There are two species of squirrel currently in Ireland. The red squirrel is a native species that has been found on the island since before the last ice age. It is totally dependent on woodland as a habitat, and through deforestation has suffered a number of troughs, including almost complete extinction in the 17th century. The current population mainly derives from reintroductions that took place in a number of locations during the 19th century. The second squirrel species is the American grey squirrel Sciurus carolinensis that was introduced on just one occasion in 1911 to Co. Longford. The establishment and subsequent spread of this alien species has resulted in competition with the red squirrel for food resources, with the red squirrel invariably losing out to the grey.
Red squirrels are distinctly smaller, weighing approximately half that of a grey squirrel. Reds can be distinguished from greys by their long ear tufts and fur colour, although grey squirrels can be a brown-red colour in the summer, and reds sometimes taking on a greyish hue in the winter, leading to some confusion. Red squirrels spend the majority of their foraging time in the tree canopy, whereas greys feed more frequently on the ground. Red squirrels are particularly elusive, often hiding against the opposite side of the tree trunk from intruders, whereas the brash grey squirrels display less wariness of humans.
Red squirrels feed mainly on tree seeds, although they can utilise fungi, fruit and buds as they become available in the woodland. Grey squirrels have a broader diet, making greater use of alternative food sources and also including grain, flowers, eggs and tree bark in their diet. Both species depend predominantly on nuts and seeds though, hence the fierce competition between them.
Record your own sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Center here
Credit : http://www.mammals-in-ireland.ie/species/red-squirrel
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