Thursday, 18 July 2013

Aira Force red squirrel trail.

The red squirrel was once a common sight throughout the whole of the UK but it is now an endangered species with only about 20,000 left in England and Wales, mostly in Cumbria and Northumberland.
Aira Force is well known for its waterfall and specimen trees but it has also become a place of sanctuary for our native and increasingly rare red squirrels. Working in partnership with the Penrith & District Red Squirrel Group, the National Trust has created a safe haven for these enchanting creatures by introducing a red squirrel trail, with strategically placed feeders, on the footpaths up and down the falls, thereby giving visitors the opportunity to glimpse red squirrels in the wild.

Red squirrel feeder

The decline of reds is directly attributable to grey squirrels which were introduced from North America in 1876 and whose population has exploded to in excess of 2.5 million. The bigger grey displaces red squirrels over time by out competing them for food but more critically as a carrier of the highly contagious Squirrelpox Virus (SQPV) to which they seem immune but is fatal to red squirrels.

With very kind donations from Garfield Weston and the John Speddan Lewis Foundation we have been able to  install a couple live cameras focused on squirrel feeder, they  relay pictures back to a monitor in the main car park so people can see the red squirrel close up without disturbing them. Here the camera is pointing at one of the  wooden feeders.

Another of the cameras attached to a tree.

This is the monitor displaying the picture in the info shelter in the car park.

And the proof it does work, here is a red squirrel feeding from the feeder.
If we can keep helping the red squirrel by feeding and controlling the greys our visitors will be able to see them for years to come. 

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