Part of Nature Detective Week
Who does not love spotting a wee squirrel in the park or the countryside?
You may even see one in your garden if you live near a wooded area.
Squirrels do like trees to live in and find food from so that’s where you are most likely to catch sight of one.
In parks and gardens in more urban areas you will probably see grey squirrels, whereas in more rural areas and forests you have more chance of seeing a red!
Have you ever seen a squirrel run down a tree head first - why don’t they fall? They have very sharp claws which grip the bark and ensure they have a good grip. They also have a very bushy tail so if they do fall a little it can act as a sort of parachute!
So what is the difference between reds and greys and why are we trying to protect the reds?
The colour of course - but watch out as some greys can have quite a bit of red fur down there backs and on their feet.
Red squirrels have tufts on their ears which get bushier in the winter!
Grey squirrels are quite cheeky and will come into your garden and steal bird food or anything else they can find. Red squirrels are a little more shy and prefer to spend most of their time high up in the tree tops.
Can you find any more squirrel facts?
So why are red squirrels endangered and in need of protection?
The main reason was caused by the arrival of grey squirrels from America many years ago, Greys carry a virus that is dangerous for reds but not affect the health of the greys!
The grey squirrels often eat the acorns when they are green so there are none of the ripe ones left for the red squirrels
When the red squirrels feel under threat or pressure they will not breed so often!
A reduction in suitable woodland and increased road traffic has not helped over the years either!
Where there is woodland on each side of a busy road, some local conservationists have put thick rope between the trees as a sort of bridge so the squirrels can cross to the other side safely!
What is being done to help?
There are projects all over the UK to reintroduce red squirrels to areas that are known to be suitable for them and have little or no greys.
Watch this video to see one of these projects here in Scotland.
Some people think that Pine Martens can help.
Pine Martens are carnivores and are known to eat grey squirrels - it is thought it may be because they are bigger and a better food source than the reds.
It has also been found that the reds are much more aware of the Pine Martens and will keep away if they can smell their presence whereas greys are not so careful and are then easy prey for the Pine Martens.
There have been projects where Pine Martens have been introduced to areas to see if they can reduce the greys and encourage the reds. Lots of study and researching to do on this matter but it has worked in some areas in the UK.
See if you can find out any more about Pine Martens and Red Squirrels leaning to live together.
This page is part of the Nature Detective Week information.
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