21 September 2013

Good News for Red Squirrels

Red Squirrel
Red Squirrel by Paul Whippey
The Red Squirrel is the native squirrel of the British Isles, the American Grey Squirrel was only introduced in the 1870's. Sadly, the two kinds of squirrels do not co-exist and Britain's Red Squirrels have declined greatly in number, but there has been some good news in recent days..

The difficulty is that Grey Squirrels out-compete the Reds by having the ability to eat unripe nuts,  the Reds have to wait for the nuts to ripen. There is also a disease problem, Greys are resistant to and carry squirrel pox which kills the Reds.

RSNE - Red Squirrels Northern England - who conduct Red Squirrel conservation work have reported encouraging news from their monitoring programme.  The number of sites occupied by native Red Squirrels rose by 7% between Spring 2012 and Spring 2013. Over the same period, the number of sites occupied by Grey Squirrels fell by 18%. More about the conservation work carried out by RSNE, with its team of community volunteers can be found at their website where there is a good video.

Red Squirrels may still be found in Scotland , Northern England, Northern Ireland. and on the islands of Anglesey and the Isle of Wight. There is also a breeding experiment in progress on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly which has just received a boost. Twenty Red Squirrels from the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey were flown in by helicopter and will move into woodland on Tresco.

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Brownsea Island Squirrels

Forestry Commission

The British Wildlife Centre in Lingfield, Surrey