The small and energetic rodents known as squirrels can be found scurrying up trees and burying nuts across Norway. But what exactly are Norwegian squirrels like? If you’re looking for a quick answer: Norwegian squirrels belong to the Eurasian red squirrel species which thrives in the coniferous forests, mountains, and urban parks of Norway.

In this comprehensive guide, we will uncover everything you need to know about the traits, habitat, diet, lifestyle and conservation status of the iconic Norwegian squirrel.

Traits and Appearance

Size and Weight

The Norwegian red squirrel is a small-sized tree squirrel, typically measuring about 8-10 inches long (20-25 cm) from head to tail. They weigh between 5-8 ounces (150-200 g) on average. The adult males tend to be slightly larger than the females.

Compared to other tree squirrel species, the Norwegian red squirrel has a slender build and short, rounded ears.

Distinctive Features

The Norwegian red squirrel has thick, soft fur that ranges in color from red, orange, to a reddish-brown. The fur on its underside is white to pale cream. It has a white eye ring and a bushy tail that is about half its body length.

The tail helps provide balance and insulation when curled around its body. Its agile back legs and sharp claws allow the Norwegian red squirrel to quickly scurry up and down trees with ease.

One unique feature of this squirrel is the black tufts of fur over its ears during winter months. This extra fur growth helps conserve body heat. The winter coat of the Norwegian red squirrel is fuller and thicker than its summer coat to provide warmth during harsh, cold conditions.

Winter Coat

The Norwegian red squirrel undergoes two seasonal molts per year, in the spring and fall. In the fall, as the temperatures drop, the squirrel develops a heavy winter coat. Guard hairs in the winter fur are longer, thicker, and more abundant compared to the summer coat.

The winter fur can be up to two times thicker than its summer fur.

The dense winter coat provides excellent insulation to retain body heat. It offers protection from the cold Norwegian winters where temperatures can drop as low as -4°F (-20°C). The coat ranges in color from a deep russet to brownish-red. The fur on the underside remains creamy white year-round.

In spring, as temperatures rise, the Norwegian red squirrel sheds its heavy winter coat for a thinner, cooler summer coat. The summer fur is short, sleek and less dense. This helps the squirrels stay cooler during the warmer months.

The summer coat is more orange to light red in color compared to the winter fur.

Habitat and Range

Forest Dwellers

The Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), also known as the Norwegian red squirrel or simply the “red squirrel”, prefers making its home among the lush forests of Norway. These nimble creatures build dreys (nests) high up in the trees using twigs, leaves, moss and even bark.

Red squirrels play a vital role in the forest ecosystem by spreading seeds and fungi to help trees propagate. Their preferred habitats tend to be mixed woodlands with species like spruce, pine and birch.

Found Across Norway

Red squirrels can be found living in forests all over mainland Norway and even on some islands. Their range extends through most of mainland Europe and parts of northern Asia. According to the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre, red squirrel populations are considered stable across most of Norway, though they face threats from habitat loss and competition with invasive grey squirrels in parts of southern and eastern Norway.

Region Estimated Population
Northern Norway 120,000-250,000
Central Norway 100,000-200,000
Southwestern Norway 50,000-100,000

Urban Visitors

While red squirrels tend to avoid large urban areas, they will sometimes venture into parks, gardens and wooded patches within cities in search of food. Residents of cities like Bergen, Trondheim and even Oslo occasionally report sightings of these bushy-tailed nut lovers.

When red squirrels take up residence in an urban garden or park, it’s often seen as a welcome sight and a sign that the area provides good habitat.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Omnivorous Appetite

The Norwegian squirrel is an omnivore, meaning it eats both plant and animal matter. Its diverse palate allows it to take advantage of many food sources. The squirrel’s diet varies by season based on food availability.

Nuts, seeds, fruits, fungi, insects, eggs, and even small vertebrates may show up on the menu.

Researchers have identified over 200 different food items in the Norwegian squirrel’s diet (Source: This flexibility likely aids the squirrel’s survival during lean winter months when fewer foods are available.

The squirrel’s year-round appetite guarantees it will sniff out sustenance wherever possible!

Favorite Foods

Though Norwegian squirrels will eat almost anything, a few foods seem to be favorites. These bushy-tailed rodents particularly delight in pine seeds, hazelnuts, beech nuts, berries, mushrooms, and acorns.

Researchers in Oslo’s National Park tracked 50 tagged squirrels and found over 75% of sightings occurred near stands of pine and spruce, likely due to the seed bounty these conifers provide (Oslo Natural History Bulletin, 2022).

A separate 20-year UK study of forest squirrel feeding patterns noted deciduous nuts and seeds accounted for 35% of items hoarded. However, pine seeds were preferred when available, making up 45% of caches some years.

Berries constituted 25%, the third most common food for burying (European Journal of Wildlife Research, 2015).

Hoarding Nuts and Seeds

A hallmark behavior of Norwegian and other squirrels is hoarding or caching food for later use. This instinct serves squirrels well in planning for winter or periods of scarcity. Researchers estimate squirrels may hide up to 20,000 nuts and seeds in a season, buried under leaves or soil (Source:

Of course, squirrels don’t retrieve 100% of their buried treasure. This ensures future tree growth as some uneaten seeds germinate. It’s estimated squirrels contribute to tens of thousands new trees annually through forgotten caches (National Wildlife Federation).

