This well-loved photo of an adorable Red Squirrel is by photographer Val Corbett. It is one of our most beloved of native animals, popularised by Breatix Potter in her book The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.
Sadly, the Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is now an endangered species. Despite having inhabited the UK for over 10,000 years it is now under threat from Grey Squirrels who were introduced to the UK in the late 1800s.
Greys number around 2–3 million whilst its estimated that just 150,000 Reds remain. And those that are left have retreated to small pockets in the north of the country including the Lake District.
Grey Squirrels are larger than Reds and digest food more efficiently. They also carry squirrelpox virus which can cause Red Squirrels to die. As a result Greys are the more dominant of the species.
A solitary creature, Red Squirrels feed off tree seeds and nuts, as well as bark, lichen, fruit and fungi. It will be active in the morning and evening, tending to rest through the day.
With receeding numbers, a sighting can be a memorable experience for Lake District visitors. Fortunately there are a few organisations working to protect the Red Squirrel, such as The Wildlife Trust and The National Trust.