Spot Red SquirrelsPosted on: 09 October 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
Go nuts for the native nutkin during Red Squirrel Week.
Radiant redheads are only found in certain areas of the UK, which is why The Wildlife Trusts are encouraging everyone to help protect them - by getting out and about and reporting sightings during Red Squirrel Week, from 4th to 12th October 2008.
With distinctive russet fur, tufted ears and twitching tail, a red squirrel is a captivating sight. Yet they’re becoming more infrequent. That’s why local Wildlife Trusts is holding family walks and events and encouraging everyone to look for signs or sights in woodlands, along roadsides and in gardens too.
Red squirrels can live for up to six years.
With a total UK population of only 160,000, red squirrels continue to be in serious danger. Red squirrel projects throughout the UK rely on sightings reported by the general public to keep track of the population, in decline due to a number of factors including disease, the loss and fragmentation of woodland habitat and competition from the more robust grey squirrel.
Red squirrels - Sciurus vulgaris - are not always red. They can be brown, almost black, or even quite grey, and can become blonde due to bleaching by the summer sunlight. In winter, they have noticeable ear tufts.
The plight of the Red Squirrel is now recognised in local, regional, national and international conservation policies. It is featured in the Bern Convention, it is a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and the Red Squirrel is afforded the highest level of protection under UK law, the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Red squirrels are able to live in any type of woodland but in the UK they are now mostly confined to conifer forests where they have a competitive advantage over the larger greys. Conservation projects are making progress.
Red squirrels do not hibernate. They bury nuts to help provide food in the winter to supplement the year round supply of conifer seeds in mixed broadleaf and coniferous woodland.
There are now some 2,500 to 3,500 red squirrels on the Isle of Wight and habitat work is making corridors for the reds to get from woodland to woodland.
A Red Alert North England project, the largest single species conservation project in the UK, is focusing a budget of £1.15million, half of which comes from the Heritage Lottery Fund, on the ‘Save our Squirrels’ project in the region.
Red squirrels build nests, called dreys, from sticks and moss placed high in the branches, where they produce two litters of three to four kittens a year. The drey is often the first evidence of the presence of red squirrels in a wood.
Red squirrel numbers are thought to have doubled on Anglesey in the last five years.
Brownsea Island, home to a nationally important population of the iconic red squirrel, is owned by the National Trust and managed in part by Dorset Wildlife Trust. A short distance from Poole Quay and Sandbanks, Brownsea Island has been cared for by the National Trust since 1962. More than 200 acres of the 550 acre Island is managed by Dorset Wildlife Trust.
Where To Report Red Squirrel Sightings
Red or grey squirrels in the North of England (Northumberland, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Merseyside) to Northumberland Wildlife Trust at www.saveoursquirrels.org.uk.
Red squirrels in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders to the Red Squirrels In South Scotland project online at: www.red-squirrels.org.uk/report_sightings.php or call Richard Wales on 01750 23446.
Red squirrels in the Scottish highlands at www.highlandredsquirrel.co.uk.
Red squirrels in north east Scotland at www.grampiansquirrelgroup.co.uk.
Red squirrels in Northern Ireland should be reported to the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording www.habitas.org.uk/cedar.
Red squirrels in mid-Wales to the mid Wales Red Squirrel Partnership on www.wwbic.org.uk/redsquirrelproject.
Red squirrels on the Isle of Wight to the Wight Squirrel project at www.wightsquirrels.co.uk.
For more on Red Squirrel Week, or to find an event near you, visit: www.wildlifetrusts.org
You can adopt a red squirrel with Dorset Wildlife Trust at: www.dorsetwildlife.co.uk/adopt_a_red_squirrel.html
Photo: Eliot Smith
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