You’ve got to love a red squirrel. Smaller than the Grey Squirrel and with fantastic tufted ears.
Coming from the Southern UK I had never seen a Red Squirrel in the wild until I moved to France. In contrary to the UK, where the native Red Squirrels are rare, having been pushed out by the introduced Greys, France only has Red Squirrels. In fact in mainland Europe the only populations of Grey squirrels are in Northern Italy where somebody had the fantastic idea to introduce them into a few parks.
In the UK Reds are rare because the larger Greys outcompete them for food. There is some fear that the small population in Northern Italy my start to spread throughout Europe, including France, and we could face the same problem of Grey Squirrel dominance.
It is however important to note that one of the key predators of squirrels are Pine Martens which are present across Europe and largely absent from the UK.
As Reds Squirrels are smaller and more agile they tend to stay higher up in the trees and can use much more fragile branches for movement. This helps protect them from the big Pine Martens who find it easier to catch the bigger Grey Squirrels which spend more time on the ground. So Pine Martens are a natural form of Grey Squirrel control and as there are Martens throughout continental Europe it probably offers the best hope for control of this invasive species.
Red squirrels build their nests, called drays, in trees but may also take to specialist nest boxes. They do not hibernate in winter, although they are less active during periods of very cold weather.
They eat nuts of course and spend a lot of time in late summer and autumn building up stores for the months ahead. They hide thousands of nuts buried in the ground or in secret staches ready for the winter.
In Chatou I have seen Red Squirrels in the poplar trees which line our roads. I have never seen one in my garden, however I do have a nice mature cedar tree which would be a good location for them.
Hoping that a new feed box will lure them in.