Time with the red squirrels of Eden Valley, Cumbria
It has been an absolute pleasure taking small local walks lately, especially when the sun comes out. It does feel as this autumn has been a nature and wildlife feast for the eyes up here in the Eden valley, Cumbria. So much so I have even started taking the camera and a lot of patience on the dog walks throughout the day. As the leaves fall away from the trees there is one thing for sure, I am definitely seeing a few more red squirrels around, even in the garden too.
This can only be a very good thing. Red squirrels are the only ‘native’ squirrel in England. Over a hundred years ago there were literally millions of red squirrels living a running around happily in the UK. Then in the late 1800s rich bankers and rich landowners started thinking it was a good idea to release some non native American grey squirrels onto the land. Problem? The grey squirrels are larger, eat more as well as strip away the red squirrels food plus the majority carry diseases like squirrel pox that although they only carry, the red squirrels catch and die very painfully within a couple of weeks. Today the numbers switch this has caused is that the red squirrel have been reduced to less than only 150,00 in UK and over a couple of million estimated greys. So to see 3 individuals this particular day was a joy and rare honour indeed
A couple enjoying the autumn sun came by and were returning to the spot as they had seen them earlier. They came with a handful of peanuts and cobnuts. This allowed us to enjoy watching them more but we made sure we allowed them their space and endeavoured not to scare them, standing our distance. Smart little fellas, coming and going, grabbing a nut to eat there and then before taking another away each time. One was burying his stash in the field behind, saving for the colder winter.
Alas I had errands to do so bade them farewell until another day. I wanted to find out if there was indeed any increase lately or I was just lucky to see more than one this day. It seems a bit of both. So much hard work is being done to stop the reds from extinction, the numbers say it all, it is massive task to stop their demise. Greys are being culled, it is illegal to let a grey squirrel free, even if you trap one. Areas are set up throughout Northern England to help the reds start grow in numbers again. Reports are that over the last couple of years red squirrel numbers have gone up 7% and grey could be down 18%. That is great news but also only a fraction and a lot hard work by numerous organisations ahead. Check out Red Squirrels Northern England whom I see are tirelessly working hard for their survival.
Seeing a red squirrel in the wild is always a joy. If you are in a treelined area of Northern England keep your eyes open and keep some patience, they could be around