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Natural park’s fight to rescue red squirrel population

PUBLISHED: 15:34 12 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:34 12 December 2018

Red Squirrels at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Picture by: Matthew Usher.

Red Squirrels at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Picture by: Matthew Usher.

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A north Norfolk natural park is working to boost the declining population of red squirrels in north Wales thanks to a breed and release programme.

Red Squirrels at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Picture by: Matthew Usher.Red Squirrels at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Picture by: Matthew Usher.

The programme is led by the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, a wildlife and ecology charity based at Pensthorpe Natural Park, near Fakenham.

Six red squirrels, which have been bred and reared by the East Anglian Red Squirrel Group, co-ordinated at Pensthorpe, are this week being relocated to Clocaenog Forest near Ruthin in north Wales, where red squirrel populations have declined from 400 to less than 50 in the past 20 years.

Chrissie Kelley, head of species management at Pensthorpe Natural Park, said: “Clocaenog Forest offers ideal territory for squirrels thanks to the mix of tree species which provide stimulation as well as seeds for food.

“With a little helping hand we are confident that our Norfolk squirrels can reverse the worrying decline in this area.”

Red squirrels at Pensthorpe Natural Park. Picture by: Matthew Usher.Red squirrels at Pensthorpe Natural Park. Picture by: Matthew Usher.

A similar reintroduction programme, supported by Pensthorpe over the past decade, enabled red squirrel populations in Anglesey to grow so significantly that the squirrels moved across the Menai Bridge into north Wales.

Ms Kelley is now hoping that the latest programme can provide a similar impact and that the latest squirrels from Norfolk can help to secure the future of the species in north Wales.

She added: “We saw the impact our reintroduction programme had on the population in Anglesey, so we are hopeful that our squirrels can bring similar success to the project in Cloceanog Forest.”

The Pensthorpe Conservation Trust was formed in January 2003 to carry forward the work of the Pensthorpe Waterfowl Trust, with its key aims being to create a centre of excellence in ecological restoration, promote sustainable farming and to research, breed and protect threatened species.

Its latest project works with Natural Resources Wales which aims to pursue sustainable management of natural resources in all of its work and has identified Clocaenog Forest as one of three ‘focal sites’ for red squirrel conservation.

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