The Grey Squirrel
(Iora Glas) --: The
grey squirrel is a small bushy-tailed tree living animal. They are not
native to Ireland but were brought in from outside. When fully grown it is
50cm. long from head to the tip of its tail. It has pale grey fur and its
underside is usually white. The grey squirrel was brought in from North
America to Ireland about 65 years ago. It is bigger and thought to be more
aggressive than the red squirrel. When the grey squirrel comes into an area,
it usually chases out the red squirrel, as they are tougher.
When caught, it can give a vicious bite.
The coat is a steel grey colour in winter but there may be a reddish ling
along its legs in the summer. It’s nest, which is called a drey, is
untidier looking than the red squirrel’s nest. The nest is built in a tree
that looses its leaves in winter and because of this it is easily seen when
the tree is bare in winter. The dreys are lined with moss and straw, and
unlike birds nests have a roof over them.
Some grey squirrels have been known to use hollow trees, old nests and even
rabbit holes for their dreys. The dreys are lined with moss and straw and,
unlike most birds nests, they have a roof on them. Grey squirrels are active
by day and spend most of their time in trees. There are more grey squirrels
in the east of Ireland than in the west. It is more than likely this is
because thee are more broadleaf forests in the east of the country than in
the west of Ireland. Our present population is said to be descended from
animals released in Castleforbes, County Longford about the year 1911.
Although, Castleforbes is on the river Shannon and grey squirrels are good
swimmers, they do not appear to have moved into Connaught (this is a
province of Ireland in the west of the country).
The grey squirrel has spread east from Longford to Monaghan, Cavan, Meath,
Westmeath, Laois, Offaly, Fermanagh and it is also believed to be in Armagh.
This squirrel has much the same habits as the red squirrel except
that it is a little more daring and leaves the forest at times in search of
food among the hedgerows and fields, especially in Autumn. Neither red
squirrels nor grey squirrels hibernate. They eat a wide variety of food,
which includes seeds, fruit, berries and the bark and shoots of trees. In
winter they rest for long periods, living on the body fat they built up
during the summer. They are very good climbers, though not as fast as the
red squirrel. They can also swim. They are very nosey animals and are easily
trapped by hunters.Two litters are born each year, in late February and in
July, normally having three or four young to each litter.
young leave the drey after about seven to eight weeks. They cause damage in
deciduous forests by stripping the bark from trees. It is also said that
they rob pheasant eggs and young chicks, which makes gamekeepers very angry.
We have a stuffed squirrel in our classroom. It is a red squirrel and was
knocked down by my teacher and he got him stuffed. He is the class mascot.