Red Squirrel Week starts on Monday 24th September to highlight the urgent need to protect our native red squirrel. Our free ‘Squirrel Walk’ on Saturday 22nd September at 4pm in Grizedale (book here) will help you learn more about red squirrels (scientific name: Sciurus vulgaris) and also how to spot and report squirrel sightings (see below).
The most serious threat to our red squirrel population is interaction with the invasive, non-native grey squirrel (scientific name: Sciurus carolinensis), which has spread across the UK and is causing the devastation of the UK red squirrel population. Sadly, grey squirrels, introduced from North America, carry disease in the form of the squirrel pox virus (SQPV), which causes extreme distress and eventual fatality (as far as we are aware) when passed to red squirrels. Greys also compete for food and habitat with red squirrels, eventually displacing them. One woodland study in the south of Cumbria found that it took only 3 years from the first sighting of a grey squirrel to the last recorded sighting of a red squirrel.
Monitoring the distribution of red and grey squirrels is important in helping to protect our red squirrel population, and we can only do this with the help of local people and visitors reporting their sightings. The Westmorland Red Squirrel Group is responsible for SE Cumbria, including the Rusland Horizons area. You can report your sightings via their website at: http://westmorlandredsquirrels.org.uk/sightings/ You will be asked about which type of squirrel you have seen (Red or grey), the date and the location (with a grid reference if possible – the website gives you some help). Please join us in helping to protect our native wildlife.