The Squirrel War Of Cumbria

The red squirrel is under threat from hordes of the big grey invader but Skelwith Fold caravan park are on the front line of defense
The red squirrel is under threat from hordes of the big grey invader but Skelwith Fold caravan park are on the front line of defense

Wednesday, 04, Oct 2017 10:48

By William Coleman

Cumbria's Skelwith Fold caravan park, working with a local red squirrel charity, are fighting the good fight and defending the native red squirrel against the big grey invaders.

Now guests of the site are getting involved to help in the battle to stop the grey squirrel from taking over and eradicating the little native red. The area used to be a safe haven for red squirrels but that is slowly starting to change as the greys close in.

Families visiting the park are being asked to keep a keen eye out and inform staff if they spot any grey troops on the move. Not only are the grey squirrels a lot bigger and more aggressive than the native red but they are also carrying a squirrel pox virus which is fatal to reds. There have been reports that the greys have gotten into Grasmere which was a sanctuary for the red squirrel due to the surrounding mountains, something that the greys never usually ventured past.

There is real risk of the grey squirrel population rising in Skelwith Fold's 130 acre ground near Ambleside where a conservation area is being run for the returning population of the reds. With a rise in the grey population there is a much larger threat of viruses being spread and the reds being forced out of the area and more than likely actually being killed off.

There have been a lot more sightings of the red squirrel, says park Director Henry Wild, which means the conservation efforts are succeeding. With the park working closely with the Westmorland Red Squirrels charity they are combining their efforts to protect one of Britain's best loved icons.

As well as getting guests to blow whistles if they see the grey invaders the ,family owned, park are also getting a head start on a winter feeding programme to help the red squirrels maintain their energy levels before the colder months as squirrels do not actually hibernate. They just sleep a heck of a lot more during winter. They are using a special seed blend containing oil of anise which is a huge attraction for the red squirrel.

Henry is confident that the grey will squirrel not decimate the red population like they have been doing since their introduction into Britain in the 1870s: "For over a decade, we have minimised our grey population with a woodland management scheme to ensure that the natural environment of the park remains red-friendly,"he says.

"Key to seeing off the invaders will be prompt action if there is any evidence of them attempting to colonise the woodlands, and here we have an advantage.

"That's because we can recruit the help of staff and hundreds of guests to tell us of any sightings, after which we can move in and act quickly," added Henry.

The park has been rewarded for its efforts in preserving the British wildlife by being given environmental accolades which include the David Bellamy Conservation Award at its top gold level.

These efforts will continued by guest until November when the site closes for the season. After that the staff will triple their war efforts in their campaign to ensure the red wins the fight!

Skelwith Fold was this year crowned as Lakeland's top holiday park in the Cumbria Tourism Awards, and provides luxury glamping pods, touring pitches, and holiday homes for private owners.

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