The red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), is the only species of arboreal squirrels present in most of Europe and Asia. Its distribution area is very broad, extending from the British Isles to China, from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean, the Caucasus, the Urals, the Altai Mountains, and as far as the island of Hokkaido in Japan.
Two other species of forest squirrels are present in Eurasia: the Persian squirrel (Sciurus anomalus), with a small distribution area in Transcaucasia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Israel, and the Japanese squirrel (Sciurus lis) on the islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu in Japan.
In Italy there are three subspecies of red squirrel: Sciurus vulgaris fuscoater in the north, this subspecies is widespread in most of Central and Eastern Europe, while in the Centre and South there are two endemic subspecies, thus present only in Italy, respectively, Sciurus vulgaris italicus and Sciurus vulgaris meridionalis.
The subspecies of central and northern Italy are characterized by a highly variable coloration of the dorsal pelage, as indicated previously, while the southern subspecies, found mainly in Calabria, is completely black with a white belly. This subspecies is also genetically different, at the level of mitochondrial DNA haplotypes, from all other subspecies of the red squirrel in Europe.
Distribution of the red squirrel in Italy:
The red squirrel of Calabria is completely black and is clearly distinguished from other subspecies, which are more or less reddish.
Photo and map extracted from: Iconografia dei Mammiferi d’Italia, published by the Ministry for the Environment and Land Protection and by the Istituto Nazionale per la Fauna Selvatica.