Common name: Red squirrel
Latin name: Sciurus vulgaris
Family: Sciuridae (Squirrels)
The Red Squirrel can be found in a wide range of woodland types but is primarily associated with large areas of conifer woodland. It was formerly widespread and a common species across much of Northern England but populations have been in decline since the early 1900s. This decline can be attributed to habitat loss, fragmentation and competition from the grey squirrel. Of these factors competition from the Grey Squirrel, which was introduced from North America in the late 1800s, has had the biggest impact on red squirrel populations. Grey Squirrels carry the squirrelpox virus, a disease that proves fatal if it is passed onto reds, and greys can out-compete the reds for food in certain habitats.
In the Dales, red squirrels are restricted to the north western area of the National Park, primarily in the Cumbrian area and around Hawes in North Yorkshire. The squirrels have colonised the latter area since the late 1990s, when the conifer plantations reached cone bearing age and provided a food source sufficient enough for them to survive. Whilst we have a good idea of the distribution within the Dales, it is very difficult to determine the population size as the Reds inhabit densely planted conifer plantations where the thick branches make it impossible to use standard survey methods.
There are three Red Squirrel Refuge areas within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, in Garsdale and Mallerstang, Widdale and Upper Wharfedale. Within these areas management will be targeted to provide suitable conifer woodlands where there will be a long term food source for the Red Squirrels. Around each reserve area there will be a buffer zone where coordinated and targeted Grey Squirrel management will be implemented in order to protect the Reds.
There is a public viewing site at Snaizeholme, for more details click here.