Red Squirrel Revival, Or …

by David Murray on 8 September 2012

in Animals, Opinion

This morning I was giving some overdue attention to the fuchsias outside our kitchen window when I sensed movement to my right. Looking up I saw a squirrel, no more than three feet from me, sitting on the wall – and it was a red squirrel! I hadn't seen one for a long time until this morning although as people drive into Appleby in Westmorland from the direction of Orton Fell they pass a sign telling them that they're entering a red squirrel zone.

Red Squirrel

Red Squirrel—Alastair Rae (Flickr.com)

Its' sad, isn't it, that the population of this most beautiful of British mammals has shrunk so far. There are projects afoot here and there to encourage their revival but against the takeover by the greys it's expremely difficult.  In Cornwall, where there have been no reds in the wild since 1984, they've announced a grey squirrel exclusion zone. The aim of the Cornwall Red Squirrel Project is to re-introduce Britain's native red squirrel  into two pilot areas.  The project is supported by Prince Charles (Duke of Cornwall, an Patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust) but is controversial as it involves cujlling the greys.

“If the population of greys is not urgently and radically reduced, they say, then the reds will be driven to extinction in the UK within 20 years. There are an estimated 120,000-140,000 reds in the UK, with 75% of the population in Scotland….”
More at 'If you want red squirrels, you have to kill greys' – The Guardian

Having mentioned Scotland, how about Wales? Well, Anglesey has a red squirrel project too, but now that's been hit by a new threat – a virus.

“Red squirrels were re-introduced to Anglesey 15 years ago in an effort to save the endangered species. The island is Wales' refuge for Red Squirrels, whose numbers are threatened by the grey squirrel. Between just 400 and 500 red squirrels remain on Anglesey, where a programme to eradicate the grey squirrel is in place….”
More at Anglesey's Red Squirrels hit by killer virus – ITV News

One might think that the government's environmental people would be concerned, and also other major bodies with a nature focus but Robin Page writes in the Telegraph this morning:

“Defra’s indifference to the plight of the red squirrel along with that of several other major conservation bodies – including the National Trust and the RSPB – is remarkable. While badger setts are protected, the dreys of a red squirrel appear to be worthless….”
More at Country diary: standing up for the red squirrel – Telegraph.co.uk

Let’s hope the red squirrel can be helped to survive and thrive again. Here’s a video about the Cornwall Red Squirrel Project


Related Links:
Nature in the North
Virus fears over red squirrel deaths on Anglesey [Bangor and Anglesey Mail]
The reds are coming back to Killiney [Irish Times]
Volunteers see red for wildlife [Morpeth Herald]
Alan Titchmarsh on the red squirrel


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