A united front for the reds

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

GROW­ING up in Manch­ester, I re­mem­ber our squir­rels used to be red.

Dart­ing red squir­rels, bushy tails and bright eyes, quickly gath­er­ing nuts and then, just as quickly, dash­ing off to pop them in the ground for their over-win­ter larder.

Then they dis­ap­peared and there were big­ger grey squir­rels in their place, in Manch­ester and across most of our re­gion.

But the red squir­rel of my youth is cling­ing on in Formby, South­port, in Crosby in Mersey­side and Hal­sall and Scaris­brick in Lan­cashire. There is even a site in Greater Manch­ester close to Wigan.

The in­tro­duced and in­va­sive North Amer­i­can grey squir­rel pushes out the red squir­rel from our parks and wood­lands.

Greys also bring with them a dis­ease, squir­rel pox, which has no ill ef­fect on them but is deadly to reds.

Out-com­peted for food and un­der at­tack by the pox, red squir­rel pop­u­la­tions have tum­bled and the ar­eas they call home have shrunk dra­mat­i­cally.

Apart from their colour the ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ences are that reds are smaller than greys, they have bushier tails and they have those lovely pointy ears.

The red squir­rel is at risk of dis­ap­pear­ing from the North West. But the Wildlife Trust and our col­leagues in Red Squir­rels United be­lieve it doesn’t have to be that way. We have had a full-time con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer work­ing since 2009, and re­cently, through Red Squir­rels United, eight main part­ners are work­ing na­tion­ally with more than 30 con­ser­va­tion groups, gov­ern­ment bod­ies and univer­si­ties to save our red squir­rels.

The red squir­rel refuge has been se­cured for now.

We have red squir­rels from Crosby up to South­port and in­land to our Mere Sands Wood re­serve and that Wigan out­post. With the help of vol­un­teers and com­mu­ni­ties, we are trap­ping grey squir­rels that are sur­round­ing our reds and im­prov­ing habi­tats to en­cour­age the red squir­rel pop­u­la­tion to grow and re­cover its pre­vi­ous ter­ri­to­ries.

With con­tin­ued work we aim to bring the red squir­rel back to our wood­lands, parks and gar­dens. I hope that when my new­born lit­tle boy is old enough, he’ll see red squir­rels in Manch­ester when he’s col­lect­ing conkers.

But we can’t do this with­out your help. And that’s why, as we cel­e­brate Red Squir­rel Week – from Septem­ber 24 to Oc­to­ber 2 - we’re ap­peal­ing for you to join us and help bring back our red squir­rels.

Find out more at www. lanc­swt.org.uk/ red­squir­rels and lend your sup­port to the red squir­rel.

To be­come a mem­ber of the Trust go to the web­site at www. lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust. org.uk.

●● Por­trait im­age of red squir­rel by Darin Smith

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