I think Red Squirrels are one of the most beautiful animals I have met in the UK.
Have you read “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin” by Beatrix Potter? You can read it here if you like. When Squirrel Nutkin was written over 100 years ago there were lots of Red Squirrels all over the UK. However, there are now very few remaining.
About 100 years ago, people started bring Grey Squirrels over to the UK from their native America because they liked having them in their gardens. However, Grey Squirrels are bigger and stronger than our Red Squirrels, so can take all the best places to live. Also, Grey Squirrels can eat fruit and nuts before they are ripe, so can steal all the food before the Red Squirrels have a chance. Grey Squirrels carry a disease called Squirrel Pox Virus, which is harmless to the Greys, but is deadly to the Red Squirrels.
Because of the combination of lack of food and disease brought by the Grey Squirrels, most of our native Red Squirrels have died. They can now only be found in parts of Wales, northern England, Scotland, and on some islands where Grey Squirrels were never introduced.
If nothing is done to help the Red Squirrels in the UK, they could soon go extinct. Luckily, a group of scientists, landowners and volunteers are working together with the Red Squirrel Survival Trust to make sure this doesn’t happen. At Escot Park in Devon, they are breeding Red Squirrels in a safe enclosure where Grey Squirrels can’t enter, but people can! One, day, they hope to be able to release some of these Red Squirrels back into the wild.
The squirrels at Escot are very friendly and we had a great time playing. I was amazed by how clever the squirrels were, and how fast they could run up and down the trees. It was great to see such a happy and healthy group of Red Squirrels playing together!
This squirrel had never met a saiga before and was very interested in my horns!
You can see how clever and agile red squirrels are here: