Red squirrel in Spain

red squirrel: ardilla roja: Sciurus vulgaris

It has been claimed that Spain was once so thickly-forested that a squirrel could cross the peninsula hopping from tree to tree, but squirrels do not occupy holm oak woods and so have always been absent from extensive areas, particularly in the south, where they are only present in pinewoods. Spanish squirrels increase in size as they move south (the opposite to Bergman’s rule), and tend to be much darker in the north of the country.

Three distinct “groups” of squirrels in Spain have been identified: 1. infuscatus – remarkably large squirrels of up to half a kilo with very colourful tails and white hairs found in the pinewoods of Centre and South. 2. alpinus – small dark, sometimes black squirrels from the North, the Pyrenees and the Northern Sistema Central. 3. numantius – medium-sized squirrels with a blackish tail and a red-brown coat in the Sistema Ibérico.

Their absence from the Balearics appears to explain the smaller size of pine cones on the islands.

A number of squirrels have been released in recent years in city parks such as in El Retiro in Madrid. Squirrels are now fully protected by law but in the past were considered a delicacy. Grey squirrels are mercifully absent from Spain.

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