Red Squirrels at Formby
Red Squirrels were once a common sight across the UK but, since the introduction of the North American Grey Squirrel in the 19th Century, their numbers have declined. Formby and the Sefton Coast is one of the few places in England where Red Squirrels have survived and sightings of this charming little animal provide joy to local residents and visitors alike, but sightings of sick Reds are on the increase, read on to find out how you can help them.
What’s best for our Reds?
We, at National Trust Formby, are very proud of our red squirrel population, and want to do what’s best for them. Anytime you visit the woodland areas here you are likely to see a red squirrel.
For decades National Trust sold squirrel feed, understanding that to be a good thing, until the squirrel pox outbreak of 2008. Squirrel pox is a highly infectious disease that is fatal to red squirrels. Grey squirrels are carriers of the disease but do not suffer any symptoms. It only takes 1 grey squirrel to introduce the disease into a red squirrel population after which it can spread rapidly.
After 2008 we continued to provide a limited amount of supplementary feed so that visitors could see Red Squirrels when they visited Squirrel Walk.
Now in 2019, we can see that squirrels expect to be fed by visitors and we are hopeful that visitors will not feed the squirrels if they understand why we have stopped feeding them.
Encouraging squirrels to come together, such as occurs with feeding boxes or scatter feeding on the ground, increases the risk of infections being transferred. Squirrels are also susceptible to diseases caused by bacteria we can carry on our skin. The more people there are feeding the squirrels, the more this risk increases. For these reasons we have stopped all supplementary feeding.
At Formby there is enough natural food in the woodlands for the squirrels to forage and thrive. They eat a variety of food, berries, lichen, and fungi, as well as pine cones.
Help us, help them by not feeding but enjoy watching them, chasing around, and up and down the trees, and help us maintain a healthy population of red squirrels at National Trust Formby.
We work closely with Lancashire Wildlife Trust who co-ordinate red squirrel conservation throughout the north Merseyside and west Lancashire area. This includes carrying out standardised monitoring of the red squirrel population, collating public sightings, grey squirrel control and raising public awareness. To report your sightings of red and grey squirrels please call 07590745862 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the work Lancashire Wildlife Trust do you can visit their website at www.lancswt.org.uk/redsquirrels