Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Seeing Reds

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I spoke about the plight of the Red Squirrels in the UK last week, in my post about the Scottish Wildlife Trust. A friend commented on whether they were the same as American Red Squirrels, which surprised me as I had no idea America had Red Squirrels! I did some research and can now say; No, they're not at all related species. Which made me realise that people beyond the UK probably know nothing about our Red Squirrels and why they are endangered.

I went and dug up a few basic facts, including these lovely photos on wikipedia. This is an American Red Squirrel, tamiasciurus hudsonicus:


Photo copyright - D. Gordon E. Robertson.

...and this is the Eurasian Red Squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris, found in the UK:


Photo copyright - Mareckr Marek Rykiel

The problem with the Eurasian Red Squirrel in the UK is that the Victorians brought American Grey Squirrels back, as garden "pets", not realising the Greys would do damage to their own indigenous squirrels. Some people think it's because the American Greys are more agressive, which is partially true. Greys are more agressive and do chase Red squirrels away from their food sources, but the main reason the Greys are taking over is that they carry the squirrelpox virus. This virus isn't harmful to Greys, but it is lethal to Red Squirrels.

At this stage it is extremely rare to find Red Squirrels in England, except in very isolated or carefully protected areas. 75% of the UK Red Squirrel population lives in Scotland...



...but even the Scottish squirrels are under threat as the Greys continue to 'colonise' Northwards and the virus they carry continues to kill. This is why the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and the SSRS charity below, are so important.



It would be such a tragedy if the UK lost one of its traditional animal icons.


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5 comments:

  1. AWWW I LOVE those red squirrels!!! I do hope they will continue to survive!!!!!

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  2. Thank you Michelle for your interesting research on Red Squirrels. On any given day I've got about 5 to 7 Eastern Fox Squirrels (introduced into the San Francisco Bay area, not native) in my yard, eating the sunflower seed mix and raw peanuts I put out for the birds - presently the latest litter of pups are out in their wide-eyed wonder... playing and chasing each other.

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  3. Despite my moniker, I am sympathetic to the plight of the red squirrels but as the squirrelpox virus is the main threat, culling the greys is not the solution. Vaccination and controlled isolation is likely to be the solution.

    I found your interesting blog via Terry (tsduff) who pointed me in this direction.

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  4. Thanks for sharing those pictures, they are beautiful.Honestly it is my first to see red squirrels. There are squirrels here in England but they are i guess the common squirrels around, dark gray coloured with some white fur around the neck.

    Thanks

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  5. hi Amel
    Me too. :-)

    Terry
    I've never heard of Eastern Fox squirrels. I'll have to go look them up... I so love internet search! ;-)

    Hi Earl
    The Grey squirrels are cute too. It's not their fault that they are stronger and survive better. I don't think there are many red squirrels left in England, except remote places that are completely cut off from Grey squirrels. I found a website that gives you a list of the few places you can see Red squirrels in England:

    http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-chl/w-countryside_environment/w-nature/w-nature-wildlife/w-nature-wildlife-red_squirrels.htm#see_squirrels

    And parks in South Scotland where you can go to see Red squirrels:

    http://www.red-squirrels.org.uk/see-red-squirrels.asp

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