|Page Editor: Norman Jackson||Page last Reviewed: 27 Jun 2013|
Within a few years this could be a depressing fact in this valley. Our beautiful little Red Squirrels are seriously under threat on two fronts. Now that Grey Squirrels have arrived in the valley and are becoming established, they not only compete for food sources but can carry the Squirrelpox Virus which is deadly to the Red Squirrel. It can take as little as 15 years from the arrival of Greys in an area, to the disappearance of the Red's - and we've had Grey's for at least 5 years.To see maps of the dramatic changes in distribution since 1948 Click Here.
Cumbria and Northumberland are very much on the front line of the battle to stop the onslaught of the Grey Squirrel. A number of, quite small reserves have been established across the country and these are surrounded by buffer zones where Grey Squirrels are actively controlled. The Cumbrian reserves are at Whinlatter, Thirlmere, Greystoke and Whinfell.
Measures are in place to control the Grey Squirrels but the Rangers who undertake this work need to know where they are. So, whether you are local or a visitor, if you see a Grey Squirrel, please report the sighting as soon as possible. Give details of the date, time and describe the location as accurately as possible (a grid reference is helpful but not essential).
For the Patterdale and Ullswater area, please telephone Christian Bensaid on 07815 784381 or by e-mail to Cjb06@hotmail.com or, if you prefer, report the sighting using our Grey Squirrel Reporting Form which goes immediately to Christian.
Red Squirrels historically adapted to exploit mixed broadleaf habitat where there are plenty of large seeds (nuts) to eat (their primary food source) although they can live in any type of woodland. They also eat wild fruit, berries, plant shoots, fungi and even insects and occasionally bird eggs.
As the larger Grey Squirrels move into an area, they need the larger seeds from the broadleaf habitat (such as acorns), this displaces the Red Squirrels into conifer habitats where they can survive adequately on the smaller conifer seeds.
When a red squirrel becomes infected it is usually fatal. The symptoms are very similar to miximatosis found in rabbits. The squirrel suffers pussy weeping sores has a loss of coordination and vision, it becomes disorientated and lethargic. Death usually follows about two weeks later.
Colour is not the most reliable form of identification since not all 'Reds' are red and not all 'Greys' are grey). The best features to look for are size, the ears and the tail.
Red Squirrels are considerably smaller and most adults have long tufts to their ears (except when moulting in Autumn). The bushy tail is usually one colour but can have darker sections.
Grey Squirrels have a more stocky build and have rounded 'mouse-like' ears. The tail has a white edge giving a halo effect.
Help to prevent the spread of Squirrelpox
Passengers on board an Ullswater Steamer in November 2007, saw a red squirrel swimming at least 270m from the shore and going strong. However, the animal readily accepted a lift on the boat and returned to shore unscathed. For pictures and more details on this story read the BBC report click here