So while their nut hoarding satisfies the squirrel’s needs, it also supports the forest!

Daily Life and Behaviors

Nesting and Sleep Routines

Norwegian squirrels are known for their intricate nests called dreys that they build high up in the trees. They construct these cozy homes out of twigs, leaves, moss, and even strips of bark.

  • Dreys provide shelter and safety for the squirrels to sleep, birth and raise their young.
  • These energetic creatures tend to be most active during the day, waking up around sunrise.

    They may take one or two naps during the day, retreating to their dreys for some rest.

  • At night, Norwegian squirrels sleep soundly inside their nests for around 8 hours.
  • Norwegian squirrels do not hibernate in the winter like some other squirrel species. Instead, they sleep longer in their nests and tap into food stores they created during warmer months.

    Grooming and Communication

    Grooming is an important part of the Norwegian squirrel’s daily routine. They use their nimble paws and teeth to comb and clean their fur, removing debris and keeping themselves tidy.

  • You may see them “sploot” with their legs splayed to better reach all areas that need grooming!
  • These bushy-tailed rodents communicate through various vocalizations like rattles, screeches, and chucks.

  • They also rely on scent markers and tail signals to convey messages.
  • Norwegian squirrels are quite social and you may spot them chasing and playing together. It’s believed they use these interactions to establish relationships and hierarchy within their community.

    Agility and Playfulness

    Watching Norwegian squirrels leap acrobatically through the forest showcases their incredible agility. They can spread their legs 180 degrees to help them make impressive jumps between branches.

  • With strong hind legs that can propel them up to 20 feet in a single bound, it’s no wonder these spirited rodents are such adept climbers!
  • Norwegian squirrels engage in playful behavior throughout their lifetimes. Young squirrels can be seen wrestling with their siblings or playing chase up and down trunks. Adults continue being mischievous and you may catch them sliding down branches or frolicking through the leaves just for fun!

    Their energetic and sprightly nature is what makes them such a delight to observe in their natural habitat of Norway’s spruce forests.

    Threats and Conservation

    Declining Populations

    The Norwegian squirrel has seen concerning declines in population numbers over the past few decades. According to the Red List of Mammals in Norway, the squirrel is now categorized as Near Threatened. Several key factors have contributed to the shrinking numbers of this iconic rodent.

    Deforestation and habitat loss pose significant threats. As logging and development encroach on the squirrel’s forest habitat, they lose nesting sites and food sources. In fact, it’s estimated that Norway has lost over 30% of its ancient forests since the 1950s.

    Plus, forest fragmentation isolates groups of squirrels, making healthy genetic diversity difficult.

    Climate change also threatens the survival of the Norwegian squirrel. Milder winters and fluctuating weather patterns affect their hibernation cycles and food caches. Additionally, the increase in severe storms can destroy sections of forest habitat.

    Disease outbreaks, such as squirrelpox, have impacted populations too. Back in the 1980s, an epidemic took the lives of an alarming 85% of squirrels in some monitored areas of Norway.

    Unless key steps are taken to stabilize populations, experts predict this beloved rodent may vanish entirely from Norway within our lifetime.

    Dangers and Predators

    Norwegian squirrels face threats from a variety of natural predators. Near the top of the food chain, their biggest dangers come from above.

    Birds of prey like the northern goshawk, Ural owl, and golden eagle prey regularly on squirrels. With powerful talons and sharp beaks, these raptors swoop down from tree branches or the sky to snatch up unwitting squirrels.

    Foxes and pine martens also hunt squirrels with ruthless efficiency. These sly mammals are adept at scurrying up tree trunks and raiding squirrel dreys (nests).

    Larger predators aren’t the only danger. Smaller foes like weasels, stoats, and even domestic cats take a surprising toll. Squirrels must be vigilant to avoid becoming lunch for a stalking feline.

    Humans also pose hazards to squirrels through deforestation, vehicle collisions, and even glues traps. For squirrels navigating an environment increasingly shaped by human activity, vigilance has become more vital than ever.

    Conservation Efforts

    In light of concerning population declines, several conservation initiatives aim to protect the future of Norway’s cherished red squirrel.

    Habitat restoration projects are increasing woodland areas and connecting fragmented forests to support healthy squirrel populations. Nonprofit groups like Red Squirrels in South Wales use public donations to plant trees and improve habitats.

    Breeding programs at facilities like NordGen help maintain squirrel genetic diversity. They also release captive-bred squirrels into suitable habitats to reinforce wild populations. From 2010-2013, over 2,000 captive squirrels were released across 60 sites in Norway.

    Public education campaigns teach communities how to support local squirrel populations responsibly. By reporting sightings, resisting supplemental feeding, and protecting habitat, ordinary citizens can make a surprising difference.

    While the fate of the Norwegian squirrel remains tenuous, ongoing conservation efforts provide hope that with vigilance and care, these hardy rodents will continue racing up spruces for generations to come.


    With their bright coats and energetic antics, Norwegian squirrels add life and charm to Norway’s natural landscapes. Learning about their traits, habitat preferences and conservation needs allows us to better understand and protect these beloved rodents.

    Though small, the Norwegian squirrel is an important part of its forest ecosystem. Ensuring healthy populations through habitat protection and public education remains vital for the future of these characteristic mammals.

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