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Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Diputación de Málaga
Ardilla roja baja ELS

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


It is a large (head-body length 19 to 24 cm) rodent (animal with a pair of incisor teeth in continuous growth). It has a reddish brown coat, with a lighter belly. Its coat turns darker in winter. Its ears have a hair brush that it loses in summer. Its front legs are smaller than the rear and give it a great ability to handle objects. Its hind legs are strong. It has a long (15 to 20 cm) and fluffy tail that it usually keeps up. There is no visible difference between males and females.

Where does it live?  

Squirrels are a forest species. In the Mediterranean they demonstrate preference for pine forests, although they can also be found in mixed and deciduous woods. They are present from the sea level to 2,150 meters above sea level and more frequently in the lower and middle mountains.

How does it live?  

It is a diurnal species with great ability to climb and an agility to jump through  branches. It usually descends to the ground, head down and tail stuck to the trunk. When it is on the ground, it usually makes stops, staying up very often, watching the surroundings. It feeds mainly on fruits, seeds (mainly pine nuts and acorns) and mushrooms. It incorporates larvae, insects, snails and even bird chicks into its diet. It has the habit of creating pantries: storing and hiding food in tree holes. Sometimes it forgets these pantries and the fruits germinate helping forest regeneration. It usually hibernates in cold climates. In the Mediterranean zones, as in Malaga, they are active all year round, although they have rest in summer during the hottest hours.

How does it reproduce? 

It nests in treetops, where it makes bulky and spherical nests. The males are polygamous (they mate with several females) and fertilize all year round and the females can also be several times in heat, depending on food availability and the size of the previous offspring. Although on the Mediterranean coast, squirrels can breed all year round, with a short autumn break, it is common to have two litters a year, between spring and summer (births of 1 to 6 offspring). Young females have only one birth a year, while after two years of age they can increase annual births.

Where can we see it in Málaga and on the Stages of the Great Path?

It is a very common but very localized species in the Málaga province. It appears in the Malaga capital surroundings and in the Axarquía.  It was introduced in the Montes de Málaga in the mid-seventies, with specimens from the Cazorla mountains range. Since then it has expanded throughout the area and has reached the city. It can be seen in the Montes de Málaga, Monte de Gibralfaro, Monte Victoria, Cerrado de Calderón or El Morlaco, for example. It is also present in Sierra Tejeda, where it arrived from the expansion of the Sierra Nevada population, which reached the Alpujarras and the coastal mountains of Granada. On the Great Path (Gran Senda), we can observe it on the first stage then on stages 4 to 8.

Curious Facts

Squirrels can have up to seven different nests in their territory, which usually reaches up to 12 hectares. Males and females use the nests indistinctly, and not only to breed. They are dormitories where they spend the night and take a nap when it is very hot. They are distributed throughout the territory to always have one available.

Similar species

It is an unmistakable type in Malaga.

More information