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:
- 2/9/11 The red squirrel population in the pine woods of Formby, Merseyside, England, have rebounded after an outbreak of squirrelpox and could be further bolstered by a vaccine that is being developed.
- 2/4/11 Cistercian monks hope to reintroduce the native species to Caldey Island in Wales, which the local MP says would be perfect for the red squirrels.
- 1/31/11 Irish scientists are succeeding in reintroducing red squirrels to the west, where they had gone extinct, by translocating them to Co. Mayo and Connemara.
- 1/26/11 A Red Squirrel Survey in Co. Westmeath, Ireland, showed that the population had returned or resurfaced.
- 1/11/11 A Red Squirrel Safari is being developed in Northern Ireland's Co. Antrim using nature to attract tourists to the region.
- 10/16/08 Researchers at the U.K.'s Institute of Zoology or the Veterinary Laboratories Agency
- have found signs of resistance to the squirrel plague by analyzing animals that died of other causes.
- 10/4/08 Rope bridges are keeping the red squirrel population up in Scotland's Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park by encouraging breeding and reducing traffic fatalities.