Monday 28 May 2018

Red Squirrels Galore

Arguably the best thing about living in rural Northumberland is its vast, unspoiled natural beauty.

There are places in Northumberland so remote that no person has ever trodden there. Rolling heather moorlands, lush carpets of spruce and Whinstone outcrops - the untouched habitats of the county provide homes to some of the UK's rarest flora and fauna.

We are one of the few places in England blessed with a healthy resident population of red squirrels. The red, native to these shores, has been bullied to near extinction by its imported American cousin, the grey squirrel.

With its distinctive chestnut colouration, bushy tail and ear tufts, the red is choosy about its habitat and food. The grey, on the other hand, will eat a variety of food stuffs and live just about anywhere. The greys have been relentlessly marching on the reds' territory ever since they were introduced to the UK in the 1870s. Worse still, the grey is a carrier of the deadly squirrelpox virus, which causes the most agonising demise of every infected red within the space of a week.

I'm digressing slightly here. A couple of days ago I spent a few hours at the Eskrigg Nature Reserve on the eastern edge of Lockerbie. The Lockerbie Wildlife Trust has been working hard to create an oasis for red squirrels. The Eskrigg Reds are so abundant and so used to human company that they come within a few yards of their adoring public.

Best of luck to those organisations, like the Lockerbie Wildlife Trust, which are striving to protect our beautiful native red squirrels.

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