Red squirrel sightings increasing across Nidderdale
Gamekeepers across Nidderdale are reporting increased sightings of native Red Squirrel activity as hopes grow that they are slowly recolonising suitable areas.
Once a common sight in the UK, their population numbers have been all but decimated by the grey squirrels, who were introduced from North America in the 1870s. According to the Wildlife Trust there are now only 140,000 red squirrels left in the UK, compared to over 2.5million greys.
The grey squirrels put pressure on the reds by dominating food sources and habitats. Native red squirrels are also extremely sensitive to predation, which has left them hanging on by a thread in parts of the UK.
Their increased visibility in Nidderdale is being put down to the improved woodland habitat arising across the lower parts of the valley and the appropriate management of predators.
One local resident from Pateley Bridge said: "It's heartwarming to see these plucky red squirrels making a come back across Nidderdale and fighting against the elements. The more that we can do to protect them the better."
In January this year the Government announced their support for a mass sterilisation scheme of grey squirrels in an effort to prevent their breeding, known as the UK Squirrel Accord (UKSA). Lord Goldsmith said the damage they and other invasive species do to the UK's woodlands costs the UK economy £1.8 billion a year.
The Royal Forestry Society, a member of the Squirrel Accord, has also called for such a cull.
Simon Lloyd, its chief executive, says efforts to tackle global warming and improve biodiversity will be undermined unless grey squirrel numbers can be reduced.
New trees will not survive to "deliver the carbon capture or biodiversity objectives if grey squirrels cannot be controlled".