The red-tailed squirrel (Sciurus granatensis ) is a species of tree squirrel distributed from southern Central America to northern South America.
Red-tailed squirrels are medium-sized tree squirrels. The color of their coat varies depending on location. It can range from dark orange to dull yellow sprinkled with black to all black. Their bellies can be white to bright orange-rust. These squirrels have bushy tails which are yellowish brown in color and may have a black tip. During the winter the color of their coat differs slightly from the summer coat.
Red-tailed squirrels are found from southern Central to northern South America. They occur in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago (also on Tobago), and Venezuela (also on Isla de Margarita). This species has been also introduced to a small area near Havana on Cuba. Red-tailed squirrels inhabit many types of forests and can also be found in picnic grounds.
Red-tailed squirrels are generally solitary creatures. They can be seen in groups only during the breeding season, feeding, or with their young. Even when these squirrels are in groups, they try to avoid each other. They even try to avoid one another when feeding and never stay in the same tree at one time with another individual. Red-tailed squirrels are diurnal and most of the day is spent resting. They don't spend much time jumping, climbing or doing other activities. Red-tailed squirrels are usually silent. Only when threatened, they will make a few short, hoarse sounds. They also can produce grunts, squeals and chase each other.
Red-tailed squirrels are herbivorous. The mainly feed on fruits, nuts, and seeds. Their diet may also include different leaves, flowers, bark, and mushrooms.
Red-tailed squirrels have a polyandrous mating system. This means that females have more than one partner during a breeding season. These squirrels breed from late December to late October. Females can have 2-3 litters during a year with 1 or 2 kittens in each litter. The gestation period lasts around 2 months. Young are born hairless, with closed eyes and weigh around 9-10 g. Fur starts growing around 14 days after birth and their eyes open in 30-32 days after birth. Kittens stay in the nest around 6 weeks after birth. When the mother leaves the nest, she usually covers her young with nest material to hide them from predators. Females nurse their young around 61 days, after which they leave their offspring. Both, males and females in this species reach reproductive maturity at around 1 year of age.
There are no major threats to Red-taied squirrels at present.
According to IUCN, the Red-tailed squirrel is locally common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.
Due to their diet, Red-tailed squirrels disperse the seeds of the fruits and flowers that they feed on. Thus, having a big impact on the ecosystem of their range, helping many plants survive.