Eurasian Red Squirrel, Red Squirrel
Value of species
Game (hunting) species
It is listed on the Chinese Red list as Near Threatened, being close to qualifying for Vulnerable A2cd+3cd.
There is a well defined subspecies meridionalis according to morphology and genetics and this may even be a valid species. This subspecies is restricted to Calabria (southwestern Italy) and if further taxonomic work confirms this as a full species it is likely to merit listing in a threatened category (G. Amori pers. comm. 2007).
Globally, the red squirrel has a large range in the Palaearctic, extending from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain and Portugal in the west, through continental Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and northwest and northeast China to the Pacific coast (Panteleyev 1998, Gurnell and Wauters 1999). It is also found on the Pacific islands of Sakhalin (Russia) and Hokkaido (Japan, endemic subspecies Scuirus vulgaris orienti). It has been introduced to the Caucasus, and the Tokyo area of Japan where it may be competing with S. lis.
In Europe, it is widespread in most areas, with the exception of the Iberian peninsula (where it is absent from the south-west) and Britain (where it has almost completely disappeared from the south-east). It occurs only sporadically in the Balkans, and is absent from the majority of Mediterranean islands. It occurs in Turkish Thrace and northeastern Turkey (Yigit et al. 2006). In Portugal the range has expanded southwards. It occurs from sea level up to 3,100 m asl in the Alps (Spitzenberger 2002).
Although it is described as common throughout most of its range (Gurnell and Wauters 1999), there have been well-documented population declines and range contractions in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Italy (Gurnell and Pepper 1993, Wauters et al. 1997, O'Teangana et al. 2000). Typical densities range from less than 0.1 to 1.5 individuals per hectare (Gurnell and Wauters 1999). However, it is sufficiently common in some parts of its range that it is considered a forestry pest owing to its habit of stripping bark and feeding on conifer buds.
In Mongolia the population is subject to great fluctuations, which are reflected in the fur-trade statistics. From 1958-1960 an average of over 145,000 skins/year was obtained; in 1961, 70,300 skins were obtained and in 1962, 33,135 skins were harvested. During 1965 the total rose sharply to 112,755 skins, and then declined the next year to 77,629 skins. By 1970 the number collected fell to 35,600 skins.
It is most abundant in large tracts of coniferous forest and also occurs in deciduous woods, mixed forest, parks, gardens, and small stands of conifers. It is found in lowland to subalpine forests. Its diet is mainly vegetarian, consisting of seeds, acorns, fungus, bark, and sapwood, although it occasionally takes animal prey (young birds and eggs). They are an important species for the reforestation process.
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