Red Squirrels in Cumbria and the Lake District
An urgent drive has been undertaken to save Britain’s native red squirrels from extinction. Woodland areas in Cumbria, Northumberland, North Yorkshire and Merseyside were chosen as reserves, which are managed to support healthy populations of the creatures, and are less well suited to the larger grey squirrels.
The red squirrel has been declining since American grey squirrels were introduced in the 19th Century, spreading illness and out-competing them for food. Experts say they now out-number reds by 66 to 1.
The North of England Red Squirrel Conservation Strategy launched Red Alert North England, which was made up of wildlife trusts, the Forestry Commission and landowners. This has now changed its name and structure to Red Squirrels Northern England.
It is vital that all sightings of grey squirrels are reported in order to preserve the red squirrels in Cumbria. To report a sighting of a grey squirrel please click here.
Parapox virus is a disease that is fatal to red squirrels, the origins of which are unknown. It was first confirmed in East Anglia in the 1980s, and since then there have been confirmed cases in red squirrel populations in Lancashire, Cumbria, Durham and Northumberland. It is thought that parapox virus may be a significant factor in the decline of red squirrel populations in the UK.
The parapox virus is present in some grey squirrel populations, but does not result in death. Grey squirrels are thought to carry the disease and pass it on to the reds. The situation for red squirrels is unfortunately much more severe. Any red squirrel with parapox typically dies within 15 days of contracting the virus. There are no red squirrels known to have immunity to this disease.
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