Friday, August 17, 2007

Save Our (Red) Squirrels

Remember this guy? If you're British and of a certain age, this was the star of the road safety campaign for kids - where Willy Weasel comes a cropper.

Anyhoo - Tufty was a red squirrel. Not a grey. The red squirrel was the variety that during the 1970's was familiar to people across Britain - but it is extinct in most areas now, save for a few pockets.

This is a shocking fact. The reason for this is that not only is the beefier, foreign grey squirrel muscling in on the reds' patch, it's bringing with it a deadly disease, Squirrel Pox, which is officially Not Very Nice.

Oh, and how could I forget - Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin is also a red!

The red squirrel has got to be one of the most endearing creatures, and not just because they are in childrens' stories. If you've ever met one while out and about, you'll know that this can be the highlight of the day - a smiley moment to savour. We met one near the Cree - it ran in front of us and scooted up a tree and I'll never forget it staring back with those beady black eyes, while furiously nibbling on a pine cone.

So, one of the ways we can save the red is to not run over them in cars... The other, is to try to protect it from the pox. This can be by keeping a barrier between the two species, or by vaccination. A vaccine hasn't yet been developed, so we are left with the horrifying fact that if we want to save the reds, we must cull the greys. See? I can't even say kill.

A few goodly people are organising themselves to try and save the red squirrel. They are extremely noble in my opinion and so I decided to do my bit here, and also donate some hard cash to the cause, so that they can do the deed and I can sleep a bit sounder knowing someone vastly more dedicated than me is making it their passion.

So please please, with tufty red ears on top, donate some money after reading all about these gorgeous creatures and all about the projects being organised.

And if you see one, alive or dead, anywhere in the areas listed (or anywhere else) - or indeed if you see a grey (bloody well hope not) - then report it to one of these guys who need the information to help with their surveys.

Thanks, from Sammy.

Northumberland Red Squirrel Partnership

Red Squirrels in Southern Scotland

The Anglesey Red Squirrel Project

More information:

Great story of the squirrel foster mum

Red Squirrel Week

Squirrel News on BBC

Red Squirrel factsheet (pdf)

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