The Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris (known as l'Ecureuil roux in French) is a rodent that needs trees to live. It frequents forests, copses, hedges, parks and wooded gardens, where it can become quite a familiar visitor. They measure 18 - 25 cm (head and body) plus another 14 - 20 cm for the tail, and weigh 200 - 385 g. Their red, brown or black coat has a tendancy to darken in winter. The ear tufts are also longer during the harder months. Here on the plains we don't get so many black forms as in the mountains.
This is a strictly diurnal (daytime) animal, especially active at dawn and late afternoon / early evening. Its food consists of all sorts of seeds, notably hazelnuts and pine nuts, but they also enjoy mushrooms, buds and fruit and will also sometimes consume insects and their eggs. In times of abundance they can make food stores, many of which will be forgotten during winter. In the winter they do not hibernate, but only have one active period a day, very early in the morning.
They can jump and travel rapidly through the tree tops, as well as descend head first and swim well. When they walk the tail streams out behind them, undulating. When stopped they will fold their long tail over their back. This habit is the origin of their name, which means to put themselves in the shadow of their tail.
They make a nest called a drey of defoliated branches lined with grass and moss, often in dense cover provided by climbing plants.
They make quite a few different noises, but the most frequently heard is a tchuk-tchuk-tchuk noise.
There are no similar species in this area.
References and Further Information:
A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Europe by F H van den Brink, illustrated by Paul Barruel.
Petit Atlas des mammiferes by Dominique Michelat, illustrated by Jean Chevallier.
Wildlife in the park at the chateau of Chenonceau, including a picture of a squirrel, posted on our daily blog, Days on the Claise, and another here.
A close encounter with a squirrel in our orchard, posted on Days on the Claise, another here and one visiting our garden here.
Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:
All photograhs will enlarge and open in a new window if you click on them. Row 1 Left on the side of a quiet country lane, Preuilly-sur-Claise. Centre left and right descending head first. Centre right running through the grass, tail streaming. Rows 2 - 4 in our orchard, May.
Private Guide for Groups in the Loire Valley - At Loire Valley Time Travel most of our clients book us for a private tour in our classic 1950s Citroen cars, Celestine and Claudette. Using classic cars ...