Sunday, February 20, 2011

Red squirrels

I concede that the red squirrels in the U.K. are much cuter than our big gray "tree rats" here in the U.S. Just look at that 2-week-old baby (2nd image)! But according to Wikipedia, their decrease in numbers is not entirely due to the squirrelpox brought from North America with the grays in 1876. All the same, Prince Charles - patron of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust - called 2 years ago for the 2.5 million more aggressive gray squirrels to be exterminated to protect the remaining 140,000 red squirrels. And just the other night, he painted an endearing picture of the smaller native reds, during a speech to launch a £3.1 million red squirrel conservation project in Hutton-in-the Forest, Cumbria:
"I put nuts in the lobby and leave the door open and the red squirrels come up the steps into the house. Very often you get 4 or 5 running around inside the house, chasing each other to get at the nuts. One squirrel was found lying on the floor later on in the afternoon while I was out. We tried desperately to bring it back to life but sadly at the end of the day it died. So my effort is to have another small squirrel. My great ambition is to have one in the house, I hate to tell you. Sitting on the breakfast table and on my shoulder!"
Conservationists quickly back-pedaled to clarify that it is illegal to bring red squirrels into a property or handle them without a license, as the Prince described doing at Birkhall, his private residence in Scotland (1st image). Director of the project Charlotte Widgery explains, "You can watch them and leave nuts out for them in the garden but you can’t bring them into the house or touch them. He was definitely joking as it would be illegal to have one on your shoulder." The image of Prince Charles with a squirrel on his shoulder, like a pirate with a parrot, does conjure up a heart-warming image!

Other red squirrel news:


  1. I've never managed to see a red squirrel sadly, but here in Cambridgeshire we have quite a few black ones, genetic mutations of the greys. They are supposed (allegedly) to have more testosterone than the grey sort and therefore outcompete them. They are certainly spreading.

  2. i love it!! that's a great photo of prince charles and the squirrel - look at his tufted little ears! (the squirrel's ears, that is, not the prince's :) hehe)


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