Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Red squirrel sighted in Cheshire for the first time since 1980s

Has a Lancashire squirrel gone wandering?

December 2012. A red squirrel has been sighted in Cheshire for the first time since 1980s. Cheshire Wildlife Trust has described the sighting of a wild red squirrel in a Daresbury garden between Runcorn and Warrington as ‘extremely exciting'.
The rare mammal, which is mostly confined to Scotland and small populations scattered elsewhere across the UK, was last seen in the Cheshire region during the 1980s. The sighting was confirmed by members of the Warrington Conservation Forum and Cheshire Mammal Group (see the footage here), after a video was captured of the furry visitor making the most of local bird feeders.

A captive population of red squirrels is kept at Walton Gardens, but the nearest wild population is on the Sefton Coast, Lancashire. This group of red squirrels suffered a devastating recent drop in numbers after the squirrels succumbed to an infection of pox.

Adult squirrel
Expert Paul Hill of the local Mammal Group said that it was typical for young squirrels to explore beyond their usual territories during the autumn and winter, however the footage appeared to show an adult which was particularly interesting.

Special nut feeders
A team has now installed specialised nut feeders in the area which allow red squirrels to feed, but exclude the larger grey squirrel. Motion detection cameras will also be inspected over the coming weeks to see if the red squirrels return and to determine if there may be more than one.

Tom Marshall from Cheshire Wildlife Trust said: "This is a fantastic good news story and we really hope this visiting red squirrel is not alone. Our colleagues at Lancashire Wildlife Trust have worked hard on the recovery of red squirrels on the Sefton Coast, and to know that the squirrels are potentially exploring beyond this territory could be amazing for the Cheshire region."

Red squirrels are continuing to suffer from the intrusion of their larger, non-native American cousins into their historical haunts in northern Britain. Bolder and more aggressive, grey squirrels are also able to exploit many nuts earlier in the season, reducing supplies for red squirrels.

Recent conservation strategies have included culling the non-native greys across a ‘firewall' in parts of Scotland and northern England to try and minimise the northern spread in efforts to safeguard remaining populations of red squirrels.

Continued:  http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/cheshire-red-squirrel.html

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