Systematic classification and distribution
Family: Squirrel Family
Widespread in Europe and northern Asia, from the Caucasus to Japan and China. In Italy it is present both in the Alps and in the Apennines with different subspecies; absent on the islands.
In Italy there are three subspecies of red squirrel: in the north we find Sciurus vulgaris fuscoater, the subspecies also widespread in most of central and eastern Europe, while in the center and in the south there are two endemic subspecies, therefore present only in Italy, respectively Sciurus vulgaris italicus and Sciurus vulgaris meridionalis.
The subspecies of central and northern Italy are characterized by a highly variable coloring of the dorsal coat, as previously indicated, while the southern subspecies, present exclusively in Calabria, is completely black with a white belly.
Red or common squirrel - Sciurus vulgaris (photo Sauro Giannerini)
Red Squirrel - Sciurus vulgaris fuscoater (photo www.secretumomega.net)
Head-body length 19-29 cm; tail 14-34 cm; rear foot 5.2 -6 cm; weight 240-490 grams. Slender body, round head with short muzzle, eye and large ears provided at the apex with a tuft of hair. Hindquarters longer than the front ones. The front legs have five fingers with strong and curved nails, the rear ones are narrower and longer. The tail is entirely covered with fur and is carried curved on the back. The color of the coat, very variable, is essentially reddish brown with white lower parts (summer); in winter, the dominant color is gray.
The natural habitat of the squirrel is represented by forests and forests of both conifers and broad-leaved trees. It also frequents, although to a lesser extent, the margins of cultivated areas and when the gardens inside the inhabited centers are not disturbed. It can also be pushed up to altitudes of 2,000 m a.s.l.
He has daytime habits and spends the night inside hollows of trees. During the good season, it accumulates a large amount of food to spend the winter and hibernation. He is a great climber and jumper. It is not very gregarious. Sexual maturity is reached at one year of life and during the mating period (January - July) males fight for females. The female gives birth, after about 4-5 weeks of gestation, 4-6 small blind and naked for 5-6 weeks, sexual maturity is reached at about 7-8 weeks. The squirrel feeds essentially on vegetables: buds, buds, herbs, mushrooms, etc. but he can complete his diet with small animals, eggs, insects.