The Spring Moult

Original Author: Steve Willis, Project Officer Northeast Scotland

Red squirrels moulting into their summer coat can look a bit alarming at times- learn more about the moult and what to do if you are concerned by a squirrel with patchy fur.


Spring has sprung! Birds are singing, flowers blooming, and squirrel moulting! At this time of year we get a large number of reports of red squirrels missing large patches of fur. Pictures and reports flood in from all over the country from people who are, quite rightly, worried that this might be the cause of some sort of disease.

To the best of our knowledge this is simply the spring moult from the squirrels winter coat to its summer coat. For reasons we don’t fully understand this sometimes leaves massive gaps in the animals coat. Besides it leaving the squirrel feeling a bit chilly in places, we are not aware that this causes them any harm. There is always the chance that this is caused or aggravated by parasites like fleas, but it is hard to be certain.

These reports tend to come in from lucky folks who have red squirrels regularly visiting their garden, and are usually followed up by reports a few weeks later that all is well and the red squirrel are looking fab in their summer coats. If you are feeding squirrels in your garden then hygiene is of paramount importance. As for bird feeders, squirrel feeders should be regularly cleaned and sterilised.

We always welcome these sorts of enquiries from the public- you are our eyes and ears! People are concerned about the risk of squirrelpox spreading amongst the red squirrel population, but at present this is confined to the Scottish lowlands south of the central belt. Squirrelpox does not tend to cause great loss of fur. There are numerous other, quite natural, diseases in red squirrels (we’ll blog about these another time) that show up from time to time. We do our best to monitor these in partnership with academic institutions.

If you have concerns about your local red squirrels contact your nearest Project Officer and we’ll do our best to help. Sending in a photo with your report is very helpful.

Thanks for your help and keep the reports coming!

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