially one that has been eating acorns and hickory nuts all autumn.

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