Yesterday was Love your Pet Day. As owners, we instinctively love our pets; having an animal in your life provides a sense of quality and commitment that is hard to describe. Equally, we are lucky to still be able to enjoy much of our native wildlife and animals. Whilst the level of interaction with wildlife may be less, there is still a sense of belonging when we are out in our woods or strolling through the countryside. So imagine if that enjoyment was no longer available to us because animals or wildlife species was facing extinction and the landscape we were so accustomed was changed as a result.
Enter the red squirrel, a majestic, shy creature, once a common sight in the UK until the 1870’s when grey squirrels (native to North America) were introduced to the UK as fashionable wonder pieces for large country estates. Since their introduction in the 19th century, the grey squirrel has all but wiped out the once native species of red squirrel.
Providing tracking and data on the British squirrel population, the UK Forestry Commission noted that UK red squirrels are now mainly present in the North of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The decline is mainly attributed to loss of their natural habitat and disease (implicated by the grey squirrel)
Due to their shy and retiring nature, it has been difficult to gain a broad picture via a census of the red squirrel in England. Harris et al. (1995) was the most recent update estimating a total of 161,000 red squirrels in Great Britain.
The reproduction of the grey squirrels has also begun to spread through the forests of Northern Italy and similarly to the UK this would appear to be at the expense of their native red squirrel.
It’s not all bad news though, in June 2016 an EU and National Lottery funded project began encouraging local communities across the North of England and Wales to get involved in conserving the red squirrel. Of particular note is that this initiative is tasked with developing early warnings and rapid response mechanisms to ensure the Island of Anglesey in North Wales is not recolonised. So imagine our joy when one of our social media followers shared a photo of a red squirrel from this beautiful area of Wales demonstrating all the hard work of the volunteers, members of the public and conservationists has paid off and that the stunning Welsh island can once again enjoy its most regal native species once more.
If you need even more of a red squirrel fix, feast your eyes on these videos which feature on the Red Squirrels Trust Wales website. Or if you want to see a red squirrel with your own eyes The National Trust has compiled a list of top places to spot a red squirrel
We’ve collated our facts for this article using the following sources but they also make for great continued reading