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Go nuts for the red squirrel

Go nuts for the red squirrel
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As they forage nuts to cache for the winter months, autumn is a great time to see red squirrels.

Listen out for their chattering call while you are out in the woodland or forest, and look out for the gnawed husks of cones - watch out for them raining down from above! But be aware that as red squirrels have disappeared from much of the UK you'll need to be a in special place to see them. Red squirrels have now retreated to forests in Scotland, Northern England, the Isle of Wight, islands in Poole Harbour, and a few places in Wales and Northern Ireland. Red Squirrel Week is all about celebrating and raising awareness for our red squirrels.

Red Squirrel Awareness Week (Sat 23 Sept – Sun 1 Oct) is a great time to look out for distinctive russet fur, tufted ears and a twitching tail; red squirrels are a captivating sight.

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The red squirrel is the only squirrel species native to the UK. Once a common sight, red squirrels have declined rapidly since the 1950s. They continue to be threatened by disease, the loss and fragmentation of woodland habitat and competition from grey squirrels which were introduced by the Victorians in the 19th century, who weren't aware of the impact they would have on our native red squirrels.

Numbers in the UK have fallen from around 3.5 million, to a current estimated population of around 120,000, of which 75% or more are in Scotland. There are only a handful of refuges left for red squirrels in the UK and the population in England is thought to be as low as 15,000. Many people enjoy seeing grey squirrels but not many people get to see red squirrels.

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Conservation efforts include establishing buffer areas around the strongholds with control of grey squirrels, ongoing monitoring, helping landowners to improve habitat for squirrels, involving local schools and communities and using forest planning to maximise the value of forests for squirrels.

Strongholds remain in the Scottish Highlands and borders, Fermanagh and the Glens of Antrim in Northern Ireland, Anglesey, Clocaenog and the Tywi Forest in Wales, and Northumberland and Cumbria in northern England. There are some isolated populations farther south in England, including Formby in Lancashire, Brownsea Island in Dorset and on the Isle of Wight.

There are lots of ways to get involved, including volunteering, donating or surveying - through coordinated community action there has been an increase in red squirrel numbers in and around these stronghold areas, and together we must ensure that continues.

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