Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) feeding in a Scots pine plantation in Scotland


  • *Ecology Division, DSIR, Private Bag, Lower Hutt, New Zealand


Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) were caught, marked and released in a 50-year-old Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) plantation in Moray, Scotland. Density was estimated at 0.33 squirrels/ha and there were 10.7 dreys/ha. Young were recognizable between May and November and average recruitment was at least 45% per adult per year. Squirrels fed mainly on pine seed endosperm extracted in various ways from cones. Seed from each year's new cone crop was first eaten in June and formed the bulk of the diet by August when the cones were fully grown and mature. Cones still on the trees in the following spring and summer opened, and squirrels then came to the ground more often to eat seed from windblown and buried cones. In one year, squirrels ate about a third of the cone crop before the cones opened. Some trees were much more favoured than others for feeding.