Word squirrel, first specified in 1327, comes from the Anglo-Norman esquirel which is from the Old French escurel, the reflex of a Latin word sciurus. This Latin word was borrowed from the Ancient Greek word σκίουρος, skiouros, which means shadow-tailed, referring to the bushy appendage possessed by many of its members.
Squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae, consisting of small or medium-size rodents. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots including woodchucks, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas and Eurasia, and have been introduced to Australia. The earliest known squirrels date from the Eocene and are most closely related to the mountain beaver and to the dormouse among living rodent families
squirrels live in large patches of conifer forest over 50 hectares, and in the UK, they have adapted to Scots pine forest. They can be found at altitudes up to 2000m in the Alps and Pyrenees. Flying squirrels glide, extending their arms and legs and coasting through the air from one tree to another. Flaps of skin connecting limbs to body provide a winglike surface. These gliding leaps can exceed 46 meters
squirrels eat spruce and pine seeds, acorns, berries, fungi, bark and sap tissue. They store surplus food either just below the ground or in tree clefts. Though they are terrific climbers, these squirrels do come to the ground in search of fare such as nuts, acorns, berries, and flowers
squirrels live in a drey which has a frame of twigs and is lined with moss and grass. The drey is usually built at least 6m off the ground in a tree. Squirrels breed once or twice a year and give birth to a varying number of young after three to six weeks, depending on species. The young are born naked, toothless, and blind. In most species of squirrel, only the female looks after the young, which are weaned at around six to ten weeks of age and become sexually mature at the end of their first year. In general, ground-dwelling species are social animals, often living in well-developed colonies, but the tree-dwelling species are more solitary
red squirrels are on the 2000 IUCN Red List as Lower Risk, is protected in most of Europe, as it is listed in Appendix III of the Bern Convention
In Norse mythology, Ratatoskr is a red squirrel who runs up and down with messages in the world tree, Yggdrasill. The red squirrel used to be widely hunted for its pelt. In Finland squirrel pelts were used as currency in ancient times, before the introduction of coinage