Red squirrels in Wharfedale!
There are two species of squirrel in the UK; red squirrels Sciurus vulgaris and the grey squirrel Sciurus carolinensis.
UK populations are currently estimated at approximately 140,000 red squirrels and 2.5 million grey squirrels. The Reds are a native species and have been resident in the UK for around 10,000 years. Unfortunately, red squirrels are at critical risk of extinction from our shores mainly due to the recent introduction of the alien grey squirrel. Grey squirrels are a non-native species brought into this country from North America for the amusement of landowners at the beginning of the Victorian era. The first record of them escaping and establishing a wild population is 1876. Like many of the other novel species we have had the naiveté to introduce, the grey squirrel has gone on to cause wholesale destruction to our native flora and fauna, while additionally causing damage and risk to homes and businesses. Grey squirrels carry the deadly Squirrel Pox Virus against which our native reds have no defence. The larger greys are also thought to out compete the reds for territories, due to their size/dominance, pushing the reds out of their traditional ranges.
Up to the mid 50’s red squirrels were still a common sight in Wharfedale. However, from 1970 onwards Wharfedale Naturalists recorded that “(the) reds had virtually vanished.”
Now for the good news! Fast forward to 2016 and red squirrels have once again become regular visitors to Nethergill Farm in Langstrothdale, helped along by assisted feeding programs and the replanting of beneficial trees. The squirrels are thought to have possibly originated from captive breeding programmes at Kilnsey Park and also the Greenfield Forest Red Squirrel Reserve.
And the really good news – over the last couple of years there have been sightings of reds stretching from Kettlewell, across to Beamsley and best of all at either end of Ilkley.
Ilkleys mature gardens, most significantly those that include mature conifers, are of great attraction to red squirrels which will feed on the small seeds the species produce. If you are lucky you may also see them taking beech, chest and walnuts or even taking seed from your bird feeder.
How you can help…
Try planting a species of plant that benefit red squirrels, such as brambles, raspberry, dog rose, guelder rose, wild cherry, bird cherry, bullace and crab apple. Thorny plants can also provide safe harbourage, helping reduce predation.
If you spot a red squirrel you may also wish to supplement its diet. Little and sporadic feeding is key to avoid the squirrels becoming too dependent. Hazelnuts, sweet chestnuts, sunflower seeds and pine nuts are all favoured by red squirrels and fruit and some veg (such as carrots) can be added sporadically.
But most importantly you should record and report any sightings to http://www.northernredsquirrels.org.uk/report-sightings/ and www.wharfedale-nats.org.uk
How we can help…
If you have concerns about grey squirrels around your land or property we can safely remove them with no risk to the native reds. This will protect your property and hopefully help our reds back on the road to recovery.
Office – 0113 2037427 or 01423 209030
24/7 – 07970 902 194