Report from Chris Smith.
THERE are estimated to be just 160,000 red squirrels left in the UK,
with only around 30,000 left in England.
The species once thrived throughout England, until 1876 when two North American grey squirrels were introduced into Henbury Park, Cheshire.
This was the first of many introductions, during which the grey firmly established itself as the dominant species.
There are many myths about grey squirrels attacking reds because they are often seen to chase them but experts say this is normal squirrel behaviour and grey squirrels do not kill and eat reds.
The problem is that grey squirrels outcompete the reds for food within our forests, especially in broadleaved woods.
Once grey squirrels become established, they rapidly start to outnumber the native squirrels and as the population grows, they eat more of the red squirrels' food.
This is believed to reduce the reds' chances of surviving the winter, breeding successfully, and young reds finding enough food.
This eventually causes the red squirrels in that area to die out.
In England grey squirrels now outnumber the endangered red squirrel by 66-1. Saving the red squirrel is one of the country's biggest conservation challenges.
Cumbria and the North East are the last mainland strongholds of the red squirrel in England. Smaller populations are also found on the Isle of Wight, Yorkshire, and Formby, where there are estimated to be around 1,000 left.
© Liverpool Daily News, 23 rd December 2003
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