Young red squirrels are known as kittens. The average litter size is 3-4 although some can be as large as 6.
Red squirrels can breed twice a year, as long as they're in good health. The breeding season begins in December-January, when males will chase females up and down trees. Females are only sexually receptive for one day. After a gestation period of 36-42 days a litter of 3-4 babies, known as kittens, is born in February-March, although some litters can be as large as 6. The kittens are born in a special drey, lined with grasses, moss and hair for warmth. They are deaf, blind, toothless and hairless and are totally dependent on their mother. She suckles them for 8-10 weeks, after which time their teeth have grown and they will start to fend for themselves. They remain close to home however, and will not disperse to find a territory of their own until the autumn or following spring. Male squirrels play no part in raising the young.
If the female is able to gain enough weight over the spring (a weight of at least 280 grams), she will give birth to a second litter in May-June.
The young become sexually active at about 10 months old. The survival rate of young squirrels is low, with only an estimated 15-25% making it through their first winter. After that they can hope to live for 3-4 years in the wild.
Sign up to our free monthly e-newsletter, Tree News. It's the perfect way to keep in touch and stay up to date with the latest news about Trees for Life, wildlife and conservation.
Join Trees for Life and receive our exclusive members magazine!
Live locally and want to know more about volunteering with us? Get updates about our Conservation Days straight to your inbox.