Skip to main content - The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids


Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel Facts

Size 5.9-7.8 inch (15-20 cm)
Speed Up to 15.5 mph (25 km/h)
Weight 7-14 oz (200-400 g)
Lifespan 2-8 years
Food Nuts, seeds, acorns, mushrooms, berries, eggs, young birds
Predators Snakes, weasels, eagles, hawks
Habitat Europe, Asia, Africa, America
Order Rodents
Family Squirrels
Scientific name Sciurus vulgaris
Characteristics Tufted ears during the winter, bushy tail

Main Characteristics

Squirrels are small rodents that inhabit coniferous, deciduous and mixed forests. In Europe we primarily know the red squirrel that is briskly running up and down trees and collecting nuts. Yet, this animal family has more members than most people think.

Squirrel Species

There are about 280 species of squirrels, ranging from giant squirrels to dwarf squirrels. By the way: Ground squirrels also include marmots and prairie dogs.

Red Squirrel Photo: Menno Schaefer/Shutterstock



Squirrels live in coniferous, deciduous and mixed forests. But you can also see them in parks and gardens. They build ball-shaped nests where they rest and sleep.

Anatomy and Appearance

Size and Weight

Red Squirrels grow to 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) and weigh 7 to 14 ounces (200-400 grams).


In winter, squirrels have long hair on their ears that sticks straight up. The hair protects the small rodent's sensitive hearing organs from the cold. They are called tufted ears.


Squirrels have whiskers all over their bodies. For example above the eyes, on the legs and on the stomach. You can see them especially well on their snouts. The whiskers help to perceive the surroundings. They're like a beetle's antennae. The whiskers are especially useful at night because the animals don't see very well then.


Red squirrels often have red fur. But there are also dark brown and black animals. The belly is always brightly colored.



Squirrels have long, bushy tails. It is as long as its body: up to 8 inches (20 cm). It helps them balance and steer when jumping. As they leap from branch to branch, they can use their tails to alter their "trajectory". It is like a rudder on a ship.

Red Squirrel Photo: seawhisper/Shutterstock


What Do Red Squirrels Eat?

Sweet little eyes and soft fur – we simply have to love squirrels! Do we? Anyway, you should know that they are little thieves and no tame pets. From time to time they like to loot birds’ nests, eat the eggs and the little nestlings.


What Do Red Squirrels Do in Winter?

Squirrels don't hibernate, they hibernate. They need food every day to survive and therefore bury lots of nuts and seeds in the ground in the fall. They then feed on their supply during the cold season. During the winter, however, they are much less active. They are only awake to forage. In this way they save a lot of energy.

How Do Red Squirrels Find Their Buried Nuts?

Squirrels are said to often forget the locations where they have buried their “treasures”. Some of them develop into tree sprouts in springtime. This is true, but the rodents still find enough of their seeds again in order not to starve. Scientist Dr Peg Halloran tells us how they find their food again:

  • 1. by its smell
  • 2. by marking the spot
  • 3. by using their excellent memory

Where Do Red Squirrels Sleep?

At night squirrels sleep in trees. They lie down on a thick branch - after all, they are free from giddiness, unlike us. During the day, they like to take a nap on a branch, too.

Are Red Squirrels Solitary Animals?

Yes, but only the male animals. After leaving their mother, they look for their own territory, which they defend against other conspecifics. The female animals usually form small groups – together with their offspring.

Senses and Abilities

Squirrels can jump 13-16 feet (4-5 meters). They almost never fall because their bushy tail helps them change their direction mid-leap.

Are Red Squirrels Important to The Ecosystem?

Squirrels are like gardeners. They bury nuts, but do not recover all of them. Thus they disperse the tree seeds in many different places and help renewing and expanding trees. They distribute mushrooms and their spores this way, too.

Fun Facts

Brain Size

The brain of a squirrel is just as big as a walnut.

Are Gray Squirrels Bad?

The Eastern gray squirrel tends to displace the red squirrel. One reason is that they are better at finding food. Eastern gray squirrels often carry a virus, too. While this virus is not affecting them, it is often fatal to red squirrels unfortunately.

What to Do When You Find a Young Squirrel

Young squirrels might cling to a human's leg when they get lost. Don't panic! The best thing to do is to bring them back - if you know where they came from. It is not advisable to handle adult animals, because they could bite and transmit diseases. If you find an injured one, you should put on gloves before lifting it up and take it to the vet.

Red Squirrel Photo: Art Wittingen/Shutterstock


Squirrels usually mate twice a year. Once at the end of January to the beginning of February and with a bit of luck (and plenty of food) again in the summer between April and July. After 38 days, between three and five are born. They are naked, deaf and blind at that time. After about two weeks they have a coat, after four weeks they open their eyes and after six weeks they leave the nest for the first time. The young stay with their mother for a few months. Then they go their own way.

The Red Squirrel Is Related To:

Animals in the Same Biome:

Recommended Articles:


Most Read Mammal Fact Sheets

See all topics on