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SQUIRREL SURVEY are two species of squirrel in Great Britain, the indigenous Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) and the introduced American Grey Squirrel ( S . carolinensis). The second was introduced into this country at various places in the Home Counties, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire and Cheshire between 1872 and 1929. It has spread over much of the country but has only reached the borders of Suffolk. THERE

Since Suffolk is one of the few counties into which this alien has not yet spread the Suffolk Naturalists' Society is undertaking a survey of the present status and distribution of the two species. This note is being reprinted for circulation to members of various bodies interested in agriculture and forestry and some duplication is inevitable : the recorders apologise to those who receive more than one copy. Since few people in Suffolk have seen both animals, descriptions of both are set out below. A Red squirrel can look very grey at some seasons of the year and a Grey squirrel is often strongly marked with red, so confusion can easily occur. RED

SQUIRREL

Under-parts white throughout the year. In the winter the coat is more brownish grey than chestnut, the tail bushy and dark brown, the ear tufts very obvious. In the spring the colour gradually bleaches, most noticeably in the tail; the ear tufts are still obvious. By the summer the coat has become brownish red to rieh chestnut with some grey on the crown of the head and more on the tail, which is thin and creamy white : the ear tufts are absent or very much reduced. Smaller than the grey squirrel, 15 inches or so from nose to tail tip and with a relatively short face. GREY

SQUIRREL

Underparts white throughout the year. In the winter the coat is silvery grey with a brown streak down the middleof the back and brighter, russet bands along the ribs on either side. Ear tufts are present but not so marked as in the red squirrel, the tail less bushy, with a dark centre and fringed with white. In the summer the upper parts are brownish grey with a bright rufous band along the ribs. The whole appearance is sleek, almost rat like. There are no ear tufts, the ears almost naked. About 18 inches or more from nose to tail tip and with a relatively long nose.


SQUIRREL

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SURVEY

Squirrels are of course most frequently seen in the winter when the trees are bare but signs that squirrels are present can often be found. T h e most obvious is the " d r e y " or nest, a compact mass of twigs, etc., about as big as a football with the breeding or sleeping chamber in the middle, lined with dry grass or moss. Remains of their food can be found, often on a tree stump or other slight eminence—partly eaten toad-stools, chewed up fir-cones with only the central part remaining, or hazel nuts neatly split into two parts (a fieldmouse or nuthatch eats or hammers a hole in the nutshell to extract the nut). T h e leading shoots of pine trees (usually red squirrels) or of sycamore, beech, ash and sometimes other hard woods (usually grey squirrels) are often barked and killed. If any of these signs are seen a watch can be kept for squirrels. Grey squirrels are notorious fruit eaters. Both species tend to fluctuate in numbers. T h e population builds up to a peak when squirrels seem to be very common and then for no apparent reason falls until they seem to be quite rare, to build up again. Notes of such fluctuations would be interesting. Two recorders have been appointed one for East and one for West Suffolk to whom records can be sent and, if necessary, bodies for identification. In the summer the decapitated head (with a note of the sex of the owner) is quite enough for identification and more pleasant to unpack. T h e minimum information required of " sight " record is :— Locality, species, whether identified with certainty or with some doubts, type of habitat (garden, hardwood or softwood plantation, etc.), number seen, date. T o this can be added, if a body is handled, sex, breeding condition, weight, length from nose to tail tip. Two admirable booklets, one on the Red and the other on the Grey squirrel, have been published by the Sunday Times in the " Animals of Britain " series, price 3 /6d. each. Recorder for East Suffolk :

Recorder for West Suffolk :

T H E E A R L OF C R A N B R O O K ,

W.

Great Glemham House, Saxmundham.

H.

PAYN,

Härtest Place, Bury St. Edmunds.

Squirrel Survey  
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