Squirrel Appreciation Day – January 21

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Squirrel Appreciation Day – January 21

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January 21st is the day to go absolutely nuts over our squirrels. So we have! Today is Squirrel Appreciation Day!

In a nutshell, today’s blog covers all things ‘squirrel’, from characteristics to conservation. After reading this you walnut be able to resist our most attractive rodents.

Squirrels and climate change

Dismissed as rodents and pests, our bushy-tailed friends don’t always get the appreciation they deserve. Today we are setting the record straight. And what better way to do that than by celebrating Squirrel Appreciation Day and highlighting one of the squirrels greatest achievements.

Grey squirrel eating and helping with forest floors

Regeneration S: 

We all know squirrels are passionate foodies. They are always on the hunt for plenty of nuts and seeds to devour. Squirrels are also big on meal prep, they plan in advance and store meals in the ground to eat later at their convenience.  Pretty advanced behaviour right?

Well, almost; unfortunately for the squirrels their memory isn’t the sharpest. They tend to forget the exact spot where they laid their treats and move on to the next meal.

So what happens to these abandoned feasts? They grow!

Squirrels keep our forests flourishing, our birds nesting, and our oxygen flowing.

Squirrels help to combat the negative effects of climate change, logging and forest fires. They are nature’s most accomplished gardeners and we feel that should be more commonly recognised.

Red squirrel eating and helping with climate change

Red and Grey Squirrels in the UK

The UK is home to two of the 280 species of squirrel that populate the world today.  The most recognisable of the species is the Grey Squirrel. Anywhere trees are present grey squirrels can be spotted.

Red squirrels are a little harder to come across. In fact, roughly only 5% of the UK population have ever laid eyes on them.

Since the introduction of the Grey Squirrel in the 1800’s our native red has struggled for survival.  But why, you ask?

The Threats to the Red Squirrel

Like all wildlife the challenges of roads and predators are a factor. Taking these out of the equation, there are three main elements that threaten the Red Squirrels:

#1 – Squirrelpox

Grey Squirrels carry a form of disease commonly known as Squirrelpox.  Whilst the grey species are resilient enough to be unaffected by the pox, for reds this infection is fatal.

#2 – Food

Grey Squirrels also have a ravenous appetite for green acorns. They are so eager to get their hands on these tasty delicacies that they completely consume them before they have even ripened; leaving nothing for their red cousins to enjoy.

#3 – Stress

Red Squirrels are outnumbered and they know it. Competing with grey squirrels daily is a huge burden they carry.  This can stress the red squirrel out, they feel so much pressure that breeding becomes a much lesser priority.

The right ‘root’ to take

Due to the imposing threat grey squirrels present, it is estimated there are only 40,000 red squirrels existing in our nation today. We understand this is some pretty tuft news to digest! But this is by no means a witch hunt.

Both red and grey squirrels participate in the development of our ecosystem. All professional efforts are being made to gently gain control of the grey squirrel species.

Our efforts need to be focused on encouraging the red squirrels to thrive and repopulate. So here are some things you can do to help red squirrels turn acorn-er.

How to help the Red Squirrel

1. Put out some tasty treats

If you are lucky enough to live in an area where red squirrels live, you can leave some tasty treats for them to enjoy. Foods that drive red squirrels completely nutty include:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pine nuts
  • Sweet chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • If you have any bone meal around it works wonders for a squirrels calcium.

* Make sure no grey squirrels also reside in the nearby vicinity beforehand. If they do, it’s best to avoid this step.

Squirrels will naturally still forage for food, so keep in mind these feedings act to supplement a squirrels diet and take the pressure off.  This in no way should replace a squirrel’s normal feeding habits.

2. Squirrel Feeders

Keep squirrel feeders away from the ground (to protect them from feisty foxes) and clean them regularly.

Red squirrel feeding at a squirrel feeder

3. Support Conservation Programmes

If you aren’t fortunate enough to live close to red squirrels you can still show your support from afar.  There are a number of wonderful charities dedicated to the conservation of these creatures. So check these out and get involved!

Author: Emma Watson-Thomas

Content writer for Lloyd Tree Services.

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