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20. Nov 2022

Hokkaido Trivia – Nearby Nature: Eurasian Red Squirrel

Among all the wild lives you come across in Hokkaido, Eurasian Red Squirrels might be the one you see the most. In Japan, Eurasian Red Squirrels habit only in Hokkaido – from the plains to the woods in high elevation, from rural fields to urban parks. They can be more than 40cm in size (including a 20cm long tail that curves along the back of their body). And they make their dreys for child-rearing and overwintering way up in an evergreen coniferous tree.

Autumn is a busy time for them storing food (mainly walnuts and acorns) on the ground for the coming snow-covered winter. Sometimes the squirrels forget where they buried their food, and these nuts eventually bring forth new life.  In winter Red Squirrels don’t hibernate and are actively running about in their winter coat.

Japanese names for Red “Squirrels” (Ezo Risu) and Siberian “Chipmunks” (Shima Risu) have the word “risu,” meaning squirrels. Because of this similar name and rather similar appearance and livelihood, we tend to refer to them in pairs. But Chipmunks are much smaller in size with stripes in the back. They don’t hibernate, and they make nests underground.  It’s actually hard to find them and rarely see them.

Wild life in eastern Hokkaido can be found just nearby. Next time you’re here for any activities, stop for a while and listen to the rustling sound of the leaves. There might be a Red Squirrel there.  Or if you’re lucky, a Siberian Chipmunk!!

rf. Brochures on Red Squirrels, Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine

Eurasian Red Squirrel
Siberian Chipmunk