Return of the Reds
Last year while waiting at a checkpoint for a group walking the Yorkshire 3 Peaks I watched a squirrel run along the top of a dry stone wall, just a few metres away from me, and then disappear out of sight.
There would be nothing particularly unusual about this except that this looked like a red squirrel, and I’d thought that there were no red squirrels in these parts. Maybe, I thought, it was in fact a grey with a reddish coat (coat colour varies a lot within both species and often causes confusion). A few minutes later the squirrel ran past again and this time there was no mistaking it; the tufts on its ears stood out clearly, and grey squirrels do not have ear tufts. This was a red.
Red squirrel numbers in the UK have been in decline since the 19th century when the larger grey squirrel was introduced to this country from America. In Yorkshire, as far as I knew, they were limited to areas further north and west than my sighting, though it seems that they have been spreading. Perhaps my sighting was a one-off (I have heard stories of squirrels being captured by gardeners and then released some miles away, which could explain my sighting, whilst also being a problem when greys are released into areas still populated by reds), but perhaps not. Reports of sightings in Yorkshire have been on the rise since records began in the late 1990s, and conservation work is now being carried out at several sites in the Yorkshire Dales including Wensleydale.
There are many reasons to walk the Yorkshire 3 Peaks (not to mention any number of other walks in the area), and any number of plant and animal species and other sights of interest en-route. Let’s hope that red squirrels are soon added to the list.
Red Squirrels Northern England is a conservation organisation active in the north of England. If you see a red squirrel then they want to hear about it. http://www.rsne.org.uk/
Lots of information about the Yorkshire Three Peaks and surrounding area: http://www.yorkshire3peaks.org.uk/
Lupine Adventure’s Yorkshire Three Peaks page: http://www.lupineadventure.co.uk/sponsored-events/yorkshire-3-peaks-sponsored-event.html
A road sign from Paterdale in the Lake District. Let’s hope these become a sight on the roads of Yorkshire.