The Formby squirrels are very friendly and are quite used to people wandering around. They are a lovely, glossy, conker brown rather than the rich copper red I remember from the squirrels I saw as a child and in photos I've seen of those in Scotland. Unlike the grey squirrel, the red doesn't hibernate in the winter. Not that the greys seem to do much hibernating nowadays as the winters are so much milder than they used to be. We often see our local grey squirrels dashing around in the depths of winter. The red squirrels are also in danger from squirrelpox a disease deadly to them which is carried and passed on by the non-native greys who were introduced to this country at the beginning of the 20th century. I always find it sad that one lovely species, just because it has been misplaced by man's interference, has the ability to endanger another lovely species. I love the red squirrels but I'm almost equally as fond of the greys but you can see from the photo below, taken in our local park earlier this year, how much stronger the grey squirrel looks than our lovely native red. Thank heavens for all those conservationists who are helping the red squirrel keep a foothold in its native land. Here is a link to find out more about their activities.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
The Red and the Grey
Today is the first day of Red Squirrel week here in the UK. Red Squirrel numbers have been depleted over the years as their woodland habitats have disappeared and they have become threatened by disease and the overwelming strength of their rival grey squirrel. The population in the UK is this year estimated to be only around 160,000. Although red squirrels can live in any mixed woodland habitat they tend now to live only where there are extensive conifer or pine forests as these are hard for the grey squirrel to survive in; only the reds eat pine cones. They are also affected by the fact that as forest areas become spread apart they cannot move easily from area to area. Some conservation groups are creating corridors of movement to help the situation. There are still thriving communities of red squirrels in the south of the country on the Isle of Wight and on Brownsea island; others are found in the north on Anglesey, on the Lancashire coast, in the Yorkshire Dales and in Scotland. I remember as a child seeing red squirrels whilst on holiday in Cornwall and the New Forest but I hadn't seen any for ages until we visited the National Trust Reserve at Formby in Lancashire a couple of years ago. The photo below was taken there.