Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#SteveReviews: Secrets of Squirrels

It is rare that you’ll see my posting about mammals on this blog, mainly because I think they’re overhyped and focussed on too much, compared to other taxa. I may focus obsessively on amphibians and reptiles, but even I often overlook plants and fungi which generally receive even less attention from a conservation standpoint. However, every now again again, I will surprise you, just to keep you on your toes. Just like Netflix did when I logged in recently and flicked through their offerings for documentaries. There, right in my face was a photo of a red squirrel – a species I have only seen in captivity, the star of a documentary about their inner lives. For those of you that don’t live in Great Britain, let me explain. Red squirrels are extremely rare in England, due to competition with introduced grey squirrels, and the introduction of their pathogens along with them. A couple of centuries ago though, this was not the case, and red squirrels were commonplace among the English countryside. If you want to see them now, the best place to do so, is to visit Scotland (or a wildlife park).

Directed by Franz Fuchs, this documentary film follows red squirrels in continental Europe where they are far more numerous, as they try to survive the winter, and go about their squirrel antics. It is documentaries like this one that really help to illuminate the lives of a species that most people take for granted or don’t second guess. I imagine a film about grey squirrels would be fairly similar except for the fact that they hibernate, and reds don’t. The documentary also shows a number of interesting ecological interactions, such as with jays and other woodland wildlife. It is always great when directors take the time to explore these links but also explain them, and why they are important. Most people in the general public are not aware of intricacies of ecosystems, so highlighting some of these connections always helps. Not all of them are predator and prey, as highlighted by the relationship between jays and red squirrels.

If you’re looking for a relatively short (51 mins) documentary to watch, that also covers some interesting natural history and ecological roles, then I would recommend Secrets of Squirrels. I never thought I’d say that about a documentary based solely on mammals, but they do play an important part in woodland ecosystems, and as long as I’m learning more about the natural world, then I am happy. I hope you are too! If you’ve seen Secrets of Squirrels, please let me know what you thought of it in the comment section below.

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